Book Review: THE MARK OF NOBA

The Mark of Noba banner
This is my stop during the book blitz for The Mark of Noba by GL Tomas. This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 25 till 31 August, you can view the complete blitz schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours. My review is posted below the blurb, author info, and giveaway info!

The Mark of Noba Cover

The Mark of Noba (The Sterling Wayfairer Series #1)
by GL Tomas
Genre: Fantasy
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: 25 August, 2015

Blurb:
Sterling Wayfairer has one goal for his senior year: make his mark. He’s been slipping into the background his whole high school career—distracted by his mother’s mental health, unsettled by the vivid dreams that haunt him at night, and overshadowed by the athletic accomplishments of his popular best friends. But this year is going to be different. He’s going to break a few rules, have some fun, and maybe even work up the nerve to ask his crush out on a date.

But things don’t go exactly as planned. Students are disappearing, Sterling starts losing time, and it all seems to center around Tetra, a girl no one else seems to notice but him. When he finally tracks her down for answers, they aren’t what he expects: He and Tetra hail from a world called Noba, and they’re being hunted by a Naga, a malevolent shapeshifter that’s marked them for destruction.

Tetra and Sterling have distinct abilities that can help them fight back, but their power depends heavily on the strength of their bond, a connection that transcends friendship, transcends romance. Years apart have left their bond weak. Jumpstarting it will require Sterling to open his heart and his mind and put his full trust in the mysterious Tetra.

If he doesn’t, neither of them will survive.

You can find The Mark of Noba on Goodreads

You can buy The Mark of Noba here:
Amazon
Amazon Paperback

GL Tomas Author picAbout the Author:
Guinevere and Libertad go by many superhero aliases. Whether you know them by G.L. Tomas, the Twinjas, or the Rebellious Valkyries, their mission is always the same: spreading awareness of diversity in books. Oh, and trying to figure out the use for pocketless pants! They host other allies and champions of diversity in their secret lair in Connecticut.

You can find and contact with GL Tomas here:
Website
Facebook Author
Facebook book blog
Twitter account Libertad
Twitter account Guinevere
Twitter account YA book blog
Twitter account NA, romance and adult books
Goodreads
Author Pinterest
Pinterest Book Blog
Book Blog Tumblr

There is a tour wide giveaway for the book blitz of The Mark of Noba. These are the prizes you can win:
– $10 Amazon Gift Card(US) or A book of your choice via The Book Depository up to $10(INT)

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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B’s Review

FTC disclosure: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Notes on Diversity
Given that the authors of The Mark of Noba are so deeply involved in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, I set my expectations high in terms of diversity. I am happy to say they delivered!

The book starts with Sterling Wayfairer, who is a blond, blue-eyed cishet straight dude, but he is basically the only one of his kind in the book. And unlike in The Windup Girl, where this viewpoint dominates the narrative and makes the diversity surrounding the central White dude ornamental, Sterling Wayfairer is not put in a position of power or privilege in his world due to his Whiteness/cis-ness/het-ness. Virtually all of his friends are teens of color, and their presence is not especially noteworthy. Like with Niko, G L Tomas pushes back against White supremacy by creating a world where people of color are thoughtlessly acceptable, desirable, perfect just as they are. Racial tensions where Sterling lives seem not to exists, and this in itself is a strong pro-diversity statement 1.

AND THEN WE GET TETRA. Tetra is Black, like very dark Black, and she’s beautiful and strong and smart and flawed (so flawed) but so redeemable. AND she is offhandedly queer, which made my heart flutter. (You can already tell I have a massive thing for Tetra, huh?). Tetra is a great character, and she is an especially great Black woman character. That she is so dark-skinned and consistently seen as desirable is another example of G L Thomas going the extra distance here in terms of visibility and diversity in their work.

