#SPFBO Review : Beggar’s Rebellion (Resonant Saga #1) by Levi Jacobs

BeggarsRebellionBeggar’s Rebellion is the third (well, fourth if you include my own) finalist I’ve read as part of the second stage of the SPFBO competition and, a few issues aside, it was an enjoyable read.

The story follows two characters who are very far removed in terms of background and nature but very similar in the tangled situations they find themselves in.

Ellumia (sometimes known as Ella) is a young woman who works and travels continuously aboard a riverboat.  Tai is an orphan selling blackmarket goods with a small team who have become like family to him.  Both of them are living a little on the edge and their worlds are about to become more complicated.

The world here is the most fascinating part of the story for me. This is a world of magic, it seems that most people have the ability to use magic but in order to do so they need to take Yura – a small mossy type pill that helps people to ‘resonate’ or tap into their abilities.  The magic takes different forms, Ellumia, for example, can timeslip – which means she can effectively slow down everything around her, other magical users can mind read or become fast and strong.  Of course, the discovery of Yura and the desire to be economically in control of the substance led to war and the eventual rebellion alluded to in the title.  The country here is very much divided between the ‘haves’ (the conquerors, sometimes known as lighthairs) and the ‘have nots’.  Oppression is very real and resentment runs high.  On top of the magic most people seem to have a voice inside their head, believed to be an ancestor or in some circumstances a friend who has passed away.  Not much is known about these voices and this is definitely something I would be interested in learning more about.

The characters share similar page time and indeed similar feelings in political terms.  Ella comes from a privileged background but is in hiding from her family.  She travels back and forth on board the riverboat working for the passengers as an accountant.  She isn’t actually licensed to undertake this work so although her ability isn’t in question she would still face trouble if her lack of credentials came to light. Ella wants to make changes and has ideas of joining the Councilate to try and push change from within.  Tai, joined the rebel movement in its early days but after his magic spiralled out of control took to the streets instead.  When his new street family fall into danger he finds himself making difficult choices and once again joining the rebel movement.  Both characters play quite different roles and I think this will make it highly likely that readers will enjoy their alternating povs.  Ella is very measured and plays a more thoughtful game whereas Tai becomes very much involved in the action and fight scenes.  Both Ella and Tai are a little naive in some respects and definitely make mistakes along the way – but I like that element to them, it makes them a little more relatable but, at the same time, I would also say that I haven’t at this point formed strong attachments to either of them.  I enjoyed reading their chapters because the story is fairly quick paced but I didn’t have that sense of tension when either one was faced with difficulty.

Apart from the world building and magic, the other aspect of this that I particularly enjoyed revolved around the discussions about change, and more, the idea that rising up and fighting the oppressors, to install a new system that is simply a reflection of the old one, is fundamentally flawed.

In terms of criticisms.  I didn’t have anything major but there were a few little issues.  I wasn’t overly keen on the made up cursing – if you’re going to curse in a book you might as well just go for it.  I really don’t see the point in saying things like ‘what the mech’ – we all know what that really reads as don’t we?  Curse, or do not curse, there is no mech.  That’s only a small quibble but it was something that I found a bit irritating.  Strangely enough I found myself liking the first half of the book more than the second half.  I say strangely because the second half is action packed but for some reason the action started to feel a little repetitive for me and I found myself preferring Ella’s chapters which felt more interesting due to the dual game she was playing.  This brings me to my other little issue which revolved around a slight groundhog feel to some of the chapters.  Basically, both characters relay their side to the story and this inevitably involves some repetition.

On the whole though, this was an enjoyable read, the writing is good and the pace is strong.

I would rate this as 7 out of 10.

My thanks to the author for a review copy.  The above is my own opinion.