I recently found a place called NetGalley where new books are to be had for free, as long as a person has a blog where they can be promoted. Luckily I have this very blog, and so I signed up and downloaded a couple of books. Today I’m reviewing one of them called Whisper by Lynette Noni, from Pantera Press. The publisher’s website says that bestselling Australian author Lynette Noni is known for crafting compelling stories that appeal to devoted fantasy fans and general-interest readers alike. Stepping away from the much loved Medoran Chronicles, Whisper is an unforgettable series full of suspense that explores the power of words and the importance of finding your voice.

For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes… Subject Six-Eight-Four, ‘Jane Doe’, has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word. As she uncovers the truth about Lengard’s mysterious ‘program’, Jane discovers that her own secret is at the heart of a sinister plot …. And one wrong move, one wrong word, could change the world.

The author grew up on a farm in outback Australia until she moved to the beautiful Sunshine Coast and swapped her mud-stained boots for sand-splashed flip-flops. She has always been an avid reader and most of her childhood was spent lost in daydreams of far-off places and magical worlds. Now she creates her own fantasy worlds and enjoys spending time with characters she meets along the way.

Before starting to read this book, I was expecting a kind of Legion type of thing. It turns out that it is a little like that, but not quite. It is far more like a more regular superhero show with a very teen feel, like The Gifted. It’s paced like a Netflix show but with the romance and teen feels of a CW show, and some romance tropes thrown in for good measure.

The writing fits this material very well. It is what I think of as typical YA writing, meaning everything is narrated from the protagonist’s point of view, with no exceptions, and it is all described in present tense. Like Legion, it starts out in a vaguely defined facility, and these sections are the strongest, but the book is also set in Sydney. I visited Sydney for a couple of months, a few years ago, and each scene that was set outside the facility, in places scattered around the city, had a pleasant kick of nostalgia for me.

Sydney isn’t seen much though, as most of the book happens within the institution’s walls. In fact, the facility becomes a character in the book in its own right, at least in the early chapters. The protagonist is called Jane Doe, and also called by her patient number, six-eight-four, and pet names such as JD by one or two of her therapists.

There are guards at Lengard, not just orderlies, and they are frightened of her. Jane knows she is physically no threat to her guards, but she also says that nothing can save them from the real threat she poses to them. Its an intriguing glimpse of the pyrotechnics to come later in the book. The meat of the book is unpacking and examining what the threat is that Jane poses, and this is very enjoyable.

The secret, when it is eventually revealed, is both predictable, but so involved and convoluted it still managed to surprise me. All in all, the book has a lot of positives, but one negative is that, even by the end of the book, there is no closure about why so many characters have been lying and acting quite so illogically.

Another factor in deciding if this book will be for you is that it has a lot of specifically romance tropes in it. Having so much romance in a sci-fi book gives it a weird flavor, like Manga Batman. It’s like the sci-fi I’m used to reading, but different. The book really starts laying on the romance tropes when the main character, Jane, is assigned a new – hot – therapist. The new therapist is friendly, but also extremely inappropriate, making several comments about how good she looks in Lycra. This is considered harmless flirting, but when another character makes similar comments later, he is bawled out and called a sleaze ball.

Jane then becomes obsessed with the hot therapist’s eyes and keeps falling over so he can catch her in his powerful arms. They are pretty harmless romance tropes, but jarring in a book about secret experiments in a creepy laboratory.

There is also a lot of information that gets dumped at various points in the story, and even the main character complains about that when she is on the receiving end of another bout of exposition. The story is so slowly paced and sets up so much intricate lore that it has to be the start of an ongoing series, like the pilot of a TV show. I imagine that there will be a lot less dumped information in later episodes.

I have compared this book to a TV pilot a few times in this review, and I think the comparison is valid, but the question is whether this is a show you want to stick with, or not?

I enjoyed reading this book, but I won’t be jumping on board for the whole series. For a lot of other people, I’m sure the heavy sprinkling of romance will be what keeps them coming back for more. It’s not my favorite flavor of sci-fi, but I’m certain there is a big market for it. This is a very professionally written setup that will be a good basis for a long series of books, or even a future TV show, perhaps from an Australian broadcaster.

By the way, when I’m not reading books, and reviewing them sometimes, I write my own sci-fi novels. For example:

Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy) Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy

The first book in the Dark Galaxy Trilogy, always the best place to start, is Galaxy Dog. It’s a little more old-school and fun than a lot of the sci-fi that is around at the moment. It has spaceships, robots, battles, and brave warriors rebelling against an evil empire. Click the book cover and go to the storefront you prefer to buy it now, or follow this link.

This is a universal book link (UBL) and you will be greeted with a page displaying all the places the book is available online. Just select the storefront you prefer and, if you want, also make this your default bookseller. From then on, every time you click a UBL you will be taken directly to the book you are interested in, on the storefront you prefer. The UBL even allows you to go to the Amazon store that matches your region.