But wait! There’s more! With Sterling’s mother we get a character grappling with mental disability, and with Sterling himself we see how that affects the people she loves. Laurel, Sterling’s mother, was written with such nuance. As both the child of a parent with severe mental health issues and as a parent who struggles with mental health themself, the delicate and fraught relationship between Sterling and Laurel really got to me. That kind of relationship is very easy to write badly in fiction, and I’ve seen it written badly more than I’ve seen it written well–but G L Tomas got it right. They captured the layers of dependence and complication that the mental illness of a parent causes–the way it turns a child into a caretaker, and the way that muddies the relationship between the child and the parent.

Noba teaser 1Review
Sterling Wayfairer is just trying to make the most of his senior year, but all he actually seems to do is get in trouble. And then things start to get weird: there’s a girl at school in all his classes that only he seems to remember. He starts losing time. And then this girl, Tetra, moves into his house, convincing his parents that she’s a ‘foreign exchange student.’ She says they know each other. She says they are bonded. She says their from some other world? And things get even weirder after that.

From Tetra’s perspective, she’s stumbled into a foreign world to get her bonded Traveler up to speed, but he remembers nothing. Literally nothing. And there’s a monster loose, trying to find them to eat their souls. She has to protect this entire world, get Sterling up to speed, and protect him from the monster literally all by herself. While blending into at a local high school.

The book bounces back and forth between Sterling and Tetra’s perspectives, giving us insight between how each of them is dealing with this enormously complicated situation. What’s lovely about the back and forth is that both Sterling and Tetra have clearly defined and very, very different voices. Sterling is so young, and untempered, and so casual. Tetra, by comparison, is much more formal, and more wary, and starts of more focused on the task at hand. But, over the course of the book, she loosens up and relaxes into Sterling’s space, his circle of friends, his family. Both of these characters grow a lot of the course of the book–Sterling matures, and Tetra seems to get younger and looser and warmer. I think we don’t see Tetra’s sort of reverse-arc enough, especially in YA books. It’s especially meaningful to me because I feel like I’ve gone on a similar emotional journey as Tetra.

All the hallmarks of a YA high school book are here–midterms, prom prep, party hookup–but with the threat of a sci fi monster in the background. If there’s one thing I would have changed about the book, it would have been a better balance between the high school foregrounding and the monster quest background arc. The hunt for the mysterious Naga hunting Sterling and Tetra slips in and out of the foreground to the extent that by the time the requisite showdown happens the stakes don’t quite feel high enough. It’s foreshadowed well at the beginning, but there’s a lull in the middle of the book where the Naga seems to go into hibernation while Sterling and Tetra hang out and do high school things (which is great fun and excellent for their character development). Still, a better balance between both sides of the plot would have added tension all the way through the book and added even more emotional punch to an already gut-wrenching ending. Whoo boy, that ending is killer.

Even with the uneveness in the pacing and tension, this book is well worth the read. I am excited to see what Tomas does with the second book. The characterization is so strong, and the writing is lovely. The teaser chapter for the second book had me so intrigued!

Also, and this is a small but important point, the book design is beautiful. Just lovely to behold, from the cover to the chapter headings.

4 stars

1For examples along other axes of this, see Malinda Lo’s statements of writing fantasy worlds without homophobia.



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5 thoughts on “Book Review: THE MARK OF NOBA

  1. Yoooooooo, this review was dope AF! I actually agree with you on what we could have done better! I think with the sequel we’ll take all that stuff in mind. We do want to grow as writers and any advice given from someone we so HIGHLY admire is like finding an $100 bill on the ground!

    The 2nd in the series, they leave High school behind and say hello to Steampunk! Whoop-Whoop!

    Like

    • I LOVED IT THOUGH CAN’T SAY THAT ENOUGH! Yeah, the structure/pacing could be tightened, but it was SO GOOD that I didn’t mind and I am PUMPED for the next book! The teaser chapter you included really had me hooked.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Guest Post: Navigating the Literary World With Bias by Guinevere Thomas | Clatter & Clank

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