Cover Image: The Space Between Worlds

The Space Between Worlds

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Member Reviews

I read The Space Between Worlds this weekend and loved it! The alternate universes were so well done (seriously, I don’t know how Johnson managed to make everything make sense and not be confusing). And I absolutely loved seeing how different the same person could be depending on such little differences. Plus there’s an excellent slow-burn romance, some political intrigue, and some high stakes action.

Cara was an incredible heroine and her character development throughout the story was amazing. Plus it was so trippy to see the internal reflection during her interactions with her other selves. I also loved how strong her relationship was with her sister. All of the relationships in general were just so well done and complex.

I honestly had no idea where this book would go multiple times but the journey was absolutely worth it. I’m also really hoping that we get a movie adaptation of this one. If you’re a science fiction fan or if the premise sounds intriguing, definitely put this one on your radar!! 

*Disclaimer: I received an advance digital copy of this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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I won't be posting this review on other platforms, but I just could not get into this book at all. It felt like a Space Opera, with a complicated romance and too much exposition. I just felt that the backstory kept repeating over and over again and it was too difficult for me to follow.
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When it comes to sci-fi, more often than not, I am let down. You see a lot of authors fall back on overused tropes and/or people misuse scientific terminology, which as a scientist makes me immediately shut down. This is NOT one of those types of books. This is literally the new voice in sci-fi that I have been anxiously hoping and waiting for.

Cara has the ability to travel across the multiverse. There are 382 worlds in total. The caveat? You can only travel to the worlds if you no longer exist on that world. So the Eldridge Institute hires transversers like Cara, Black and from a poor backgrounds that, statistically speaking, had slim chance of survival anyways.

"The needed trash people. Poor black and brown people. People somehow on the 'wrong side' of the wall, even though they were the ones who built it. People brought for labor, or come for refuge, or who were here before the first neoliberal surveyed this land and thought to build a paradise. People who’d already thought this was paradise. They needed my people. They needed me."

This paragraph in chapter one hit me like a ton of bricks and set the tone for the entire story. I was so blown away that this author included this paragraph that so succinctly described Earth zero. I just wasn’t expecting this sort of brutal honesty in sci-fi, and I immediately understood that this book would be unlike any other in this genre.

I don’t want to comment on anything in regards to plot for this one because I honestly that that you should go into this one blind. Roughly speaking, there are multiple worlds existing at once hence the multiverse, but in terms of what happens on each of those, you need to experience that alongside Cara.

Let’s talk characters.

Our protagonist Cara is a Black, bisexual female who literally will do whatever it takes to survive especially she refuses to die the way that her mother did. She’s sarcastic, rough around the edges, but true to those that she cares about. Cara knows that she needs to make it order to finally become a citizen and be safe for once in her life.

As far as secondary characters go, all of them (Dell, Ester, Jean, Adam, and Nik Nik) were well developed and fascinating. We learned each of their backstories as well as their lives on the different Earths. Never once did I think that these characters deviated from or slowed the plot down. If anything, I was so curious as to how all of it would play out.

This book does an incredible job of tackling the intersectionality of race, class, and identity and it does it in a way that reminds you that even when we advance in science and technology that these themes and problems are not going to magically disappear.

Honestly, there is so much more that I could talk about in this amazing book, but I will wrap up with just pick this one up and read it. Johnson is a desperately needed breath of fresh air in science-fiction, and I cannot wait to see what is next.

