4 out of 4 stars
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Reminiscent of classical fairy tales, STAZR The World Of Z: The Dawn Of Athir by Dr. Anay Ayarovu is an exceptionally imaginative story that takes place on Stazr, a planet suffused by magical dust. Upon learning about his heroic destiny, an introspective writer named Lael must venture further out into the world than he ever has before, with the aim of opening the Stazr Gates to allow travel to other worlds.
Right away, I was struck by how vivid and unusual this book's world was. From dust volcanoes to giant trees, there are fascinating environments that feel lived-in and well-developed, with plenty of mystery and otherworldly flavor. The characters' culture is just as intriguing, with a highly stratified class system and language dialects that are easily distinguishable but still readable. There are a handful of made-up words that further flesh out the book's language, and there are always footnotes defining them, so readers won't be confused if they forget a term or two.
Lael himself is a very engaging protagonist. His sheltered but well-read upbringing gives him a unique view of life, and this also means that he's often judgemental. It's fun to watch him discover the world he's only really read about, though, and he's empathetic enough that his lack of social experience usually doesn't make him hard to like. The supporting characters are just as colorful, too, and even Lael's allies' goals often oppose his own, leading to interesting conflicts.
I have to say, though, the story is much darker than I initially expected. For example, Lael outright kills someone to accomplish his goals, and the problem of racial inequality is portrayed very starkly, with "lower" races literally being harvested for their body parts. For the most part, I rather liked the gritty edge this provided, though some parts were just unnecessary, like when a monster inexplicably stops mauling a woman to force its genitals into her face. It should go without saying, but despite its seemingly whimsical premise, this is not a book for children.
Overall, despite a few issues, I still rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The problems I found were quite minor, and the imaginative worldbuilding and character design make it truly unique. The writing is also well-edited; I was only able to find a few errors. I'd recommend it to adult readers who like books with esoteric alien and fantasy worlds. Fans of well-developed fictional cultures will also find something to enjoy here, as long as they aren't too squeamish.
STAZR The World Of Z: The Dawn Of Athir
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