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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.
It had only been three months since the WARBIRD’s crash on Ebon. It felt longer. Arctos and Rave had traveled from planet to planet in Ebon’s solar system, and now they could say with certainty that Cruelthor was nowhere in Ebon’s colonies. So, they’d next turned their borrowed spacecraft to Ebon’s permanent portal, which the Ebonites claimed would lead to yet another solar system, though this new world was unexplored.
As they flew once more into swirling, fiery lights, Arctos cringed. It was hard to forget how the last portal they’d entered had sent them crashing from Earth. However, as they emerged on the far side of this portal, Arctos held the Ebonite ship under control and saw that everything was as it should be. But…
“Where are we now?”
Looking out the windshield, Arctos and Rave found blank space before them. Somehow, the blackness looked clearer and cleaner than Ebon’s void. Less hazy. Less polluted. The stars even seemed brighter.
Working the now familiar Ebonite ship’s radar, Arctos tried to translate the grid. “Any ideas?”
Rave leaned over the controls to get his face closer to the windshield. His eyes narrowed, and he must’ve used his genetically enhanced eyesight to scan the empty space. Swishing the hanging bangs out of his face, he scowled in his typical way.
I’d laugh at that look, thought Arctos, except laughing at anything lately seems inappropriate.
“Hey, over there.” Rave pointed against his side window.
Arctos looked and saw a distinguishable planet against the stellar backdrop. This was the only celestial ball in the sky, so Arctos aimed their ship in this direction.
“It’s small compared to Ebon,” said Arctos.
“Yeah…not necessarily a bad thing.”
The planet’s moon was closer to the planet’s atmosphere than any moon they’d seen. With sunlight shinning on the two globes, Arctos saw their surfaces well. The naturally smaller moon had a churning blue surface, suggesting a global sea. The planet itself was yellow with only an equatorial belt of green vegetation.
Rave flicked his finger against the windshield. “Do you know what that planet is? That’s Phantasya! I’m home!”
“What? This is where Trok raised you?”
“Exactly! I wonder if the old Bearer is there now. You think?”
They’d been trying to rationalize Trok’s absence for some time.
“Could be. You always said Phantasya was Trok’s favorite planet. Maybe he’s been here, waiting for us to find this place.” Arctos shrugged his stiff shoulders. “I don’t like that Trok hasn’t answered sis’s calls, though. He’s always come when we’ve needed him before.”
Rave let out a puff of air. He sat back in his seat and strapped himself in. “Well, let’s go. You know how Trok skips around – I’ll bet he already knows we’re coming.”
Excited for the first time in months, Arctos sped their spacecraft to the planet’s orbit.
It didn’t take long before they scorched through the atmosphere. The ship vibrated and grew warmer, but they’d grown accustomed to this during their numerous landings on Ebon’s planetary settlements.
Arctos decreased their speed and controlled their descent. The clouds lessened. He brought the ship to a smooth coasting speed, and they flew lower over the planet’s surface.
Now they saw an endless desert of sand dunes. Sunlight reflected off the yellow sand, and Rave activated the dimmer on the windshield.
I’m squinting, thought Arctos. This light must be blinding Rave.
A line of green appeared on the southern horizon. It stretched from east to west as far as they could see. At the moment, however, everything below them was a wash of yellow sand. Despite the lack of scenery, Phantasya was a beautiful planet compared to the gray, sunless Ebon.
“It’s exactly as I remember,” said Rave as he looked out. “Sand, sand, and more sand. Trok never let me visit the forest. He said the Phantasyans should be allowed to keep their way of life without being introduced to outside influences. Trok always was a bit overprotective.” His lips stretched into a plotter’s grin. “Let’s go to the forest. Maybe the Phantasyans can reach Trok.”
Arctos flew the ship toward the horizon of green. They glided over several more kilometers of desert but saw nothing of interest.
As they drew near the forest, however, they saw an obvious indicator of intelligent life – a city stood at the forest’s edge. High, white, stone walls surrounded this city, but an opening in the northern wall showed a pillared entrance. In the middle of the city, rising high above the outer walls, stood a single tower of white stone.
Before they could get a clearer look, the Ebonite ship flew past and the city dropped back out of sight. Now they flew over a lush forest canopy.
Rave spun in his seat. “What was that?”
“You don’t know? I thought you grew up here.”
“I’ve never seen that before in my life. Trok raised me at an oasis in the middle of the desert, remember? No wonder he never let me come this far. I would’ve begged to live here!”
Arctos turned their spacecraft around. “I’ll land. We should find a place where the Phantasyans can’t get to our ship if there’s trouble.”
Rave seemed to agree as they flew back to the desert.
Arctos searched for a suitable landing place between the dunes. “Are you sure we are where you think we are?”
“Of course, but I didn’t know these people could build something like that.” Rave scrunched his face in thought. “Trok told me the Phantasyans came from Earth through the Mainland-Euro DuoPort. Evidently these settlers wanted to return to the simple life, and they’re very agricultural. Trok never said anything about them being master architects. I never asked much because I got the impression they were kind of boring. But if I’d know about that city…”
Arctos nodded, not having a full picture but not wanting to hear Rave’s undoubtedly long explanation. “Well, we should stay alert. We have no idea what we’re walking into, if you’ve never met these people.”
“Uh-huh.” Rave was still watching the ground below.
He’s excited Trok might be here, thought Arctos. So am I. Maybe Trok can help us out of this mess.
Arctos picked a level spot behind the dune nearest the city. The dune was high enough to shield them, so he eased the ship down until the landing gear settled into the sand. Once landed, he turned the spacecraft offline. They went through the checklist and stood from their seats, Arctos ducking in the confining, metallic cockpit.
I don’t care what it’s like outside, he thought. Anything is better than this. We’ve been cooped up for… How long?
Rave seemed equally desperate to get out. Together, they made their way through the shadows to the exit hatch.
“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