Cover Image: The House of Styx

The House of Styx

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Member Reviews

The House of Styx starts off a little slow, but by the fifth chapter, I was hooked and couldn't wait to see how the plot unfolds. Some time was spent building up the characters in the D'Aquillon family - the protagonists of the story, which made it worth it in the end. The story is set within the harsh environments of Venus - and the author describes a very realistic picture of how a human colony might survive and live there - through the eyes of the D'Aquillon members. The family members discover a secret that Venus holds, and from then on - the House of Styx picks up by showing the political maneuvering within the colony, as well as its unexpected conclusion.

The protagonists in the novel are not one-dimensional, for they come with their own flaws and strengths, and it is easy to resonate with their hopes, and sympathize with their uncertainties. I can't wait for the sequel for this book to be released - this is definitely something I would recommend reading.
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Family division. Gender identity. Ableism. Political Intrigue. Class dynamics. All these elements you wouldn't expect to find in a sci-fi space drama, but here we are. Derek Künsken has created a story as richly layered and volatile as Venus herself. The characters are complicated and damaged and at times, painfully real. 

We can never truly know what it's like to live a life perpetually among the clouds (clouds that are constantly trying to kill you), but Künsken makes you really feel like you're there, flying through sulfuric acid rain and buffeted by constant storms. His action sequences are fast-paced and cinematic. I could definitely imagine watching these scenarios unfold on the big screen. While it did take me awhile to get used to the highly technical and scientific terms, the depth at which details are explained is a testament to the extensive research Künsken has done. 

I've always been drawn to Venus, even as a young child. I loved the irony of a planet that is so beautiful and named after the Goddess of Love, but in reality is incredibly deadly. It is that very beauty that makes her so lethal, but is still determined to hide an ugliness under that myriad of sunset colors. If you've ever struggled with self-worth, this concept is one that is all too familiar. Pascale described it perfectly, "Venus isn't just a mirror. She's every mirror. We all see ourselves in her."
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And... breathe! I have no idea where to start my review, so let me waffle a bit. It took me 4 hours to finish the last 6% of this book. I kept putting it down: "I don't want to know." Picking it back up: "I have to know." And, oh my word, I want to read it all again right now! The setting is Venus. VENUS! The plot is so, so good. The characters? They're gritty and so real that I swear one popped out of my e-reader and slapped me at one point when I actually stopped breathing for a while. Of course, it doesn't hurt the rating that the writing is superb either. If "The House of Styx" is the way sci-fi is going then we're all in for some absolutely fantastic reading in the future.

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an advance copy to review. This review is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
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All aspects of this book are awesome in their own right. There is sci-fi about humanity living around Venus, trying to salvage whatever they can to survive. Gender identity, love, family, politics, equality for disabled people, they are all important issues and interesting, and they are all wonderfully woven together in this book.

Then why only three stars? It took too long for the story to land. Especially with quite a lot of worldbuilding at the start, and the author trying to cram in the starts of too many of these issues in too fast, it was often quite overwhelming and ... it was not actually confusing (I always got on the right track again pretty quickly), but it did sometimes feel that way.

All in all this book certainly is worth reading. Don't expect it to be easy to read though.
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"She owned her gifts and flaws with the self-knowledge and self-acceptance that created beauty out of nothing."

The book is set in the clouds of Venus and follows the D'Aquillon family.  The father and head of the family, George-Etienne, is widowed and has four remaining children and one grandchild.  They live apart from the rest of la colonie and discover an unnatural wind on the surface of the planet, which defies the laws of physics.  

The world building was exceptional and incredibly detailed.  I have to commend the volume of research which went into this book.  I also liked the diversity of the characters.  Pascal's struggle with his identity was so raw and heartbreaking and I loved the small roles which Jean-Eudes had been taught to help him feel included.  Marthe was such a strong character who I admired so much, and it was easy to will their family to succeed against the government and the bank.  The writing was rich and poetic as well.

