According to The Chronicles of Alsea website, I am of the Scholar Caste (secular): “scholars are thought of as arrogant, not to mention out of touch with real life” and “Secular scholars run the schools and universities, research laboratories, and other institutions dedicated to learning.” I don’t need a Buzzfeed quiz to see myself, and no doubt other readers of The Caphenon will identify with the Warrior, Builder, Producer, Merchant, or Crafter castes. After reading the first book in Fletcher DeLancey’s trilogy, I wandered around like a shekking fool, unable to let go of the magnificent new world and universe she created.
The Caphenon is a sci-fi story about Protectorate Fleet Captain Ekatya Serrado, her crew, and anthropologist Lhyn Rivers crash landing on Alsea, and their interactions with an alien society. Or it’s the story of Lancer Andira Tal and her Chief Guardian, Colonial Corozen Micah, and their first encounter with the Gaian aliens and a universe beyond their own world. Or it’s the story of Lancer Tal helping Ekatya and Lhyn recognize they are more than lovers, but also “tyrees,” or life bond-mates with a psychological and physical connection that for Alseans is also empathic. Or it’s the story of a technologically inferior race that happens to be the only known empaths in the Universe, who must find a way to defend Alsea against the relentlessly murderous Voloth, a race dedicated to wiping life off other worlds with their machines of destruction.
The Caphenon is all these stories wrapped up in an exciting plot that will satisfy both space opera fans and lesfic readers. The world-building is incredibly comprehensive (I’m still cursing in Alsean, which feels very satisfying in scholar-caste meetings on Earth). The author uses the first-contact obstacle of needing to interpret alien languages to explain details of politics, technology, family, and religion. I particularly enjoyed the “sex education” talk – while the Alseans are females and males, they can temporarily change their sex so either can produce or carry children. They rather pity the “gender-locked” Gaians. Alsean neck ridges are rather sexy, too. I hope the next two books show more sexy neck ridges (and other ridges), please.
The implications of Alseans’ empathic abilities fascinated me the most and provide a central theme in the novel. Since most Alseans can read each other’s emotions if they are not “fronting,” or blocking their emotions, they maintain strict cultural mores regarding physical touch and individual privacy. A simple hug becomes a “warmron” that after the “Rite of Ascension” at around age twenty is forbidden even between family members. Needless to say, Gaians’ people-hugging shocks Alseans no end. Gaians’ empathic blindness shocks them even more, making the supposedly “more advanced” aliens seem like children in Alseans’ eyes. Also, those poor Gaians lack face ridges, giving them an “embryonic” look that made me self-consciously cover my own face. My perspective of who the true aliens were in this novel kept changing, which was thought-provoking as both Gaians and Alseans showed their fully-complex selves.
Like I said, being of the Scholar caste means I tend to analyze all these magnificent societal details. But this novel also brings out the emotion. I squealed in happiness following the love story, and wept at the physical and psychological cost of war. I lost hanticks of sleep because I could not stop reading, and was aching for some hot shannel to drink.
I am so grateful for trilogies, because that means more Alsean novels and more reading happiness. Now please excuse me while I go swoon over the delicious relations between Lancer Tal, Captain Serrado, and Lhyn Rivers one more time.
You can download a sample or purchase The Caphenon by clicking here.