I’m not saying it was ancient aliens, but it was ancient aliens
Liane Mahugh’s Elemental is a coming-of-age story. In it, we follow the life of Raya, a precocious young woman who must make a life-altering decision: go on a years-long mission for her planet, leaving behind her family and friends, or take the easier path and stay planet-side, living a safe and normal life.
The target audience for Elemental is young adults. This is a soft science-fiction that teenagers, and even younger people, should enjoy. I couldn’t help but have flashbacks when reading it, to the time I was a kid and saw Disney’s Escape to Witch Mountain. I don’t want to ruin the surprise so I’ll say no more, but the comeuppance Raya finally dishes out is more than satisfying, just like the end of the Disney movie.
Elemental begins with an ancient civilization that has been seeding hominid life for eons, giving them genetic “pushes” to guide their evolution toward higher intelligence, in the hopes of eventually creating societies that themselves can reach out for the stars.
Just how this is done, or how the people of Solara manage to reach out to distant galaxies in months, is not dealt with; like I mentioned, this is a soft science fiction where the story and characters are featured and the science is there to keep the plot moving along — like a supporting cast only given focus when necessary. Technical accuracy takes a back seat to the storytelling, which is not necessarily bad, but if you come at this book looking for hard science you will be disappointed.
Since Elemental is aimed at younger readers, its focus is on the characters and their interpersonal relationships. The world building, while rich in imagery and imagination, is not explored in-depth, and some of the supporting characters appear to be more plot devices than fully-realized individuals. I felt this emphasis, or lack of such, was justified, considering the target audience and the story being told.
The ending is melancholy, which happens to be my favorite. I rarely find happy endings satisfying, so when Elemental broke my expectations of a nice wrap-up and left me feeling a little sad, I was quite pleased — I know, language, what are you gonna do? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I recommend Elemental to anyone who likes a good, emotional story about people. If you don’t need a happy ending to be satisfied, then this is likely a book for you. I notice the author is suggesting a sequel is on the way, which definitely makes sense considering how we are left wondering what comes next.