We only get a few second chances…
In Phantasya’s supernatural paradise, the Warriors and their friends hope to rest for a while. Soon, however, trials and revelations arise for each Kota Warrior. Rave and Arctos travel back to Ebon to finish a mission they thought was over, this time with a shocking ally. Amu, struggling to find her place again, teleports to Rowen and discovers a secret hidden since Earth. Left on Phantasya, Kynacoba and Galcon fight a devilish enemy who could lead the natives into horrific rebellion against their Guardian.
Meanwhile, the isolation of Trok’s immortality begins to take its toll. Knowing how this future ends, he must do what’s best for everyone involved. But Phantasya is a world fated to test man’s faith, and the Phantasyans aren’t the only ones plagued by doubt.
How do you best fight a losing battle? The more the Warriors discover, the trickier their choices become.
Trok’s hand was the first part of him to exist in reality again. As he emerged from the portal, the rest of him followed in the adjustment. His body always had a minor reaction to the process. It was still hard to get used to, even after five hundred and nearly thirty years of non-aging existence.
As he lifted an arm to shield his face from blowing sand, he felt his eyes and lungs working to cope with the different conditions of Phantasya. Well, he sensed them working, but he didn’t feel. He wasn’t connected to reality enough for that, not even here on Phantasya, where the barrier between the space dimension and reality was so thin.
Behind Trok, leaves sang in the wind as the desert breeze collided with the trees, and he turned from the blowing sand to look at the rich forest. He marveled once again at the strange disparity between the geographical settings.
Phantasya’s an odd planet in many ways, he thought.
A smile on his face, Trok walked into the forest. This past time was around the point when he’d first discovered the planet, and he recognized several nostalgic details along his way. He even saw the forgotten sandal lying along the footpath. It’d been there the day he’d arrived on Phantasya five centuries ago, although technically it was that time now.
Trok soon came upon a familiar trail. Following this, he entered the quaint village of the Phantasyans. It was the same as he remembered – wooden huts, stone fire pits, rope pens holding domesticated animals from Earth.
Clank. Clank. Bang.
Phantasyans worked with hand tools around the huts, and small children playing in the center of the village added to the healthy ruckus. The natives wore simple, plain-colored fabrics sewn from animal skins and cotton-like materials. The tallest people stood about chest high. All were tan from exposure to the Phantasyan sun. The women wore their hair long and braided. The men sported massive beards. But they weren’t Neanderthals, only rustics.
Trok waved to the Phantasyans, affection in the gesture.
I’m the first outsider accepted as one of Phantasya’s own, he thought. That’s a humbling blessing. The Warriors will stumble upon this place’s secrets too, but for now…
“Trok! Trok!” The children left the chickens they’d been teasing and ran to greet him.
He couldn’t help but recall what these children would look like once grown, but he cast these thoughts aside as the energized children danced around him. Smiling, he greeted the little brood in their own language. Then he asked to be taken to Nangroo, their ruling village Elder.
Two boys took his hands and pulled him through the wooden homes to a bonfire pit on the edge of the village. Here, circled around the fire, reclined the oldest men of Phantasya. They sat idly talking about nothing in particular, the way old men of any time or culture do.
“Trok!” Elder Nangroo called in astonishment.
He and the other bearded Elders dropped their conversation and turned to greet their visitor.
The time-traveling Earthling smiled back at Nangroo, one of the best Elders to ever rule Phantasya. In the Phantasyan tongue, Trok told the little man he wished to teach the Phantasyans something if they were interested.
The Phantasyans are eager learners, thought Trok. That hasn’t changed in five hundred years…
Trok asked Nangroo to swear that the teaching would be passed on to his people’s descendants.
Nangroo answered that he’d be happy to do as Trok asked. The villagers were always eager to help Trok. They felt Trok was their responsibility because they’d found him alone and frightened in the desert.
Yes, thought Trok with a smile. I was a newbie back then.
Trok joined the Elders’ circle and sat on an available wooden stump.
He knew it would take a while to teach them, and he hoped Nangroo would keep his word once Trok returned to the outside realm. It would’ve been simpler to teach the future Phantasyans who actually needed to know the teaching, but Trok already had a relationship with these people.
And so, as he addressed the growing crowd of Phantasyans around him, Trok began to undo Babel.
“Pharmakon opens with an explanation for how time travel works in the Kota series, including insight into the relationship between time and space. It’s relentless clever and something completely new, and that’s exactly what Somerville continues to deliver three books into the series. It’s a giddy rush to find a new take on a genre trope, and if you’ve been following the series up to this point it’s a game-changing reveal. It’s the “We have to move the Island” moment.
One of the great strengths of the series is the way Somerville knows this world and its inhabitants so well. In the third book, the setting changes drastically once again, but everything we’ve seen makes sense with what came before. It’s sprawling but consistent – we can go all over this universe, but everything we’ve seen belongs in the same universe. The way it fits together only gives the ongoing story more power.
And yet, Pharmakon has its own identity beyond its role in bringing the overall story toward its conclusion. Somerville has always excelled at combining action, character moments, and world-building, and this mix is only getting better with each new entry. There’s an impressive hook to Pharmakon that reveals itself early on – it’s a complicated idea that comes across so clearly. I’d rather not spoil it, but once it happened, I worried that it wouldn’t be logically sustainable or just cause the narrative to fold in on itself, but that’s absolutely not the case. I can’t even imagine the work it took to have it all make sense, but everything comes together beautifully.
I’ve been so impressed with the way the Kota series features characters who, at their introduction, could have been stock sci-fi characters. Trok, for example, fits a very particular archetype and that could have turned into a shorthand that replaced character development. But every single time there’s a smart twist or a surprising insight that leaves them miles away from what you assumed. I was a Trok fan going into Pharmakon and it was so exciting to find out so much more about his character and learn that my assumptions were a mile off.
Pharmakon, like the previous entries in the series, is a parade of new ideas and fully realized characters. It’s smart, fun, involving, and maybe most important, it’s new. Whenever it starts to feel like something you’ve seen before, there’s a swerve you’ll never see coming that changes everything. Three books in and Somerville and her Warriors are still full of surprises.” – 5 Star Amazon Review