Cover Image: The House of Styx

The House of Styx

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The House of Syx explores what would happen if there was life on Venus...and an entity that wanted control of it's resources. An interesting and exciting novel.
Was this review helpful?
This is generally speaking top of the range sci-fi. It is imaginative, powerful and gripping. There are many captivating and evocative scenes here particularly those involving "flying" in the atmosphere of Venus. The idea of transferring Québecois culture to space is a good one. The use of French expressions and exclamations makes the dialogue particularly salty. The plot involving a close-knit outcast family's attempt to survive and exploit a universe changing discovery in the poisonous atmosphere of Venus and the far more poisonous politics of Venus  is engaging.

I would have given it five stars but for the fact that I found some of the character development rather simplistic and I wasn't quite convinced by some of the elements of the cultural backdrop portrayed. Be warned it is the first book of the series and quite addictive.
Was this review helpful?
I would like to thank Solaris Books and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book for free. So, you think life on Earth is hard? Imagine living around Venus. No one lives on the surface of Venus. Conditions are much too harsh. The rain that falls from the various levels of clouds above the planet is sulfuric acid and the temperature on the surface will cook you. The Quebecois folk who make up the colonists there live above the planet in giant habitats that float in the winds in the upper atmosphere. George-Etienne D’Aquillons lives with his sons, Jean-Eudes and Pascal(e) and his grandson, Alexis, on the Causapscal-des-Profondeurs. His other son, Emile, and daughter, Marthe, live on the Causapscal-des-Vents. Everything is shared, re-used and rebuilt and don’t even think of going outside without double-checking your space suit and helmet. Like many families, not all of the D’Aquillons get along, but their family ties remain strong. When George-Etienne and Pascal investigate the surface (two of only a dozen or so people to actually visit the surface), they discover a cave with enough resources to make them rich many times over. Their problem is how to mine and extract the minerals there without everyone on the planet wanting to take their find away from them. I believe this was the first scifi story I’ve ever read which takes place around Venus. I enjoyed it very much. There was lots of action, some romance, and a lot of conspiring. Both the story and the characters were great. I especially liked 16-year-old engineer, Pascal, who just wants to feel good about himself. I thought his story was written with a lot of sensitivity. It actually seemed like a lot of the inhabitants of the giant floating habitats just wanted to feel good about themselves, but not all of them will survive. This was a very exciting story. I had a hard time putting it down and I will be looking forward to Mr. Kunsken’s continuation of the D’Aquillons’s story (and not just so that I can learn more ways to swear in French).
Was this review helpful?
The House of Styx is a really hard book for me to review. I personally didn’t find it an engaging read but usually when I write low starred reviews I have lots of reasons to point to as to why. With House of Styx I don’t really have concrete reasons as to why I didn’t enjoy it and therefore I have put it as a 3 star review. I know that reading is very much a personal taste and what I didn’t enjoy might be someone else’s favourite read so I don’t want to mark it too harshly because of this.

The idea of setting a colony on Venus is an interesting one, as is the concept of these colony inhabitants originally being from Quebec. However, I did feel a little lost in places – I found a lot of the book very hard to picture, especially the trawlers – the large plants that have been modified to become their homes. If there had been a sketch of one at the front of the book along with perhaps an image of the planets ‘rangs’ and how they connected or what they looked like I might have had an easier time imagining the world but it just felt very under-sketched and confusing to me. I also found the Quebec idea was interesting but as no-one on the planet seemed to have any connection to earth or their previous lives the odd French phrases felt a little jarring.

I really liked the idea of the banks being in control of the planet and punishing citizens for life choices such as suicide or keeping a downs syndrome child. This was dark but made for a really interesting family dynamic between the characters. I also liked the portrayal of Pascal, the 16 year old boy struggling to inhabit his trans-gender identity. I think my main problem was that I didn’t understand any of their motivations for being on the planet. No-one can get to the surface and there’s no natural resources that they are sending back to earth. There is also still life on earth, so it’s not as if there’s an event which forced them to move, the bank controls everything so they aren’t an independent state or anything. It just made me question what the point of living in such a harsh environment with no perks was.

