Taking the best of two genres – romance and science fiction – and placing them in an epic story of conflict between two worlds, The Space Traveller’s Lover by Omara Williams will win your heart and mind alike.
The driving force for this suspense-packed story is the author’s pursuit of an answer to the timeless question, ‘Just how powerful can love be?’. It is, as we find out, a query that will have the greatest of importance, not only to the lives of the central characters but of all humanity.
The novel is set in the near future, towards the close of the century, where Earth has been ravaged by the effects of irreversible climate change. Vicious cycles of droughts and floods have decimated resources, leaving civilisation on the brink of collapse.
In the first chapter we are introduced to teenager Erin Lobart, who lives on the island of Tinian with her adoptive parents. Here, she assists with the running of their tuna farm and assists rescue team in delivering aid to those in need.
It’s a somewhat mundane existence for Erin, whose prodigious intelligence and stunning beauty are out of keeping with the rest of the islanders. As a result, she is cruelly bullied and, understandably, prefers to spend time alone.
Truth told, she has always felt that doesn’t exactly belong, and this feeling is only becoming stronger with the recent manifestation of strange dreams, so vivid and otherworldly, deepening the gulf between Erin, her adoptive parents, and her surroundings.
On her 16th birthday, Erin and her best friend Sam Sheppard set on a celebratory trip, with Sam revealing that he is taking them both to Diablo’s cave, a scenic yet dangerous location that has long held a fascination for both of them.
Holding a torch for Erin, Sam plans to announce his true feelings during their trip but things do not go as planned.
Journeying through the cave in a boat, they find themselves within a chamber lit by a strange orange light, its mesmeric spell only broken by the arrival of something stranger still – a metallic craft from beneath the water.
Its pilot approaches the terrified teenagers as they are overcome by some external force that sinks them into unconsciousness.
The stranger’s intentions, however, seem far from malevolent, as this sensual passage reveals:
The man focused his full attention on Erin, crouching around her and inspecting her body from head to toe. He stroked her gently, wiping her wet skin and rearranging her dishevelled hair. He blew softly over her face, her cheeks regaining her rosy pink blush momentarily. As her chest heaved, her mouth briefly opened up to let go of a prolonged, gentle sigh.
Upon waking, Erin finds that she has been taken by the man into his spaceship, with Sam left behind in the cave.
She is amazed to discover that her captor is the same mysterious figure who’s watched her in her dreams, as she runs through alien corridors and out into a multihued ocean unlike anything else she’s seen before.
He introduces himself as Rothwen, an elite space traveller and member of the Rom-Ghenshar – a genetically engineered, immortal alien race that is smarter and stronger than humankind.
It is in his, admittedly charming and hunky, company that Erin makes a shocking discovery. The Rom-Ghenshar are an ancient enemy of Earth, having tried and failed to conquer the planet some 10,000 years before.
Now they are back, and though Erin doesn’t yet know this, the seemingly gentle Rothwen is also the vanguard of his specie’s invasion force, planning to carry out a mission of revenge that has spanned eons.
The revelations don’t end there. She soon comes to learn that this would-be intergalactic beau, dressed in the most fetching of black suits and with dove-white hair, has been secretly watching her for some time.
Referring to her by the name of ‘Shaillah’, he explains that – as Erin has long suspected – she is different to everyone else, having a unique ancestry.
Rothwen vows to keep her by his side and unlocks her true powers so they can journey to the Rom-Ghenshar’s home planet. The price, however, is to abandon her former life and acquaintances entirely.
Their complex relationship and the dilemma for Erin at its heart constantly propels the narrative forward and ensures that there is never a dull moment as the plot deepens. In other words, this gripping story will have you tingling in delight.
As will the beautiful black and white illustrations between chapters, which add to the immersiveness of the reading experience and helps the reader bond with the “characters.
The novel is aimed primarily at a YA audience but beyond the breathless angst and heartache are bigger themes that readers of any age or disposition will savour.
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