Over a year ago, janusfiles recommended this book to me. I am pretty DO NOT WANT when it comes to science fiction, but I follow friendslist recs because you guys know my tastes so well, and coupled with the fact that this one featured (alien) animals, I decided I'd try it. I mean, once in a while I do take a chance on sci-fi, because it's super rare but super pleasurable when I come away liking it.
I then proceeded to forget about it literally every single time I went to the library, even the time I wrote it on my hand, each failure only making me more stubborn and determined not to take the cheater's way of requesting something on the shelf. I finally remembered, but it took me 4 weeks to settle down and get in the right mindset long enough to start reading it.
Once I got past page 2, I read the whole thing in one sitting because IT WAS SUPER GREAT.
Babble Mode: On
For starters, I really liked that the main character shared my name (you wouldn't think that would be a big deal past the age of about 8, but I got such a weird thrill out of it). She was immediately likable. Every other author should take notes on how to write an independent and adventurous female character I can love.
Thanks to the Inkheart-esque style of writing some chapters from adult perspectives*, I immediately became super attached to her parents as well. (I may or may not have been temporarily confused and thought the original Honorverse series was about Stephanie's mother in her pre-mother days.)
*That is probably the best choice he could have made, and I did some research to find out that's probably because the first half of this book was originally a short story meant to supplement the aimed-at-adults original series that this 'verse is part of. No wonder it's so engaging, even though it seems like it would be intended for a middle grade audience. It was really refreshing to see perspectives outside the Harrington household and that kept my interest piqued.
And most importantly, even though I was super-wary of the "treecats" being sentient and possibly not resembling animals at all, after the first chapter from Climbs Quickly/Lionheart's POV, I adored them. The "mind speak" was reminiscent of Animorphs and the cat clan stuff was reminiscent of the Ratha's Creature books I used to love back when I read things that were not contemporary YA. Besides, there is just something delightful about the idea of cats revering celery.
Anyway, I LOVED the near instant bond between grown-up treecat and young girl, and...okay, yeah, seriously injuring a character is the fastest way to make me love her. Injure some(thing) else trying to protect the first person, and I will bond with them for life. The only thing I'm mad about is the huge time jump from that point to 2 years later; I wanted to see more of their early days with each other!
The only other drawback to this book is the inevitable problem with sci-fi. Specifically, when it comes to politics or explanation of how this planet/nearby planets differs from our Earth or similar "how stuff works in the future" detail, my eyes start crossing and my brain tunes out the mumbo-jumbo. Yes, yes, I'm sure you've created a very complicated universe full of backstory and specialized creations but BLAH BLAH TALK AT ME ABOUT THE CHARACTERS AND EMOTIONS AGAIN.
(I will grudgingly allow that as I've never read any of his other books in this universe, I should probably appreciate getting a condensed summary of everything a newcomer might need to know.)
Forty pages from the end, I was sucked up by the action and suspense, couldn't wait for more and was praying it wouldn't end on a cliffhanger and/or that the library had book 2. I checked and the library did NOT have book 2 yet (I can ILL-request it
Mercifully, I took a chance and kept reading, and the book did NOT end on a cliffhanger. Now I cannot WAIT for like a zillion more books featuring treecats. It is rare for me to think that any book has enough material to keep going and keep my interest, but this one definitely does.
tl;dr: It turns out I am a huge fan of adventurous girls with small, fuzzy, inseparable companion-protectors, awww.