I also didn’t enjoy the plot – it was incredibly slow going. I understand that it’s the first book in a series but it felt very much like filler which isn’t what you want from an introduction to a series. We learn about a mysterious resource on the planet which is found by our main characters and kept a secret and then… nothing. We get half baked plans which seem very unrealistic such as building an entire mining colony on the surface when they can’t even survive in ready made homes in much nicer conditions with governmental support. The book then faffs around and doesn’t even give us much in the way of a conclusion to pay off the first instalment.

Overall, The House of Styx was not my cup of tea - with a very slow plot and confusing setting and I will not be on the lookout for the next book in the series I’m afraid. Thank you to NetGalley & Rebellion Solaris for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Loved it.

Sci-Fi is the perfect genre for exploring technological ideals, but also emotional ones.
I loved Emile's turmoil, and found myself empathising with him throughput the tale.  
Who knew Venus would be colonised by the French Canadians! Lol 

The first quarter or so is a slow burner, but the story starts to pull together and a fabulous pace and the tension was so tight I almost.snapped! Loved it!
Was this review helpful?
Before reading The House of Styx, I'd not long finished reading The Quantum Magician and so upon seeing that Derek Künsken had another book released after that, I needed to read it without bothering to even read the synopsis. After quite a few chapters, I found myself wondering whether this was related to The Quantum Magician so finally got around to quickly reading a bit more on the book to see that it is indeed - a new series set 250 years before The Quantum Magician. My interest rose even more!

The whole book takes place in the swirling clouds of Venus, where the families of la colonie live on floating plant-like trawlers, salvaging what they can in the fierce acid rain and crackling storms. Life is dangerous, with Venus raining acid and everything you do is just to survive. How dangerous life is in the atmosphere of Venus seems to be one of the key parts of the book with the dangers repeated throughout. Life is fragile and people spend their days simply trying to survive.

One family though discovers that Venus carries its own secrets, as in the depths there is a wind that shouldn’t exist. To harness it, a new family must be formed from three houses coming together - the House of Styx.
The character building that Künsken gets into the pages is something else. You become engrossed in them, caring for them and understanding their problems and boy do they have problems. Live on Venus is hard, being in a family in that kind of environment is hard. The father of the D’Aquillon family who refuses to give up on the birth of his first son just because he has Downs Syndrome, despite calls that he'd be a burden on already scarce resources. A son who resents his father for making their lives harder because of his decision to keep his first son, despite his love for his brother. Another son who can't figure out who he is only to discover it with some help from his sister. Deaths in the family, anger, confusion, tears, love. It's all experienced whilst maintaining just how difficult life in the atmosphere of Venus is.

You spend half your time wondering how deep Emile's hatred of his dad goes and whether he'd betray the family that he no longer feels a part of and the other half wondering what can and will go wrong with the families plan to set up on the surface of Venus away from the banks that own everything and everyone, without anyone noticing what they're doing.

In books like this, it's always nice when the details aren't weighed down by technical language. Instead, Künsken’s descriptions of chemistry, physics and technology are used to illustrate the hardships and danger of their lives without making you think too hard about it. We're not living in the atmosphere's of Venus, no one is right now. We've not even sent people to Mars. So you can't get too detailed because it's an unknown and most people probably wouldn't understand some of it anyway. The level of detail used is perfect, it's just enough to keep plausible and understandable.
As an ebook, it has the same problem as any ebook that has an appendix at the back. There are a lot of words that are Quebecois French, and whilst you can guess at some of the words, others not so much. There was a sentence about two-thirds of the way in that I have no idea what was said and by the time I finished and read the appendix, I couldn't remember what that sentence was. When you have a physical book in your hands, it's easy to jump back and forth, which I don't like doing on a Kindle. Thankfully, a lot of the words are pretty simple to guess their meaning thanks to how they're said (like swear words).