However, I felt the descriptions were too detailed and lengthy.  The opening chapters were so difficult to understand and even after finishing, I still don't entirely understand the concept of trawlers and habitats.  I found myself skimming over large descriptive sections and a lot of the engineering terminology put me to sleep.  While I understand everyone spoke French, I didn't like how characters switched back and forth between the two languages when speaking.  I genuinely feel like this book could have been condensed and there were some parts where I actually had to force myself to keep reading.  

That being said, the ending was exciting and I know a lot of readers will love this detailed and scientific novel.  Unfortunately, it just wasn't my cup of tea. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Representation: Queer, Trans, Autistic characters

This book was… not for me. I rated it two stars here, but it would be closer to 2.5 stars. Don’t get me wrong, the idea was soooo interesting, but this book could have been 300 pages shorter. It went in LABORIOUS amounts of detail in describing the different things about living on Venus.

The characters were interesting to read about and varied. You really felt for them and wanted them to succeed. A lot of that was hidden behind the fact that I didn’t want to keep reading the long winded text that could have been simplified. That being said, I appreciated that there were some very diverse characters, along with some neuro-divergent characters.

The plot was good, I really wanted the d’Aquillon family to prevail over the “enemy” of the story, but I felt like this was -A LOT- of build up for following stories and I had a lot of periods of being kind of bored throughout reading. That being said, just because I didn’t love this one does not mean that others won’t! If you like family sagas with lots of science and details, you’ll love this one!
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Far into the future, human beings have colonized most of our Solar System. This book is set in Venus. You know, Venus? The really really hot planet with acid rain? Yeah that one! People living in trawlers, large habitats that float in the Venusian atmosphere, amidst storms that are vicious and unpredictable. It sounds almost painful and it is. Life is very hard for the La Colonie, more so for the D'Aquillon family who live in the lower parts of the atmosphere away from the more elite members and the government. Pascal, the youngest son with an engineering brain along with his father finds a strange phenomenon deep down. On the surface of Venus, there is something strange going on and when they discover what it is, it changes them. Within the caves there is a secret no one knows about and the D'Aquillons need to get there before the government lays claim to it.

This book is so well-researched and amazingly written. The scientific background of the author is obvious in the details. It does get a bit technical at times but nothing too hard. The characters, especially that of Pascal and Emile have so much depth. I didn't know a scifi novel could make my heart ache this much. I didn't expect to be that invested in the characters at all. I liked Marthe too. Pascal's struggles with his identity, his discomfort with his own body, his coming out is well done, even in the chaos of everything that's happening around them. (Need I remind you of balloons floating in the lightning storm pouring sulfuric acid!) And the ending! It was brutal. I don't know what else to say. I loved it!

Oh I am so lucky to have been allowed an ARC for this book because, House of Styx is one of the best and memorable modern sci-fi novel that I have read ever!
Thank you Netgalley and Solaris for this review copy.

(Edit: Links to Instagram and Wordpress have been posted.)
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The book is based on a great irony.  Quebec has always wanted to separate from Canada.  In this very original SciFi Venus in the 2200s is populated by a group of Quebec separatists.   For a SciFi this had the feel of reality - life is tough in the Venus sky, it's too torrid to live on so the people live in various orbiting platforms, resources are tight and need constant recycling, the governing body has to allocate resources on the basis of economic priority, ingenuity is essential and life is dangerous.
One family of outcasts stumble on a possible wormhole, and opening up a potential for many subsequent books, which may lift them from a life of struggle to one of independence from the corrupt government and the Banks that seem to control the government.
But there's more.  Sex, sexual identity, family, loyalty and sacrifice are as much a part of the story as the SciFi bits.  The author puts a lot of effort to describe the conditions around and on Venus and how the people have to adapt to achieve.  
A good start to a potential epic series.
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Not to Mr. K's usual standard

I have been enjoying Derek Künsken's Quantum Magician series and I was surprised to see this new offering popping up when I figured he was busy with the next installment on that. When I started reading I guessed that this was an old ms pulled out of the drawer and dusted off to bring in some bread during the lull while the QM book gains length. I see now that this is intended to be a new series and I am dismayed.