Thank you to Del Rey for providing a review copy through NetGalley. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
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I fully enjoyed this book! It was a quick read for me on a Saturday afternoon and I found it refreshing to see a diverse gender and cultural background portrayed in the multiverse, including a nonbinary character in a leadership role. Cara was a compelling, if stubborn, antihero and I was rooting for her to find herself, not just a place she can stop running. The villain could have been a shade more sinister, but the concept of a megalomaniacal CEO/oligarch was well fleshed out and I was satisfied, but not thrilled, with the denouement.
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Cara is a traverser, a traveler from Earth 0 to the other possible Earths created by the many decisions people make in their lives. Traversers are drawn from the poor and desperate people of Ash Town, the impoverished city outside the city-state called Wiley, because their life expectancy in this and in the multiverse is low, so it’s more likely they can find Earths where they have died. This is essential because if there were a Cara alive in the world she traverses, she would die. The Space Between Worlds tells us her story, a story in which we soon learn that she is not who people think she is, but someone from an alternate Earth who has taken the place of the original Cara who died when she arrived in a world with a living iteration, a Cara who took her place to save her own life.

Micaiah Johnson has created a fascinating world that takes current problems in the world, climate change, inequality, racism and extends them into a future where some people are quite comfortable, though only because others suffer. Cara’s traversing career may be ending as there are only eight worlds where she still lives. She’s died in so many other worlds and knowing that is a hard fact to deal with – as though she matters so little in every world that exists.

When Cara arrives on a new-to-her Earth after she died there, she arrives to find that her death was faked. Somehow Cara’s will to live is so powerful she manages to survive the damage inflicted by this meeting of lives. Because she needed medical treatment, she interacts with this world in ways that change it and her own world forever.



Wow! I loved The Space Between Worlds so much. It will likely be on my list of best books of 2020. The prose is beautiful and often on point with brutal truths such as suggesting the Ashtown people would not have built the walls so high if they knew they would be on the wrong side of them. The sense of place is powerful, the world so plausible that it can be frightening. I am not sure we will ever figure out how to traverse the multiverse, but it seems more likely to me than intergalactic space travel. It all seems so plausible.

I love Cara and loved how she came to love herself, to just allow herself to live and not just exist. I love the possibilities at the end and how the author leaves it to the multiverse. I know which one I would choose.

The Space Between Worlds will be released on August 4th. I received an e-galley through NetGalley.

The Space Between Worlds at Del Rey | Penguin Random House
Micaiah Johnson at Vanderbilt University
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Many dream of traveling among the stars as astronauts; on the Earth of this book, a brilliant scientist has figured out how to travel among the worlds of the multiverse. The catch is that “traversers” can only visit other Earths in which their doppelgangers have died; otherwise, they get severely mangled and die themselves. Cara was chosen as a traverser for the Eldridge Institute because she has lived in such dangerous circumstances in so many other Earths that a lot of her other selves have died, leaving her free to cross over. As it is, on Earth One, she only gets to live in the walled-off, climate-controlled, wealthy Wiley City because she’s been working for Eldridge for six years; her real home is in the desert wastelands of Ashtown, which lie outside Wiley City.

Working with her handler, Dell, a beautiful old-money inhabitant of Wiley City whom Cara longs for but knows she can’t have because of their class difference, Cara visits hundreds of other Earths to collect data and help bring back resources. She hopes to be able to continue working for four more years so she can become a citizen and stay in the city, but in the meantime, she feels she doesn’t truly belong in either the city or the sunburned wild west of Ashtown, run by a ruthless emperor, where her pious mother, stepfather and stepsiblings serve others in a somewhat protected area for the religious.

When the company learns that another of her “dops” has died, Cara gets sent to that alternate Earth, where things get complicated and she finds out some information that changes what she knows about her job and the company. She has to decide who she really is, what she truly wants, and what matters to her. For a young woman who has known danger her whole life (and seen it in hundreds of other similar lives), she has to face the most dangerous choices of all and face giving up the tiniest hope she has for some kind of happy ending for herself and those she cares about.

I am drawn to time travel and multiverse stories, so I couldn’t resist this one. It’s pretty intense, with lots of danger, rough characters and uncertainty. The action doesn’t slow down much. I appreciated the moments where characters got to show their softest, most human sides and when Cara found that in herself. It’s a good book about a young woman finding herself in a harsh world, where she’s experienced far too little kindness and love.
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This is a book on identity. And family, and other worlds. But a lot of identity.

