'The Nexus Mirror (Chronicles of the Enlai Book 1)' by N.E. Michael is a futuristic fantasy novel with strong sci-fi elements about a war that has been ongoing for over two-hundred years, a puzzle-trapped portal hiding a weapon that could theoretically win that war for whomever finds it, and the race to find the girl that's the key.
"My beautiful sister, when will you learn that some fights are just not worth the consequences?"
Now, this was actually a bit of a dense read and not entirely due to the deep story and world-building at play, but it absolutely maintained my interest to the end. The author has woven a number of historical figures and creatures of lore throughout the mythos of the races. Though I'm unsure if I like it in this particular case, I find it incredibly ambitious and very creative. However, some of the technology within is absolutely fascinating and not so far fetched, considering the testing going on in robotics.
"The ceiling was filled with small bee-like robots which flew from computer to computer, plugging their stingers into slits on top of the computers, transferring data, and then flying to their next destination..."
To begin with, there are many 'tribes' within the Enlai race. Each tribe has special abilities they're known for, such as elemental molding or dimension jumping. Some of them are content to lock themselves away in their own spaces and remain uninvolved, while others actively partner up with beings on each side of the war, for their own personal agendas.
What made this story so intense, is that literally everyone involved.. was willing to do just about anything to achieve their goal. In some cases that meant treachery and murder.. while in others.. it meant making the ultimate sacrifice for another. As their personal motivations came to light and their true natures began to show beyond their initial impressions, I often found myself disliking people I thought I'd like and championing those I thought I wouldn't. Michael excels at this kind of malleable character depth.
I grew especially invested in the Shadow tribe and if you read it, you'll understand why. There is just so much fire and heart in their people. So damn much fight. They have some unsavory members, as all the tribes seem to.. but inherently, I get what motivates them.
"His face painted with burns, smoke, and blood, he stood on one leg, the other hung loosely in its place. His arms and chest were on fire, yet his eyes burned brighter."
The action scenes felt a bit overdone to me, not in that they were frequent or violent. I'm good with both. I just find that for me, overexplaining a fight bores me a bit. I want the author to draw the parties to their conflict, give me a few physical highlights, and get back to the story. OR.. or.. if you really want to go into this kind of detail.. save it for pivotal battles, give it to us once or twice, and never again. They read like someone sitting in front of a movie, trying to explain every move to someone who isn't watching, and it's a bit much.
A book with this much story to tell, doesn't even need it. After the first couple of times, each fight got increasingly heavier in my mind, increasingly harder to read, even tiresome. I began to wish I could skip them at times and if I had been reading purely for pleasure, maybe I'd have considered it, but when I review.. I refuse to skip anything AND.. everything else was so interesting, I would have been afraid I'd miss something important anyway.
There's a slight tendency to information dump here and there, but mostly I feel this is due to the sheer scope of the world the writer has created and the time limit within one book to set everything up and still have room to move the story.
Admittedly, the only other small complaint I have is with the 'Reader' tribe, especially Alia, since it's her inner-narrative we're subject to so frequently. I understand that they're typically calm in stressful situations and their ability allows them insight, but the drawn out formal thoughts just don't meld well with the atmosphere of the story. In the heat of battle where one is receiving sensory input in quick bursts, assessing it, and deciding a course of action.. it just isn't how 'our' brains work. Sure, this is a work of fiction and even human brain functions vary.. theirs are probably different, but it just felt out of sync to me.
"They say," he started, breaking the silence and gesturing to the bowl, "these tears are the final gifts of the departed. That is why we collect them. For even in death, our loved ones wish to comfort us."
Honestly though, my two minor criticisms are just that. Minor. Overall, the book is highly engaging, both the backstory and current timeline are fascinating. There were all kinds of shifty characters coming and going, some good and some bad, at all times. Things were rarely as they seemed.. and I loved it. In fact, now I'm going to have to order the second book..