Review: Ardulum: Second Don by J.S. Fields

The Charted Systems are in pieces. Mercy’s Pledge is destroyed, and her captain dead. With no homes to return to, the remaining crew sets off on a journey to find the mythical planet of Ardulum—a planet where Emn might find her people, and Neek the answers she’s long sought. Finding the planet, however, brings a host of uncomfortable truths about Ardulum’s vision for the galaxy and Neek’s role in a religion that refuses to release her. Neek must balance her planet’s past and the unchecked power of the Ardulans with a budding relationship and a surprising revelation about her own genealogy.

Ardulum: Second Don blends space opera elements and hard science into a story about two women persistently bound to their past and a sentient planet determined to shape their future.

If you haven’t read the first book then do that now. I didn’t and regret it heavily. There is a lot going on in this story, and even though I picked up most of what I needed, it would have been better for me to know the backstory from First Don.

Now that my recommendation for not skipping ahead is out of the way….

This story was pretty epic. I loved the concepts, the writing style, and the world building. While I’m sure a lot more happened in book one, there is plenty in this book to understand what is going on.

I’m not an avid sci-fi reader, but I do dabble occasionally, and this was high up there in concept and execution. I didn’t feel totally lost once I read through the first few chapters and my mind bent around what was happening in this universe. There was a lot, but it wasn’t messy. There were a few POV but it was to progress the narrative. Nothing was wasted on unimportant detail, and I admire the author’s mind, both in plot, and staying on point. This story could branch off into so many different directions, but there was a clear path and it was easy to follow. I will point out that some of the names for beings and planets were tongue twisters in my mind and well outside my imagination for pronunciation so I gave up a little bit and just pretended I knew what I was looking at. This is because I’m boring and frequently butcher other languages with my ridiculous self. Made up stuff has to be told to me out loud and even then I’ll probably get it wrong. It’s a flaw, and no reflection on anyone else but me. It’s inspiring and admirable that people can create this stuff out of thin air and maybe other people can understand it too.

There is a bit of a thing in this story between Neek and Emn but that isn’t the main focus. The broader politics and what is happening on Ardulum is where this story leads. There is an obvious political situation happening abroad, but more importantly, The planet Ardulum and its inhabitants is going through some turmoil that takes precedence over the wider story arc.

I am also impressed by the conflicting feelings that were triggered by the Eld and their rule. It was difficult to tell whether they were power drunk villains or not. I enjoyed this aspect of the story. It really had my mind racing, and I was eager to understand what the true intent was of the Eld and the Andal.

The relationship building between Neek and Emn was a nice touch. Neek is having a lot of conflicting feels about everything in general, and the beliefs she was brought up with are being completely turned on its head. This emotional turmoil frustrates Emn but she is patient and provides room for a Neek to work through while being forgiving and supportive. I really loved Emn. She had her own issues, but she provided space in her heart for Neek to fit when she was ready.

If you’re looking for romance, this is probably a little light on that, but if you enjoy a great story with fantastic world building, this is definitely one to consider. It took me a while to pick this up, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. I’m excited for book three.

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