Jaran: A truly charming tale

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJaran by Kate Elliott SFF book reviewsJaran by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott is best known as an epic fantasy writer. Her books are powerful and sprawling. Her characters are well developed and emotionally intense. Her writing pulls it all together so perfectly. She’s an author that, no matter what flaws I might find with her books, I always tend to enjoy. Jaran is no different. It’s not a perfect novel, but it’s mighty enjoyable, despite that.

Jaran is billed as a SciFi, but it’s really an epic fantasy book with hints of SciFi thrown in to make things interesting. Jaran starts with Tess in a futuristic galaxy and she ends up on a very behind-the-technological-times planet. She’s highly placed in the governmental order of things, as her brother is an important Duke who has been fighting for human rights against the alien Chapalii. Tess stands to inherit all of that, but her discomfort with the position and her overwhelming feeling that she is a poor fit for the job drives her off to find her own way and maybe discover who she is as she goes.

Jaran is as much a coming of age novel as anything else. While Tess is an adult, she is rather emotionally broken having come from a defunct engagement, and she’s rather naive despite all of her education. In many ways, Jaran reminds me a bit of Pride and Prejudice. The protagonist is a well-educated woman who is caged by the expectations of society and the need of her family. As the book progresses, Tess grows and develops, becoming her own woman as she is forced to live with the locals and experience a wider version of life. The similarities don’t end there. Jaran isn’t an incredibly unique novel, and it can be quite predictable, but Elliott manages to keep it interesting despite that.

I can’t really discuss Jaran without mentioning the romance. Like Pride and Prejudice, this is a coming of age story (as I just discussed) but it’s also a love story. Most of the book is spent with Tess circling her love interest and both of them coming to terms with their feelings for each other and what that means, as their backgrounds are so vastly different. This also puts her in the center of a simmering war between two mighty cultures — the people who live in villages verses the people who live on the plains.

Typically I don’t enjoy romance, but Kate Elliott has a way of spinning a story that manages to pull me in despite my anti-romance sentiments. While the romance is a huge part of the plot, there’s also a fair amount of discovery and world building that takes place. The world where Tess finds herself is replete with political tensions which add tension throughout the book. The world building is well done. Elliott manages to make the plains and the culture feel vivid and real. The well thought out culture of the plains people fits their habitat perfectly.

Jaran is readable and engaging, but the action scenes tend to have convenient resolutions which make them less than believable. This also has the additional consequence of making certain characters seem a little too badass to be real. The romance is well done, but there comes a point where the tension between various characters feels overdone and needlessly prolonged. The budding relationship, while sweet, can overpower the plot and world building. Furthermore, occasionally the point of view switches to Tess’s brother’s assistant. Those sections are actually rather boring and they left me chomping at the bit to get back to Tess. They have a very speed-bumpish feel to them that could be frustrating.

I never expected to say this about a book so heavily focused on romance, but Jaran truly is a charming tale. It’s less SciFi than fantasy, but Elliott shows her skills with deft world building, and intensely emotional characters that are mostly well developed. It’s easy to become attached to Elliott’s cast. When Tess loses a loved one toward the end of the book, the reader feels it acutely. Plus, there is enough information dropped about the wider universe that I’m sure Elliott will expand the world and its complexities in future books. Elliott not only writes a sweet story, but she writes an absorbing one. Despite its flaws, Jaran is a book that is sure to find a soft spot with many readers.

The Jaran — (1992-1994) Publisher: In Jaran, the Earth of the future is just one of the planets ruled by the vast Chapalii empire. The volatility of these alien overlords is something with which Tess Soerensen is all too familiar. Her brother, Charles, rebelled against them and was rewarded by being elevated into their interstellar system. Struggling to find her place in the world, Tess sneaks aboard a shuttle bound for Rhui, one of her brother’s planets. On the ground, she joins up with the native jaran people, becoming immersed in their nomadic society and customs. As she grows ever closer to the charismatic jaran ruler, Ilya – who is inflamed by an urgent mission of his own – Tess must choose between her feelings for him and her loyalty to her brother. In An Earthly Crown, the nomadic tribes of the jaran are uniting the settled cities of their homeland one by one. Their charismatic leader, Ilya Bakhtiian, has his loyal wife by his side, but there is something about her he doesn’t know: Tess Soerensen is a human. Back home, her brother, Charles, led an unsuccessful revolt against the all-powerful Chapalii empire. Charles’s insistence that Tess join him is as strong as Ilya’s reluctance to part with his beloved wife – and neither considers that Tess may have her own plans for the future. As three fiercely independent spirits struggle for a solution, the fates of both the human race and the jaran hang in the balance. In His Conquering Sword, the jaran have been taking over towns and bending all non-jaran to the law of their rule. With Ilya Bakhtiian in charge, the nomadic fighters are now preparing an assault on the royal city of Karkand. But within the campaign, another struggle looms. Charles, the brother of Ilya’s wife, Tess, is still driven by thoughts of revolt. Charles travels to Rhui for key information about the past, hoping to bring back his sister – his only heir. And in The Law of Becoming, Charles Soerensen’s revolutionary inclinations have been reignited. In this final book, the story of Tess, Ilya, and Charles comes to its stunning conclusion as new generations get involved in the intrigue, Earth’s exiled jaran people resurface, and the Chapalii overlords make one last, unexpected move.

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SARAH CHORN, one of our regular guest reviewers, has been a compulsive reader her whole life, and early on found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a published photographer, world traveler and recent college graduate and mother. Sarah keeps a blog at Bookworm Blues.

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2 comments

  1. Paul (@princejvstin) /

    The romance surprised me,too, when I read this (coming off of King’s Dragon, years ago).

    I think Kate has mentioned Pride and Prejudice somewhere as an inspiration for the novel, too.

  2. This sounds like a change of pace for Elliot. I’ll have to try it.

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