Salvage by Alexandra Duncan Book Review

Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
Publisher: Greenwillow
Release Date: April 1, 2014

Ava has lived her entire life aboard the deep space merchant ship the Parastrata. Rigidly patriarchal, Ava's future is bound by her Captain father's whims. Therefore, when Ava is told she is going to be married off to a man on another ship, she is overjoyed to discover it is the ship where Luck, a kind young man who once offered to teach her how to read, lives. When he meets her at the dock, Ava is beyond excited that she is to be married to Luck. However, the minds of men are fickle and in a series of horrible mistakes, Ava finds herself facing a death sentence. Taking her own life in her hands, Ava flees the only life she has ever known and heads planetside. However, life on Earth is not easy for a girl who has spent her entire life locked inside a space ship.

This book was like the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) meeting up with Firefly. On board the Parastrata, life is run by the men. Polygamous marriages are the norm, especially to underage girls. A girl could be beaten or even killed for stepping out of line, and the line can be as simple as looking another man in the eye. Women have very specific jobs they are allowed to do and their education is extremely limited. To add a sci-fi twist to this already twisted tale, women are never allowed to walk in normal Earth gravity, which means that if any of them should go down to Earth it is very likely that they would die. Ava is lucky in that she meets a kind person who helps take care of her, but even then, Ava spends weeks getting her landlegs under her. They also speak in a way that reminded me of Firefly, with this almost country accent and phrases that set them apart from other people they met. It is a closed off society that leaves Ava with massive amounts of culture shock.

I absolutely loved Ava. She is clearly smart and capable from the very beginning although it is clear that she is always one step away from breaking a rule. Her confusion at being cast out, abandoned, and given a death sentence stir within her a desperate want to live. No, she does not understand the ways of life outside her ship, but she wants to live and that is enough. Ava escapes to Earth, she finds another family, she finds kindness like she has never known, she learns to fly a ship and discovers some of the deep terrible secrets of her own family and culture.

There was a bit of a love triangle and for the first time in my life I will say that this one worked. Ava, in the beginning, is a girl just doing what she thinks is right. Luck, the boy she is in love with, feels so right. At the time. However, with her escape Ava is unsure whether Luck lives or not and even as she begins a new life on Earth, there is still that pull on her heart. When she meets another boy Rushil, the friendship doesn't become romantic right away. She doesn't meet him and immediately feel pitter pattering on her heart. She is suspicious and cautious. Each thing he says or does she analyses and a part of her still hopes to find Luck. That made sense, which in turn made the love triangle okay too.

I loved the world building in this novel. So many complex societies and cultures, so many wonderful flavors of life and language. There are some great "reveals" that felt so true to the story without feeling trite. Ava learns and grows so much throughout her journey and in the end she achieves the very thing she didn't even know she desired--Freedom.