Fans of The Quantum Magician might find this book a bit harder to read as everything is a lot more downbeat. It's a harsh environment and you're reminded of that constantly, with characters worries and their actions as they constantly have to look after maintaining their equipment. It's this constant reminder of how they live their lives that make this book stand out. You're constantly told their lives are in danger because it is. I suppose the real question to come out of this book is why Venus?

I can't wait to see what comes next!
Was this review helpful?
Initially I had difficulty engaging with this book but about halfway through it started to grip me. The World building and science are excellent, but I found that there was often too much detail in the descriptions. The characters were interesting, and the Quebecoise slang  they use is great. I've learned new ways to swear! The plot is both and a physical and emotional storm. Bring on the second part.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Solaris, Derek Kunsken, and Netgalley. I just reviewed The House of Styx by Derek Künsken. #TheHouseofStyx #NetGalley

This is the book is a first in the series Venus Ascendant.  I usually do not read SciFi, but really enjoyed this and cannot wait to see what this author has in store for the future.  This reads more like a family tale of survival with a sprinkling of science fiction!
Was this review helpful?
Ok so firstly the positives. I really liked the world building and his descriptions of it are really well done and there was also great representation which I appreciated. It is a lot though so it took me a while to wrap my head around but I wouldn’t say it’s that confusing once you get into it. However it probably didn’t help that I had not read his other series but this one being set hundreds of years before I didn’t believe I needed to. I did enjoy the writing style but unfortunately not a big fan of everything else. 
The story wasn’t gripping and unfortunately the characterisation also fell flat for me. It felt like an adult sci-fi novel with YA characters and it didn’t fit for me. Some of the POVs I really didn’t enjoy and also the undertones of some of the political aspects that also relate to some real life issues I wasn’t on board with as sometimes they came across as preachy. However it is always interesting to read about different beliefs and I do not hold it against the story. 
But yeah like I said from the description I was expecting an epic sci-fi adventure and I guess it was a bit more angsty and drama filled than I wanted.
Was this review helpful?
Derek Künsken's The House of Styx is one of the most engineering-ful SFF books I have ever read; it almost felt like he took a dissertation on Venusian habitation and was challenged into spinning it into an epic saga.  If that sounds boring, you would be entirely mistaken; his characters are vivid, his worldbuilding is top notch, and the detailed scientific and engineering aspects of the novel only add to the story, showing the struggle of the colonists in an even clearer light.  Künsken allows his characters to be authentic to themselves; they aren't shaped by the needs of the plot or author, but instead deal with their own demons and aspirations.  I eagerly await the next in this series; I feel like this is the kind of SF novel I can hand to a friend who works in the hard sciences who isn't an SF reader and know that they won't spend the entire time nitpicking the details.
Was this review helpful?
The House of Styx is not just one story.

It is a collection of journeys made by many people who are all connected by one thing: Venus.

It’s a story of a young man who finds himself to actually be a young woman, a government that finds itself in an endless pit of debt, a young man trying to find his place in a society that doesn’t need poets, and a young woman who tries to navigate the complicated world of politics.

The story takes place on Venus, a planet that some love and some hate, but one that still manages to stun everyone with its beauty. It’s a hard life and everyone is working themselves to the bones to be able to support themselves, so there’s no time for anything remotely fun.

The colony is bankrupt and seems to keep digging their grave deeper, and it’s going nowhere. It’s a dead end for everyone, until the D’Aquillons uncover something that will change their fortune.

I am going to admit that the synopsis mislead me into thinking that this was an action-packed novel. I expected a mystery, but what I got was a heartfelt story about people just trying to survive. I definitely did not except to cry.

This is definitely a character-driven book, which I prefer over a story-driven book. There’s a lot of tech-talk, which I skimmed, but it didn’t take away from the story, as well as a lot of French phrases used, but given the context of the words, you can figure most of them out by yourself.

If you’re looking for a story about people in a tough world, finding themselves as they go through hardship and turmoil, then this is the perfect book for you!

*I received a free arc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest book review.
Was this review helpful?
I love books based off of myths and folklore, this book was no exception. Great characters, and great plot. I give this book a 3 star review.
Was this review helpful?
I was unable to download this book after I received it because it was archived shortly afterward. But the premise held me, so I bought the book so I could give my review.