I like my books to be technically plausible and this one doesn't make the grade.

While I will accept that a wormhole can be small and thus can be anywhere, how is it that this wormhole is a one-way glass? If our team can see the distant stars through it, how come the guys on the other side can't see Venus from their side and realize that the outlet is not open space? Why do they throw a stack of drones through the wormhole without a way to pull them back? (I concede that the other guys might have concluded their experiments and figured things out and will show up sometime in a future book, but there are a lot of abandoned, surely expensive drones in the cave on Venus.) The idea that the drones arrive without a way to navigate out of the cave suggests that the other guys aren't able to capture and analyze the gasses being sucked from Venus across the wormhole and determine their caustic composition and calculate the atmospheric pressure of their origin and design drones to navigate. I don't buy it.
  
I had another set of problems with the characterizations. There seems to be one of every personality type represented as if Mr. Künsken was working from a spreadsheet. I refuse to believe that in this scenario of highly educated technologists that normalizes various sexual configurations, gender dysphoria is not covered in the national health ed course.

Finally, I fail completely to believe that an underpopulated enclave of bio specialists, which is what the Venusians are, by itself can muster the wherewithal to manufacture the air locks and related tech to tame the winds generated by the wormhole. It is impossible that a dozen people can do it while remaining hidden from everyone in the solar system.
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The House of Styx by Derek Künsken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've honestly not had much experience with many SF titles that directly deal with Venus, so this is a very nice treat for me.

Yeah, sure, I've read some older titles that have been made laughable by the ACTUAL conditions on the planet, the huge pressures, the deadly acidic atmosphere, and any number of technical difficulties that would make anyone consider this planet a HELL rather than any sort of love goddess.

Fortunately, I had a really good time with this one because it directly deals with those issues. We get terraforming, survival in the clouds, and the full colonial (and anti-colonial) experience.

It is very much a modern novel in all respects. Our main characters transform this into a family drama that touches on everything from economic disparity, identity politics, how we treat the disabled, all the way to a secretive rush toward a *spoiler spoiler* exciting goal. :)

I enjoyed this quite a lot. There were definite tones of, say, Iain McDonald's Luna series. The technical detail is very much in line with the classic Arthur C. Clarke. But the story... well, the deeper over-story... that is also rather Clarkish. :) That's a good thing, btw. No spoilers, but that part is very, very fun.
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Not an easy one to get into but like most books that start this way, once you're invested there is no stopping until you have a book hangover. I've been looking for a good sci fi book to fill my shelves and I'm so glad I found this one. Give it time, let it unfold and breathe and you'll be grateful for the time spent.
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I was not expecting to be so blown away by The House of Styx. In the year 2255, human colonies have set up residency on Venus. But things, as they're prone to do, start to go wrong - the political system is crumbling into unfairness, and there's a wind that simply shouldn't exist. 

There was a fairly large cast of mains, but I found myself enthralled in all of them. I will admit, I was not expecting a book that combined sci-fi with elements of gender identity, sexuality, disability, all while being intriguing and fascinating at the same time. 

I absolutely adored the scientific element of The House of Styx. While not necessary, and one could certainly enjoy the novel with little to no understanding of the scientific elements, I am a nerd at heart, and adored being able to understand the chemistry. 

The pacing was a little slow at the start, but I was still interested in learning about the different characters, learning who had a point of view and who didn't. The plot, and various character-based sub-plots, kept me on the edge of my seat right until the very end. 

The book was full of exciting quirks and diverse and loveable characters, and I would happily recommend this to fans of sci-fi. 