★★★★★

CW: domestic abuse, physical abuse, character death, mentions of substance abuse.

The Space Between Worlds reads like a good meal: there’s a lot to bite into, it tastes reads amazing, and it’s easily digestible. Plus, it got me out of a bit of a reading slump (I read this in two days).

The main character, Cara, is Black as are several important secondary characters. The love interest, Dell, is Japanese. There is also sapphic romance (with a dash of slow-burn and enemies to lovers)!! More in the sense that they each think the other person hates them (when that isn’t even a little bit true) than actual enemies to lovers, but it’s still there. Also kinda slow-burn but with actual building tension. I was very very pleased with it.

The multiverse theory includes a lot of different interpretations; the most common interpretation is the existence of similar but still different universes, some that are fairly close to home (subjectively speaking), and some that are different in much bigger ways. You can find this interpretation in Spider-verse (and most comics) and the Shades of Magic series.

The multiverse theory in The Space Between Worlds explores my next favorite interpretation: that there is an infinite number of universes splitting and dividing with every choice that every person makes. The sheer number of alternate worlds in this interpretation is incomprehensible, but Micaiah Johnson manages to break it down into a more manageable number than infinity (specifically 382).

There is definitely a two-books-in-one vibe to this book, but the transition wasn’t really jarring for me.

–SPOILERS–

The journey of identity is one of the best parts of this book. I love the complexity of Cara constantly having to face herself, both in the figurative and literal sense. And the pull she feels from Wiley City to stay and have security and benefits even as she feels pulled to the familiarity of Ashtown. Exploring Nik Nik across the universes and how even in similar worlds all the characters can still be so different. There’s always an outlier. And!! how no matter what universe he’s in — if he’s alive, Adranik is an emperor of some kind.

–END SPOILERS–

This book examines a lot of themes: class disparity, sex work, selective utopia, family, and identity. Identity is definitely the key theme of the book and is reflected everywhere you look, whether in this universe or another.

my favorite random bits:

there’s a really good Rapunzel joke that I just appreciate a lot
positive view of sex work
Eldridge sounds like Eldritch which isn’t relevant but I still like it
I love when stories say their titles in the text. It’s the tiniest fourth wall break, like a joke between the writer and the reader.
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“REASONS I HAVE LIVED: I don’t know, but there are 8.” 

This is a unique blend of science fiction and dystopian surrounding the idea of the multiverse and parallel lives. Cara is a traverser who has the ability to travel to 372 out of the 380 parallel worlds that Earth Zero has discovered. That is because she is dead on those 372 worlds. She collects specific data for the company she works for until one day she learns something that will change everything. Honestly, reading the synopsis is the best thing I did before jumping in. It perfectly sets the theme. 

The world building is a little hard to follow at first. Once you grasp how traversing works and unravel the secrets Cara is harboring things start to fall into place a lot smoother. There’s a bit of an information overload in the beginning along with some dragged out scenes but I have to admit that Johnson has a way with words and the imagery was beautiful in a lot of areas. 

“Easy doesn’t mean happy.” 

This novel approaches class levels and poverty in a unique light. Cara comes from Ashland and her interaction with Wileyites puts into perspective how lowly her class is considered. Throwaways at the expense of the system and its gains. Though there are not descriptive sex scenes, Ashland is a town that is run by an emperor who profits on gang like activities. There is prostitution and physical abuse mentioned. I especially liked the addition of the strained f/f relationship between Cara and Dell and the sisterly bonds between Esther and Cara. 

My favorite part of this read is the superstition surrounding Nyame and her existence as a being controlling the space between everything. The lore was a nice touch. Between the superstition surrounding Nyame and the beautifully descriptive beliefs for religion, mourning and burials; I felt a little magic and culture flow into this dystopian sci-fi. 