First off, a sci-fi book not set on the moon or mars?? What?? Immediately had to read this one. The book was a little rocky to start but after you get past the first third of it... whew. I found myself connecting to these characters, walking the paths they took and hating Venus. I don't want to give too much away but this is a must-read for any sci-fi enthusiast!
Was this review helpful?
A breath of fresh air- The House of Styx was a riveting sci-fi novel that I will be recommending to everyone. 
THoS follows a group of humans who have colonized Venus. Their settlement is barely surviving, as they are in deep debt – and the families within it – particularly the D’Aquillons, are no exception. A massive discovery on the surface of the planet might just change their situations – if they can do it in time. They must find friends, and navigate the politics of their colony to do so – otherwise the higher ups may just ruin this chance.
The world-building is part of what makes this novel so fantastic. Kunsken does a fantastic job placing the reader right in with the characters. He has thought out every piece of this world from the technology needed to survive, to how the surface of such a severe and unforgiving planet would be. 
The characters are stunning as well. They are personable, and faulty, and marvelous. The cast of characters is uniquely diverse for a science fiction novel. There is trans-representation as well as disabled-representation, and while it shouldn’t be so, that is quite remarkable to find both in the same novel. The characters identities are not the main focus of the novel as well – their situation and their relationships with other are, which is part of what makes this novel so refreshing.
The plot is well thought out, and not forced or rushed. Oftentimes, I see novels where people must be recruited to a cause and they do so without a second thought. THoS is not that in the slightest. People are wary, they need to be convinced. The dynamics of control and power within the colony as well as between people is heavily explored.
Overall, I highly recommend The House of Styx, for its creativity and inclusivity as well as storyline. I cannot wait for the sequel!
Was this review helpful?
#'The House of Styx' by author # Derek Kunsken is by many "A Must Read". If you enjoy fantasy this is it. Author # Kunsken takes you to the planet of Venus. Storytelling at its finest!!🌟🐾🐾
Thank you,
#Netgalley, # Derek Kunsken, and #Rebellion thank you for the advanced copy
Was this review helpful?
You can find this review and all of my others over at

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Solaris, and the author via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Actual rating of 3.5

Venus is a cruel mistress. She is a Goddess of fury and pain, as the families who are part of Le Colonie know all too well. They live in the clouds of Venus, never able to touch the ground, on plant-like things known as trawlers. They harvest what they can from the atmosphere around them and from the trawlers themselves. Surviving in the only way they know how. But there's something hidden deep within Venus. A wind that shouldn't exist. And if the members of The House of Styx can harness whatever this wind is, they will never have to worry about just surviving ever again, they'd be able to live...

Okay, super brief synopsis, I know, and it's basically just a mix around of the Goodreads synopsis for the book but I didn't want to give too much away as I feel like going into this book with hardly any knowledge is better. So I'll start this review off by saying IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO KNOW CERTAIN DETAILS ABOUT THIS STORY WHICH MAY BE DEEMED AS SPOILERS, DO NOT CONTINUE READING. STOP. TURN BACK NOW! you have been warned :)

So! As you can tell from the synopsis of the story, you aren't given much, all we know is that there is a colony of people who live in the atmosphere of Venus and that one of these families uncover a secret deep within the giant that could set them up for life. There is so much more going on here though. This story was a lot. There is so much happening that at times it felt overwhelming, and it also moved a little slow as this novel is clearly a setup for bigger things to come, and that is totally okay. But be warned, it can be slow going at times.

