Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Dyami & the Gobi Crystal by Maria Hoshaw is a fun fantasy story filled with adventure and intrigue. While it has a particular charm or cuteness to it similar to a faye novel or fairy-tale, it's also loaded with heavy themes like what it means to be free, individuality, self-determination, compassion, and the corruptible nature of power (and wealth).
The book follows the titular Dyami, a special kind of angel called a “Watcher.” The Watchers in this novel are charged with the duty of observing and recording civilizations throughout the universe while adhering to a strict policy of non-interference. It's that policy that seems to form the crux of the book and much of the tension. When is it right (if ever) to set aside your oath for the greater good?
Dyami finds herself captured and enslaved by the very people she is sent to observe, the Naga. The Naga king and queen (Vratt and Adira) blackmail her into using her powers of interdimensional & time travel (something akin to Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite) in order to obtain rare and powerful items. The Naga also enslave a race of people known as the Dukan, who we interpreted to be human-like beings who made the mistake of signing off their rights in exchange for a new experience.
We also learn more interesting things like the history of the Naga and Dukan, the history of Vratt and Adira, the history of the dragons/wyverns, the interworkings of the mysterious “Masters” who overlook the Watchers (including Dyami), and much more.
Dyami is a really lovable, likable character. While it can be frustrating to see her stubbornly stick to her vow of non-interference, it is understandable. Many of us have jobs with strict policies we may or may not agree with. However, we stick to them for the most part because it keeps us employed. Despite this, it is so fascinating to read Dyami's internal conflict and her thoughts about certain matters. It is clear that she is a good person, a person worth cheering and rooting for.
The world-building in this book is also impressive. The Naga, for example, encounter a race of reptilian-fish people and attempt to manipulate them for a rare item with Dyami's help. These people, the Naga, the Dukan, the Watchers, the Angels, the Masters, even the wyverns all seem to have their own unique cultures and/or ways of going about their business. No two are exactly alike, and that adds to the intrigue.
What's also interesting is that this book plays with the black & white nature of good & evil—none of these people, even Vratt and Adira, are pure evil. They all have a little bit of grayness in them, or a reason for doing what they're doing. It's interesting when Vratt shows concern for Dyami or when Dyami shows concern for him, especially considering that they're dynamically opposed. They both have reasons for keeping the other alive. It builds really good tension.
If you wanted something light that still packs a punch, this might be up your alley.
You can pre-order the book on Amazon!