Outside of the information overload and the slow build in the beginning, I found myself sucked into Cara’s life. Johnson had a fun way of adding little twists that I didn’t expect and lead the plot in ways that kept me intrigued. I think readers who love a good multiverse sci-fi will highly enjoy this one.

Thank you to Del Rey Books and Micaiah Johnson for the advanced reader copy. All thoughts are solely my own.
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"Of the 380 Earths with which we can resonate, I’m dead in 372."

The CEO of Eldridge Institute, Adam Bosch, has invented a way to travel the multiverse, but one can only enter another world if their doppelgänger there is dead. Thus, Eldridge has been forced to hire travelers whose perilous lives have given them a very slim chance of surviving. Cara was born to an addict mother outside Wiley City where a tyrannical warlord and his Runner gang rule. Now, due to her skill at dying, she has the chance to work as a traveler, become a Wiley City citizen, and turn her life around. But when another one of her counterparts dies and she travels to Earth 175 for the first time, she is thrust back into the life she managed to escape and discovers a secret that endangers the entire multiverse.

“The multiverse isn’t just parallel universes accessible thorough science. They are in each of us, a kaleidoscope made of varying perceptions.”

Despite the focus on multiverse theory, this is not a hard sci-fi novel. The science is never explained and exists simply as a backdrop to allow the author to explore themes of death, poverty, and trauma through alternate realities. The story is gritty, dark, and reflective and not likely to provide the escapism that many look for in science fiction. I’m not trying to put you off of reading this novel—I, for one, absolutely loved it—but just want to let you know what you’re getting into.

“Even worthless things can become valuable once they become rare. This is the grand lesson of my life.”

Cara is our protagonist and singular point of view. She’s been through a lot of trauma and abuse which has resulted in a pessimistic view of the world. The knowledge that she was almost always destined to die young takes a hard toll on her, yet she takes satisfaction in the fact that she has survived to see things the universe never met for her to see. Her compelling self-exploration serves as the backbone of this meaningful story.

“He’s a Wileyite trying to pass as something else, and I can’t quite figure out why. Doesn’t he know we still die for not being what he is?”

As all good sci-fi, even soft sci-fi, The Space Between Worlds packs in a great deal of social commentary. Cara’s world is split by the wall of Wiley City. On one side, citizens are perfectly protected from hunger, violence, and even bad weather. On the other, life is a constant struggle under the unforgiving sun and the whims of a powerful tyrant. Cara must fight against classism and racism to make room for herself on the safe side of the wall, and as much as she might want to forget where she came from, she will never be satisfied by simply erasing her roots in order to fit into her life as a Wiley City socialite.

“Why are we, who are so unhappy, fixated on long lives? What is the point? An easy life isn’t blessing. Easy doesn’t mean happy. Alive doesn’t mean anything at all.”

The Space Between Worlds is a novel that will be staying with me for a long time. It delivers incredible character exploration and development, superb worldbuilding, and a strong plot with several startling twists and a surprising villain. There’s also a great deal of diversity with a Black bisexual main character, nonbinary side characters, and F/F romance. If you’re interested in a personal and gritty soft sci-fi standalone, please pick this one up as soon as you can. It will be published August 4th, 2020.

All quotes were taken from an uncorrected ARC and may not reflect the finished work.

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This was ... a great book! I didn't have too many expectations coming into this, but I am really quite pleasantly surprised at just how good this book was. It's ultimately a kind of dystopian "Mad Max" meets a futuristic, multi-verse traversing kind of science fiction novel. Add in themes of classism, partner abuse, bisexuality, and a gritty, emotionally evolving, person of color as the main character, and you have a pretty impressive set of qualities. I could really feel the grit of the Rural wastelands and the grime of the city, Ashland, and could equally feel the fear and lack of safety in these places. I was also quite bothered by the abuse between Nik Nik and various Cara's and had to walk away from the book to breath after those chapters. I think I was most invested in the growing care and love between Dell and Cara. Altogether, this book felt fairly fresh for a science fiction book, perhaps because of the creative marrying of so many distinct, yet powerful, elements. A book well worth the read.
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Terrific original science fiction. First rate plot using the concept of alternate earths in a new way. I’d love to see more novels eztending this world and the interaction of different versions of earth.
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I received a digital ARC of The Space Between Worlds, by Micaiah Johnson, from NetGalley in exchange for a review. 