The story jumps between the perspectives of a few different characters, Pascal, Marthe, and Emile being the main ones, these three are part of the D'Aquillon family who live quite low in the atmosphere and are cut off from majority of Le Colonie after refusing to abort their unborn child when it was proven to have down syndrome. This means that they forfeit any and all help from the government and have to survive on their own, which they have done to a point. The father has a strong hate for the government (for obvious reasons), and doesn't trust them with anything. Pascal is the youngest child, he is an engineer, though engineer seems so trivial for their skills, I'd call them an engineering wizard, myself. I absolutely LOVED this character, and I honestly didn't want to read about any of the others if I'm honest, at least not in the first two thirds of the book. Pacals' character was such a breath of fresh air. This is a character who is dealing with an internal crises as they don't look how they feel and I think that the way their feelings are described was so wonderful. It really gave an insight into how I think most transgender people feel before they accept who they really are, it also hit close to home as I have a friend who is currently beginning their journey down this path so I absolutely loved Pascals' representation and thoughts. Marthe is an interesting character and I ended up enjoying her part of the story quite a lot, she's just trying to do the best that she can and take care of her family, much like her father, knowing that one day she will have to take care of them all, and it's her story that has made me want to continue with the series, because I just need to know... And Emile...Oh dear Emile. I didn't really get the point of his perspective at first, but I feel like by the end, this story wasn't just about the mystery of Venus herself, but it was about a family who are all afraid of making mistakes, that just want to do what's right by themselves, but also by their family. It's a twisted little dysfunctional family unit that are just trying to survive and I'm here for it. By the end, I enjoyed Emile's development, even though it was only small, and I actually look forward to seeing where his character arc goes from here.

The mystery of Venus is what drew me in, and I absolutely adored how the author wrote Venus as though she was a character of her own. She is furious, unforgiveable and downright scary, yet there's a beauty in her ferocity that we uncover as the book proceeds and I just loved the imagery that Kunsken was able to create. There is also a political struggle going on between the government, the banks (who own everything) and the people of Le Colonie themselves, I wasn't so much interested in that part of the story, but it gave it the sense of urgency that a story needs in order to move forward. I will say once again, in the beginning it can get quite slow as we don't actually know what the deal is, with anything really. Stick with it though because it does pick up once things start happening and we have a clear idea on what's going on.

There is also a hint of romance, and it makes me giddy, I absolutely love what Kunsken is doing with these characters and I'm holding out hope that it ends good.

I'm super intrigued by the mysterious wind itself, as I think all readers are. I'm curious to see where the story goes from here as there are so many options and directions it could take. I was left with so many questions, especially because nothing is really wrapped up in this instalment. The initial part of the House of Styx plans has happened, but that's it. This book really is a big setup for what promises to be a huge series. Not necessarily in size, but that there is SO much going on that there's going to be a lot to cover. Initially I wasn't sure if I would continue with this series, but I realise while writing this review, that I will. I need to know what happens. I need to follow this story through to it's conclusion I feel.

All in all, there is a lot going on here. A. Lot. However, this is a setup novel, we had a heap of world and character building going on and it was needed. There is not anything that I would take out to make this shorter or more manageable, it needed every part to be as good as it is. The main reason for my lower rating is the pacing issues, and the fact that for a good chunk of the book I didn't care about anything that was really happening except for Pascals' plot, it wasn't until the end that I cared about any of the other characters or what happened to them. So I wish that I was made to care a bit earlier as it may have been a bit more enjoyable in the beginning. If you love a sci-fi with a mystery at it's center, a wide array of characters that are all different from each other and just shine, and a hint of romance on the side, give this a go. You might love it.
Was this review helpful?
Kunsken is a fairly new sci-fi writer, with a couple published novels under his belt, and here he scores a huge success in crafting a thoroughly believable immersion into the world of a working-class mining family living in the atmosphere of Venus. Hostile and deadly, the living environment consists of habitats orbiting the planet in various meticulously described layers of gas clouds. Our protagonists are a nonconforming bunch existing at the margins of sosicty,trying to avoid the politics of the power structure in the upper atmosphere by eking out a marginal living extracting elements from the dangerous lower levels of clouds. Kunsken displays masterful abilities to create thoroughly believable characters, including a transgender adolescent coming to terms with gender identity, along with a gripping plot that will have the reader turning pages at a brisk pace. An added bonus is the fascinating Quebecois culture that the Venus colonists retain from their Earth origins. For all the science nerds, there are also plenty of eye-opening marvels of engineering. I'm stingy with my five-star ratings, but this one deserves it.
Was this review helpful?
Fascinating story about a family rejected in the Mars colonies , penalised for wanting to keep their Down’s syndrome son.
Multigenerational with some amazing concepts and ideas that didn’t always need to be quite so detailed. I read this book with the impression that it was first in a series, but I don’t honk it is, it genuinely appears to be a stand alone. 
Lots to enjoy and discover.
Was this review helpful?
ARC available from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
HEAVY SCI-FI! Wonderful first chapter. The character interactions are great. The opening is catchy. Great for peeps that love a space opera. Not my personal cup of tea but I can definitely appreciate where it is going.
Was this review helpful?
Venus is beautiful but she will kill you if you make a single mistake.

