It took me two days to finish Phoenix Splinter, Branli Caidryn’s debut science fiction novel: it is a fast-paced read. I had difficulty putting my kindle down as I wanted to know what happened next, even though I had read a previous version and I knew how things would end. Keith Groenewald is a young, inexperienced man working for a secret society. He knows little about the workings of Veluz. Keith matures through the book and takes on more responsibilities as he comes to make decisions about his future—something he hasn’t had to do before. Branli Caidryn’s prose is quick, to the point, and easy to understand. Phoenix Splinter has a few minor hiccups in some places, but in no way detracts from the powerful story and interesting, intertwined characters.
A brief summary of the action: Phoenix Splinter follows a young man with more than telekinetic powers as he comes to terms with his place in the real world and within Veluz, a secret society known to few. Keith Groenewald, as he is now known to protect his true identity as John Grant, struggles to maintain a normal life. He attends Centaur College where he has made some friends and feels like he can be just another normal nineteen year old. But that changes as he is asked to train and perform on more and more serious missions out of the protection details he has normal been assigned to. Each mission brings more questions about his past—and he wants answers.
I like that Keith is insecure in his powers, and that he can fail. He is broken, harmed, and shot at. He faces teenaged drama of a mother falling apart and he watches his family drift away, powerless to hold the once-knit group together. He has real emotions: he is jealous of losing his title at school as the best swimmer when a group of Ivy League students shows up to help add prestige to Centaur College.
Though the action revolves around Keith, as a first person narration, as readers we understand there is more at work, more at stake in the world that just what Keith tells us. Veluz has power and its Elders wield that power and demand more of Keith. Each character feels thought out and alive, even when Keith is not paying attention to them: they have their own agendas and function whether or not he is there.
In short, if you like fast-paced novels with plenty of action, heavy elements of science-fiction, secret societies and conspiracies you will simply love the first book in this trilogy.