In a world where science has uncovered the secret of traveling between the many worlds of the multiverse, Cara is one of the few whose lack of doppelgangers on most other worlds allows her to make the jump without dying in agony. She works for the Eldridge, the company who controls the necessary technology, hopping from world to world to collect information and raw materials to benefit Earth Zero. When one of her few remaining doppelgangers dies, Cara is cleared to visit a new world, where she discovers a secret that destabilizes everything she thought she knew about her job, her world, and the future that she hoped for.

I loved this book. Cara is a prickly, flawed protagonist whose past shapes her in ways she isn’t always comfortable with, but watching her wrestle with the many different ways her life could have gone and the way chance and her choices informed those differences is fascinating. She lives in liminal spaces, not only traveling between multiple worlds in the multiverse, but in navigating the complex class differences of her own world. Her crush on her untouchable handler, Dell, adds a touch of queer romance without overtaking the plot. I’m already a sucker for stories that play with the idea of a multiverse, but add in political maneuvering around complex societal power structures, a narrative about an outsider navigating a world that does not accept them, casual acknowledgement of queer identities and lives, and a kickass scifi narrative that blends technology and spirituality in cool ways? I am all the way sold.
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The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson |  Aug 4, 2020 | Del Rey

The good news is that there are parallel worlds and travel is possible between them. The bad news is that that the universe objects to anyone being in the same universe twice. It hates duplication so much that when you pop out of the space between, it spits out your mangled body with maybe a few minutes to live to regret your choices. Unless you’re already dead in that world.

Cara is dead in a lot of worlds, which makes her a perfect traverser. Rather than recruit plucky explorers, special ops types, or cautious scientists, the Edridge Institute recruits the unlucky and unwanted, people that the world grinds underfoot; refugees from wars, plagues, and inner cities where the odds of dying are ever in their favor.
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A fun original concept but this just fizzled out in the end for me. Disappointing at best. Parts were a bit too predictable to capture my attention. 

More like 2.5 stars.
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"If I figured anything out in these last six years, it is this: human beings are unknowable. You can never know a single person fully, not even yourself."

Holy Crap, I absolutely loved The Space Between Worlds. So many times I read a book's synopsis, thinking it sounds amazing, only to be disappointed. But this debut by Micaiah Johnson was everything I could have wanted it to be and so much more. The world building is phenomenal (well "worlds" building, since it's about multiverses!) The character development was also fantastic, with bi-sexual narrator and main character, Cara, being believable, relatable, likable, but also flawed.

The Space Between Worlds is part fantasy, part sci-fi, but also largely contemporary in its focus on the current (and longlasting) issues of global warming, race, and classism.  Ashtown and Wiley City are on opposite sides of a wall, with one side getting richer and richer by the year, while the other side gets poorer and sicker by the year.

Cara is a traverser, meaning she can travel between worlds, but only to worlds where her counterpart in that world has already died.  Some of the worlds differ greatly while some are quite similar, with many of the same recurring characters across each world.

Disclaimer: The quoted text is from an uncorrected proof of this book that I received from Del Rey Books and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey for an ARC of this title.

This was a delight from start to finish - there's some strong world-building from the start, and a twist revealed in chapter 2 that added an extra level of depth I wasn't expecting from where things start out.

Sometime in the future, we've discovered a way to traverse across parallel dimensions.  Most people can't do this, though, since your parallel selves still exist.  For people from outside the city who have had more hardscrabble lives, however, they're able to jump between worlds easily.  Cara is one such person, and learns a little about what makes all this possible after she's able to visit another universe when one of her parallel selves previously preventing her from crossing over disappears.