That’s the first thing that each member of la colonie has to learn. Living in floating habitats, the colonists have to survive with very limited resources and are at the mercy of Venus all the time.

The D’Aquillon family lives with even less than most. Ostracized from the community since George-Etienne and his wife refused to abort their child with Down syndrome, the d’Aquillons now have to live closer to the surface of Venus. But, “family comes first” for George-Etienne and if it means living in the old Causapscal-des-Profondeurs and fighting even harder for resources, so be it.

Years later, the future doesn’t look good for the family. They have lost three of their members to Venus and are struggling with the lack of resources. Marthe and Emile, two of George-Etienne children are now living in higher habitats. Marthe represents her family in la colonie’s assembly. Her brother Emile, who fled the Causapscal-des-Profondeurs after several heated arguments with George-Etienne, lives with her. He is an artist and, like many artists in la colonie, he doesn’t feel like he belongs on Venus. His only occupations are to drink, smoke weed and follows his cult-leader girlfriend Thérèse everywhere.

On the Causapscal-des-Profondeurs, George-Etienne and his youngest son Pascal (later Pascale), are trying to hold the family together. Their habitat is decaying and la colonie doesn’t have the resources nor the want to help them. They can only hope for a miracle, and this miracle may very well be hiding in the heart of Venus…

I loved The Quantum Magician and The Quantum Garden so I was very excited to read the first installment in Derek Künsken’s new duology.  I haven’t read a lot of books set on Venus – I know it was a popular setting in pulp SF but it quickly fell in the backside when scientists realized that Venus wasn’t exactly a hospitable place. High pressure, extreme temperatures and acidic rains are not exactly “human-friendly”. However, I really loved how Künsken created a community, la colonie, completely adapted to the complexities of Venus. It was fascinating to read about the organization, the management of resources and the sacrifices that had to be made in order for the community to survive as a whole.

I was also fascinated by the characters. The House of Styx follows several members of the d’Aquillon family: George-Etienne, the father who is ready to sacrifice everything for his children, Marthe the oldest daughter, her brother Emile the poet and Pascale the genius engineer.

My favorites were without a doubt Marthe and Pascale. I loved Marthe because she is the type of character I pretty much always love: she’s competent, she doesn’t take shit from anyone but she’s also kind and understanding. She has a lot of her father’s qualities (the loyalty to her family and the courage) but she is also less stubborn and more trusting than George-Etienne. As for Pascale, I have a fondness for engineers in general and I really loved reading about her and her own journey. In the course of the novel, she discovers why she never felt at ease in her body: she’s not Pascal the second son but Pascale, a woman born in the wrong body. The moment the narration switched from Pascal (he/his) to Pascale (she/her), I cried. I’m not usually a cry-baby but I felt so happy for her because she finally realized who she was.

However, while I was fascinated by the world and I really liked the cast of characters, something didn’t quite click for me with this book. I think it had something to do with the pacing. The book is 500 pages and it took a long time for the plot to move forward. The first half of the book was focused on character and world-building and, when things started moving, I had already lost focus. Even if the pacing was a bit off for me, I will give the sequel a chance. I think I will probably like it more now that the world and the characters have been introduced.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. My thanks to Rebellion Publishing for providing me with a review copy.
Was this review helpful?