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Rebellion Publishing for the opportunity to read this ARC - I will definitely be purchasing a copy when it's released.
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This will be an incomplete review, but I wanted to write something before this book is archived. I'm halfway through, and I have enjoyed this book immensely.  The science does go over my head at times, and I have a hard time seeing things in my head, but that could be because it's set on Venus. I gradually got a hang of what each rang was, but I will need to do more research on Venus herself. The mystery of what is on Venus is keeping me hooked along with Pascal's journey to finding himself (herself?). That storyline was a pleasant surprise. And the positive Down Syndrome rep is beautiful. I can't wait to read more and do a more thorough review. Thank you for the ARC.
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At first I could not get into this book. It took me forcing myself to make it past the first chapter and then I was able to enjoy it to a certain extent.  Overall an interesting book, but I am not sure I would read it again.
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I love an excellent fantasy novel! The world is gorgeous and the characters are so complex! Will definitely buy a copy when it comes out!
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The idea of venturing to another planet has always intrigued me. So, when I read the synopsis for this book, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Except for Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day, I have never read anything about living in Venus. I had next to no idea what kind of world I would be getting into.

The writing was simply immaculate. The detailed description brought the world and each character to life. I also loved that the plot did not just focus on The House of Styx’s heist – amazing as it was. It also heavily revolved around politics, family drama and gender identity.

The first few chapters were a bit intimidating to me. I struggled to catch up to what was happening and what they were talking about because the worldbuilding unfolded slowly. Künsken only mentioned and explained what was relevant to the current scene. This slow and deliberate worldbuilding, however, only made it more authentic to me. I loved that the book did not try to explain how everything in Venus worked in one cascade of information as this would have overwhelmed a lot of readers (including me!).

This book is an incredible introduction to a promising sci-fi series. I can’t wait to see this book make it big when it gets released in April 2021.
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There are no spaceships, battles scenes or interstellar journeys in this first instalment of Derek Künksen’s Venus Ascendant duology. Rather, it is an intimate tale of family, identity and belonging, set in the richly symbolic and sulphuric clouds of Venus.

“Forty-eight kilometres of dark, poisonous, baking atmosphere beneath them. Thirty kilometres of bright, poisonous, cooling atmosphere above them. Nothing around them but clouds and haze.”

The House of Styx is contemporary science fiction writing at its absolute finest, with Künsken striking a perfect balance with his characters, politics and world-building. While the book is rich in detail, it isn’t weighed down by the technical language. Instead, Künsken’s description of chemistry, physics and technology illustrate the hardships and dangerous beauty of life on Venus, enriching the story.

“Beyond the little window was Venus herself, naked in her grey and black basaltic glory, close enough to touch. She was beautiful and deadly, life-giving and ugly, aspects she reconciled without apparent difficulty.”

The setting is one of the most engaging things about this book. The characters have a spiritual relationship with Venus, a drive to connect with it more deeply even as they struggle to survive in its acid clouds, something that is explored in depth throughout the story. The environment in which the colonists live is written in stunningly visual and immersive detail, the ever-present Venus both setting and reflecting the tone of the book, adding to the feeling of in-betweenness that the characters experience.

The House of Styx is written from the perspective of different family members, an approach to a novel that feels fresh and exciting with many beautiful and heart-wrenching moments. Part of the joy of this book is getting to know the D’Aquillons more deeply and understanding their unique personal journeys. Künsken has told important and under-represented stories through characters who have down syndrome, autism and one struggling with their gender identity.

With themes of family, love and identity that transcend the genre and the setting, The House of Styx is a clear reminder that SFF is an under-appreciated literary genre. I would recommend this book to fans of slower, deliberate space operas like Ancillary Justice and A Memory Called Empire. It also reminded me of Yoon Ha Lee’s Phoenix Extravagant having similar elements of family, art and rebellion.

The eBook will be published on August 20th and is available for pre-order, while the hardcover edition will be published April 2021 (and will occupy a place of pride on my bookshelf).

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Trigger warning: self-harm, suicide, addiction
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I didn’t really know anything about this book going in. I knew what the synopsis told me, and I knew the cover was absolutely stunning, and that was it. This book exceeded every single expectation I had for it. The plot centers around the D’Aquillon family, who emigrated from Quebec to Venus (yes, the planet) to live a better life, and they discover something that could change everything forever. What are they willing to risk to not only give themselves a chance, but also generations after them?