It gets a little tricky in the middle of the book to keep track of various parallel versions of some characters, especially when we didn't fully meet them in the first place, but eventually things click, and the plot is full of exciting twists and turns - I stayed up too late finishing this one because I wanted to know how everything turned out.  I'm definitely going to keep an eye on Johnson's writing after this stellar first taste.
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The Space Between Worlds is a truly unique sci-fi novel. I love the idea of the multiverse and will read any book that centers on it. In this one, we follow Cara who is a traverser that can only travel to worlds where she is no longer alive. She travels to these worlds to collect data, but she discovers that everything is not as it seems. The story takes off from there with lots of twists and turns.

I love Cara. Her character deals with things such as class, sexuality (she’s bisexual), and race. I would say the characters are where Micaiah Johnson really shines. We get to see several characters in different worlds and how their world has shaped the person they’ve become. I even shed a tear in one scene near the end. 

This was a unique and thought provoking read that I would recommend to fans of soft sci-fi.

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review.
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The concept of the multiverse and the detail put into the different lives of each and every character in parallel universes was remarkable. Cara jumps from world to world as part of her job, and you never know who or what she is going to come across next. What seems innocent, a job collecting data, turns into something much more sinsister. Cara uses her cunning and strength to push herself through the challenges of the multiverse and manages to come out (minorly) unscathed and an unsung hero. Johnson tackles race and class issues in the middle of a propulsive story, sending the reader on an intense journey leaving them questioning reality.
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I could not put this book down. I am amazed that this is a debut novel and will be reading anything else Micaiah Johnson puts out.
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four and a half stars from me ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
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the only thing i felt was missing was adding a longer epilogue. and that's just cause I wanted to see SO MUCH more of Cara!
⁣
Recommend for fans of Pierce Brown, Neal Shusterman, and James S. A. Corey.
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Humans are finally able to travel to parallel worlds, but only if their own self on that world is already dead.  Cara is in luck.  Her parallel selves are good at dying and have died on 372 of the other worlds.    After Cara was identified as a strong candidate to travel the multiverse, she moves into Wiley City as a resident.  Cara knows that if she can keep working and doesn’t get into trouble, she can eventually become a citizen and not just a resident.  It is hard to stay out of trouble when one of Cara’s last eight doppelgangers dies and she is sent to this new world with many secrets.  What truths will Cara learn about her past?  

The Space Between Worlds is a science fiction stand-alone story that is different yet relatable at the same time.  Johnson’s debut includes cross-dimensional travel and self-discovery in a fast-paced adventure that was fun the entire time.  Cara has to deal with growing up poor, yet living a life a lot different than the rest of her family.  She learns that she has a role to play in her own world that could affect the entire multiverse.  I recommend The Space Between Worlds for all sci-fi fans, especially those looking for a one and done novel.
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"I made a list of what I need to accomplish, which is long. Then I make a list of people I can trust, which is short."

This is a tale of survival and moral ambiguity in a near future where multiverse travel has been discovered. The catch is that you can only travel to one of the 382 known worlds if your self in that reality isn't among the living. Consequently, the privileged class has limited travel options with so few opportunities for their lives to be threatened. They must call upon the habitually oppressed, whose losses of life across the multiverse become an opportunity to travel, in an ironic twist.

Cara has grabbed onto this challenge with both hands. With only 8 versions of herself alive in the multiverse, she's one of the most travelled traversers in company history. She must reckon where she came from with her ambition and desire for more, always reaching. Cara is an unapologetic protagonist, whether she's flirting with her coworker, Dell, protecting herself, or making decisions that will ripple across the multiverse.

I can't say much else about the plot because the twists are abundant. So I'll just say expect action, queer slow burn romance, and both moral quandaries and hard line social critique. It's brutal in world-building and plot. The prose strikes you in the gut with harsh efficiency. In short, I highly recommend it.
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