Nophek Gloss (The Graven #1), by Essa Hansen

29 Mar 2023

The Book

Nophek Gloss
Series: The Graven
Pages: 433
Age Group: Adult
Published on 17 Nov 2020
Publisher: Orbit Books
Available on:


Caiden's planet is destroyed. His family gone. And, his only hope for survival is a crew of misfit aliens and a mysterious ship that seems to have a soul and a universe of its own. Together they will show him that the universe is much bigger, much more advanced, and much more mysterious than Caiden had ever imagined. But the universe hides dangers as well, and soon Caiden has his own plans. He vows to do anything it takes to get revenge on the slavers who murdered his people and took away his home. To destroy their regime, he must infiltrate and dismantle them from the inside, or die trying.

My Review

Nophek Gloss is the first novel in the Graven trilogy, the debut of Essa Hansen, as it is kinda unique, partly due to how this space opera fits better into the fantasy genre (I would definitely call it science-fantasy), the nature of Hansen's prose, and the main character, as it is not usual for them to be neurodivergent.

We are thrown directly into the action from the start, Caiden and his family being thrown into a planet to be the meal of nopheks; Caiden escapes alive mostly due to sheer luck, as he finds an abandoned spaceship where he hides until a crew finds him. They were mostly looking after the slavers; but they basically teach Caiden the basics about this world, giving him the necessary knowledge to infiltrate those that enslaved his family.

With this premise, we get a certainly expansive story, a sort of space opera that puts a great focus on the world elements, while exploring an almost infinite set of universes. All of this gets reinforced by Hansen's prose, as it is possible to appreciate a big focus on the sensorial aspects, producing a really unique effect; a highly enjoyable experience.

Nophek Gloss features a diverse cast, with a focus on Caiden, the main character. He will grow during the novel, getting to experience a whole new world towards his own senses, and after almost losing everything at the start, a sort of found family theme will arise, especially around those that found him.

The plot is complex, and I found myself sometimes having to reread scenes because I felt a little bit disoriented. This is probably a consequence of how well the world is developed, with many scientific details that take your attention (I would argue that this is one of the most logical world-building I've seen). 
Pacing is in a really sweet spot, as it never feels excessive to any of the extremes, even when the sci-fi goes hard.

I found Nophek Gloss to be an excellent science-fantasy novel, that kind of sci-fi novel that will be loved by fantasy readers, with serious Mass Effect vibes. Definitely, I will be reading book 2 of The Graven, because there are many questions that I hope to answer in the sequel.

The Author/s

Essa Hansen

Essa Hansen

Essa Hansen grew up in beautifully wild areas of California, from the coastal foothills to the Sierra Nevada mountains around Yosemite, before migrating north to the Canadian Rocky Mountains. She has ranched bison and sheep, trained horses, practiced Japanese swordsmanship, and is a licensed falconer. She lives with her cat in the San Francisco Bay Area.

As a sound designer for SF and fantasy films, her credits can be found on IMDB.