Vevin's Song, by Jonathan Neves Mayers - A review by Esmay Rosalyne
Years have passed since hostile creatures flew down from the sky and forced humanity to fight or flee. Now, the surviving humans live in underwater cocoons, knowing that the world above does not belong to them anymore.
Marla Hightower is just getting by with a job she loathes in a cocoon, longing for something more fulfilling after a rough start to life. But things change as she begins to develop unusual abilities not unlike the winged creatures who invaded her world.
Knowing that being discovered will result in her being experimented on and placed in confinement, Marla plans to escape from the cocoon and launch up to the surface, beginning her dangerous journey to uncover not only her origins, but those of humanity's enemies.
My Review (4 out of 5 )
Vevin Song is the dystopian sci-fantasy story that I didn’t know I needed. This is the perfect read if you are looking for Red Rising-level action, Faithful and the Fallen-level found family vibes, Greenbone saga-level character work, and Sanderson-level world-building. Honestly, what’s not to love?!
From the very first page, I was completely hooked by this story. After the explosive prologue, in which we read about the Lightbird invasion that forced humans to escape to living in underwater cocoons, the pacing slows down for a couple of chapters and we really get the time to get to know our characters and the world they are living in. Marla quickly proved to be a wonderful protagonist and I latched onto her immediately. I personally really liked this relatively slower start, because once things started to escalate, I was really emotionally invested in the characters and their lives, and that raised the stakes immensely.
Talking about characters, they were the absolute highlight of this story for me. Even though this book has an extremely engaging plot and plenty of action, I think it is more character-driven than anything else. These characters’ personal journeys and their complex dynamics are at the forefront of the story, which gave this book a more intimate and personal feel than you might have expected. The main conflict between the Lightbird/Vevin invaders and the humans feels so high stakes, because we focus so heavily on how it directly affects our characters’ lives and their relationships. Family, mental health, grief, and loss are important themes in this story, which added a lot of depth and emotional weight to every scene. Normally I struggle with fast-paced and action-packed stories, but because the character work was so compelling here, I was on the edge of my seat the entire way through and I loved that. The stakes are personal, but they are SO high. If you like emotional turmoil and bittersweet moments, then you are in the right place here!
The inventive and intriguing world-building also had me glued to the page, I was so fascinated by the Lightbird/Vevin culture. The author isn’t afraid to just drop us into the story without much explanation, but it was so satisfying and rewarding to see all the puzzle pieces fall into place as our characters discover hidden truths about their world and themselves.
I also loved how the conflict between the Lightbird/Vevin invaders was depicted, because this could so easily have been a generic ‘good vs. evil’ story, but it ended up being so much more complex and nuanced than that. As the two opposing civilizations come in contact with each other, they quickly learn that they may have to reassess their long-held beliefs and worldviews. On the one hand, there is indeed a major culture clash between the two groups, but on the other hand, they are more alike than they could ever have expected. We get to experience this conflict from both sides and I quickly found myself sympathising with some characters who were ‘supposed’ to be the antagonists, which made for such a compelling reading experience. I also loved seeing some unlikely bonds and friendships start to develop and bloom over the course of the story, the character development was just incredible and the found family vibes were off the charts!
My only minor quibble with this story would be that there were some moments that felt a bit too dense in terms of world-building. The Vevin culture and history is extremely well-developed and complex, but it was also a lot to take in. For the most part, everything is delivered in a pretty organic and smooth way, but there was the occasional info-dump that left me feeling overwhelmed. Interestingly enough, our characters seemed to adapt rather quickly to their new situations and acquired new skills quite easily, which required a fair bit of suspension of disbelief on my part. Still, that didn’t end up hindering my enjoyment all too much, because I was just having such a great time with this story overall.
All in all, this is an incredibly exciting and promising debut novel that completely absorbed me from page one. The ending of this book is satisfying, if a bit bittersweet, but now I am just left hungering for more! This story already has a lot of great pay-off and we get some super interesting answers, but there are still so many things left to uncover and I desperately want to see what’s to come next! Mayers definitely succeeded in hooking me in for this series and I can’t wait to return to this world and these characters in the future.
Highly recommend this one if you are looking for a fast-paced sci-fantasy with compelling characters, alien invasion, culture clashes, other worlds, found family, pulse-pounding action, brutal betrayals, mental health exploration, queer love, and lots of emotional gut punches. I had a blast!
Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This book is scheduled for release on 7th February 2023, so get your pre-orders in now!
About the reviewer
Hi! I’m Esmay, a 20-year-old bookworm from the Netherlands. My main hobbies are reading books, talking about books, reviewing books, and watching videos of people talking about books. Fantasy is my favourite genre, but I will honestly read anything if the premise intrigues me. Also, over the past year, I’ve become a huge (SFF) indie/self-pub enthusiast and it’s been a wonderful experience to discover all the hidden gems. I’m forever exploring stranger worlds.
Jonathan Neves Mayers
Jonathan Neves Mayers was born in London to a British mother and a Bajan father. As a child, he would spend many evenings engrossed in fantasy and science fiction books, which inspired him to write.
Growing up, he became more interested in music, playing the flute at a music school for several years which gave him opportunities to perform at a number of venues in London and abroad. He took a Music degree at Cardiff University, writing his dissertation on Radiohead, and then played bass guitar and keyboard in a few bands in London. The passion for reading made a return, and eventually he decided to give writing a proper go.
Jonathan still lives just outside of London with his beautiful wife Cláudia and their wonderful, never-troublesome dog Suki. When not writing, he can usually be found trying to learn Portuguese, trying to play the guitar or trying to chase Suki.