This book is so beautifully written. There are metaphors woven throughout that really being everything to life and you feel like you’re actually living in the harsh, sulfuric acid atmospheric world of Venus. I enjoyed watching the characters grow and become the person they are towards the end. I loved Emile, growing from this alcoholic, pot smoking brother who wants nothing to do with his family, to someone who steps up because it’s when he needs to do. I also loved Pascal, who starts off so shy and unsure of who he is, to someone who is becoming more secure with himself and leans to love who he is.

This book is more than just about a family struggling to survive in a harsh environment. It’s about these characters you fall in love with, trying to make a better world for themselves. It’s about struggling to survive in an environment this is constantly testing them and throwing everything at them. It also has themes of classism, sexuality, politics, and even a small romance thrown in, but it doesn’t constantly smash you over the head with it.

The only thing I didn’t like was how long the book is. At 866 pages, it is not a light read. However, that being said, it is needed. The author does a brilliant job of setting up this amazing fantastical world, and uses every bit of those 866 pages to do that. He also gives us so much information, but it helps every single part of this story, and just makes it better. All in all, I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t put it down once I started it, and I highly recommend this book.
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I am thankful to netGalley for letting me e-ARc of the house of styx. OMG it was a wonderful read. I so so loved it. I don't read a lot of sci-fic but this one was exceptional. I was totally hooked. It was so different and unique. I kept thinking: wow the author is so genius.
It involves science (chemistry, Physics and Biology), mathematics, arts (a different kind of arts but still, arts). I totally loved the chemistry related stuff as chemistry is my subject. The house of styx is full of knowledge and wisdom. 
Quotes:
'Family comes first.... 
...A rage didn't tower. A loss cast no shadows. A heart couldn't ache.
The quotes from the book made me ponder many things. 
It wasn't just based on imaginary things. It showed flaws in humans in a precise way. Each character had her/his own part in the story. The book clearly portrayed that everyone struggles with different aspects of life which happens in real life as well.
The politics was so scary (atleast to me). I was so so nervous and scared the whole time. Taking advantage of others, the selfish nature of humans, the compromises, the hypocrisy, the sacrifices etc, everything was there in the book.
I was so so annoyed with Noelle, Theresse and Emile but I think I understood Emile a bit later in the novel. My heart broke for Marthe. Marthe is my favorite. Pa's sacrifices for his family made me shed tears. Pascal and Pascale's struggle (OMG it was full of emotions). 
the cliffhanger in the end....I want to know what happens next.
The books is a rollercoaster of emotions, get ready and buckle your seatbelt. Highly recommended.
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The House of Styx promises to be a lush, action-packed science fiction novel about humanity colonizing the planet Venus and their struggle to survive, farming oxygen and other essential nutrients that they need to simply exist. Venus is difficult, to say the very least, and la colonie exists in the clouds, where everything is rationed and controlled to make life as easy as possible in an impossible place. But when the D'Aquillon family is told to abort their child with Downs or lose medical support for their entire family, they leave as a unit and live in the lower levels of the atmosphere where it's even more difficult to survive. 

And the world-building of The House of Styx is definitely what it claims to be. Every detail of the world is fleshed out and considered and described, to the point where the world and the planet seems like its own specific, individual character. So much attention to detail went into the description of life on Venus, its struggles, its class system, its infrastructure. This is definitely the author's biggest strength.

Unfortunately, for me, it came through as the book's biggest weakness as well. While the world and the atmosphere were lushly described and so much detail was paid to them, the characters didn't get the same treatment, and I found myself struggling to feel anything for any of them even though I really wanted to. This novel promises disability representation and trans representation, and both of those made me excited to read this book. Unfortunately, by the time I got that far, I felt almost too bogged down by the world description and just didn't feel connected to any of the characters. 

The first 25% or so of the book was a chore to get through and it's likely that if I had been reading this as a library book or something I'd picked up at the bookstore, I would have put it back down. I know some readers are used to having to wait before they can really sink into a story, but I also know that a lot of readers will try the first 100 pages or the first couple of chapters to see if a book is their style or not. The first quarter of this book almost feels like an entirely different book, so it feels necessary to put a "stick it out" warning on this review.

Thank you the publisher and to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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