Tone of Voice (Xandri Corelel #2), by Kaia Sønderby
Please note that this is a sequel and you might get spoiled if you keep reading further and haven’t read the first book yet. My review for the first book can be found here.
Description: (from Kraken Collective)
Xandri Corelel has spent six months living among the Ongkoarrat after her unceremonious firing from the crew of the Carpathia, and though she misses her home, she has settled into her new life. Then Diver arrives with news that changes everything.
The Hands and Voices–squid- and whale-like symbiotic aliens–are masters of bio-engineering and grow a wide variety of species of coral. Now they are in the process of creating coral that can withstand vacuum, with a most stunning end goal: To grow entire spaceships out of living organisms. The Starsystems Alliance is desperate to lure the Hands and Voices into the Alliance and bring this new technology into the fold. And the Voices and Hands are willing, with one stipulation.
They will only negotiate with Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia.
Returned from exile, Xandri is given the lead on this new mission. She quickly discovers that willingness isn’t the problem; the Hands and Voices want to join, but they want full equality in their membership–including the ability to attend council meetings in person. Amid the sunshine and surf of the tropical, idyllic planet of Song, it seems the biggest hardship Xandri and her friends will face is the task of re-rigging a spaceship to carry creatures the size of killer whales.
Then the Last Hope for Humanity arrives, and this time they’ve brought an army.
This second book (though let’s not forget the prequel novella) is a worthy sequel of my favourite book of 2017.
I loved that Failure to Communicate was all about Xandri, but I also liked that the prequel novella Testing Pandora gave some chapters to other characters’ point of view, so it wasn’t that big a surprise to discover that Tone of Voice has a dual point of view between Xandri and Diver. Seeing first hand Diver’s thoughts about Xandri, his confidence and trust in her as well as his will to care and protect her and his respect for her skills was really great.
“That was the thing about Xandri; she fucking cared, even when she shouldn’t. I didn’t get the shit about people like her not having empathy. Far as I was concerned, she had way too damn much of it, and it was going to get her in some real, serious trouble someday, worse even than this business with Antilles.”
Seeing Xandri through the eyes of Diver was a cool addition because I feel that it showed autistic people’s beauty and how their differences are definitely worthy of love. It was really heartwarming to me. Xandri is also a person who suffered a lot of abuse in her past and seeing her friends be aware of this and care about her just filled me with a lot of emotions.
“Are you kidding? Sapient whale and squid symbiotes, and coral that may one day grow into starships? She’ll agree.”
The first half of the novel took time to show the aftermath of last book, Xandri’s exile and what she’s up to now, but also her return, and had more of a romance feel than the last. Things move between Xandri and Driver in an interesting way, and having both their point of view on the situation led to a better understanding of their feelings. Though I could have passed on the numerous occasion Diver talked about his physical reactions to her or even his “big boy’s pants” I think refering to him trying to be an adult and a badass? His voice was unmistakable from Xandri’s and helped seeing him as a person and not just the image we have of him from Xandri’s eyes on the first book. Kiri also is still in the picture but I think it’s reasonable to say the polyamory relationship will take more time to get into place, which I’m glad, because relationships take time and feelings are complicated. This book series is set to have several more volumes and I’m ready to trust the author on the long run!
“My brain switched from “oh dear god, relationship stuff” to “science!” so fast it nearly gave me whiplash.”
The first half also focused on the new planet and the whale-like and squid-like symbiotic aliens that the crew comes to help and counsel on their wish to join the Alliance. This book has a nice slice of life feel to it, where the characters can do science and have fun on the new planet, letting the reader immerse themselves on the new setting and get to know the new characters before the stakes get higher later on and the conflict develops in the second half, as well as more action.
I loved how the book delt with Xandri’s guilt and her learning to regain a certain self confidence, helped by her friends and crew. I loved how her skills were recognised by even more people, how she got to shine and even learn to be a leader. I would have liked to see more of her thoughts but I don’t feel that we miss too much important stuff with the dual narratives either.
“I wished, not for the first time, that I knew someone else like me, someone I could talk to, compare notes with.”
This was also the book I read while I was in London for the first time, because it came out on May 1st and I left on May 2nd. The book that accompanied me on the long underground and train travels and at night to fall asleep.
This book series always has a way to make me relax, even though it’s not all fluff, it’s still a comfort read where a character I deeply care about will be well treated by the author, a book that will make me travel farther than I could and with characters that make me feel safe.
Content warning: mention of past abuse and sexual assault, eating disorder, death