In AETHERBOUND, E.K. Johnston Creates a Universe for the Unwanted to Thrive

Aetherbound is a story of survival and the refusal to accept an unfair destiny. Once again. E.K. Johnston creates a cast of characters we can all relate to.

When your own family doesn’t believe you’re worth the air you breathe, it’s easy to accept your desperate place in the universe.

But maybe you don’t have to. Maybe there’s something better out there for you.

Prendt didn’t choose the genes she was born with. Yet because of the way the universe made her, her family wishes she didn’t exist.

Which would be a tragedy all on its own, of course. Add to it the fact that the freighter they live and operate on barely has enough resources to keep every individual alive, and Prendt finds herself minimally surviving in a home where everything she consumes makes her loved ones hate her more.

In a daring attempt to free herself from her circumstances, Prendt escapes the only place she has ever called home in search of a better life. She has no idea that she’s capable of more than just barely surviving.

Before Aetherbound, I was only familiar with E.K. Johnston’s work through Star Wars. Because Ahsoka is one of my favorite novels of all time — and admittedly also because of Ashley Eckstein’s audiobook narration — I pre-ordered this book as soon as it was announced.

A lot of the criticism Johnston’s books receive is a matter of preference. Her books are primarily character-driven, and the time and space she dedicates to creating empathy and relatability for each main character can make her stories feel slower and quieter than a lot of books readers of science fiction and fantasy might be used to.

Johnston’s writing, storytelling, and characterization don’t deserve the harsh criticisms they’re often given. To be clear, it’s OK to not like a book or a particular author’s writing style. But it’s also possible to say “this book/author/writing isn’t for me” and move on rather than focusing on overblowing a book’s perceived flaws.

Because I’m a fan of her storytelling, perhaps my review will be more positive than others, but what are book reviews if not each reviewer’s personal opinion mixed with semi-neutral analysis?

The characters in Aetherbound are as relatable as they come — perhaps not to every reader, which is understandable, but the sign of good characterization is the ability to find relatable qualities in the entities depicted on each page.

Prendt is an unwanted person. Her family doesn’t want her. Very few people on the freighter she resides on seem to want her. Only when she frees herself from that toxic environment does she realize that there are good people in the universe who can show her compassion and work to help her create a better existence.

We’ve all felt unwanted somehow, some way, by someone we wished would love us. It’s understandable, therefore, that we’re often drawn to the stories of those who survived that trauma and found ways to thrive.

If you’re looking for a book about a girl who defies all odds to not only save herself, but potentially many others from future harm in the process, make sure to add Aetherbound to your TBR list ASAP.

Meg is the creator of Brain Rush, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words, and Not a Book Hoarder, celebrating books of all kinds. She is an editor, writer, book reviewer, podcaster, and photographer. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about nonsense and Star Wars.

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