This Gulf of Time and Stars, Julie Czerneda’s latest novel and the first book in the Reunification trilogy, is set in the same universe as the Stratification and Trade Pact trilogies and continues Sira’s story after the end of the latter. I read it without having read any of the other Clan Chronicles books, and although it certainly wasn’t necessary to do so, I suspect I would have gotten more out of it had I read the other books first. However, I did enjoy reading it even without having read the other trilogies and am now interested in reading both the previous books and the next book in this trilogy!
For a long time, the Clan have been living among Humans, posing as Human themselves. Board Member Cartnell, the Human representative of the Trade Pact, discovered their existence after one of them destroyed the minds of three scientists, including that of the man he loves. Cartnell was horrified by the Trade Pact’s willingness to aid these strong telepaths and their naivety in believing these aliens would be grateful in return, but he has also discovered the Clan’s weakness: there are fewer than a thousand of them, and they’re under threat of extinction due to a reproductive issue. After drawing the conclusion that a war looms in the future, Cartnell calls a secret meeting with one goal in mind—destroy the Clan to save Humanity.
As Sira, the most powerful of the Clan, prepares for a surprise baby shower planned by her Human partner Morgan, she has no idea that everything is about to change—or that her search for answers and a safe haven for her people will reveal that there’s more to the Clan’s past than she ever imagined.
This Gulf of Time and Stars is a book of mysteries and secrets, the first in a trilogy written to reveal the truth about who the Clan are. For that reason, it’s difficult to discuss in detail without giving too much away, but suffice to say that it made me curious enough about Sira and Morgan’s previous adventures that I added the first Trade Pact novel, A Thousand Words for Stranger, to my wish list soon after finishing it!
Although I did enjoy it overall, the first few chapters did not work well for me, but the prelude, which focused on the group who wanted to destroy the Clan and their reasons, did capture my interest. Since I hadn’t read the previous novels, the Clan sounded quite terrifying—telepathic aliens who could disguise themselves as Human and had torn apart people’s minds! Then the first chapter introduces Sira, who is learning about the Human custom of baby showers from Morgan and is very much the opposite of terrifying despite being the most powerful of all the Clan. I appreciated that the Clan was not one big monolith of evil, and I also liked this setup as someone who hadn’t read any of the previous books and didn’t know what to expect.
However, I did find parts of the first few chapters confusing since I didn’t always understand terms and references to events from previous books. Later, this was less of a problem as I came to understand more about Sira and the Clan and earlier parts began to connect and make sense. Though it’s possible I would have gotten more out of it had I read the earlier books first, I also don’t regret beginning with this book. The bigger issue I had with the first couple of chapters was that there were several humorous scenes exhibiting just how alien all these aliens were to each other that just didn’t mesh with my own sense of humor. For instance, one of the aliens is upset that Sira and Morgan brought extra guests they did not plan for when he sees that Morgan brought a bunch of balloons to the “baby-rainshower-occasion” (Sira’s name for this unfamiliar Human celebration). After the earliest chapters, there was less of this and more focus on answering questions that I found more compelling.
The world and exploring the Clan’s past were the highlights, but I also enjoyed the sheer readability of the writing style. It’s quite succinct with short chapters and paragraphs, and it flows smoothly, making it effortless to read. There is a tendency for chapters to end on cliffhangers that made me feel like parts were quite deliberately left out to make me want to read on to find out what was happening, but it also did succeed at making me do just that!
There are several different perspectives in This Gulf of Time and Stars, and Sira’s is the only one told in first person. Many of these seem to exist to show events to readers rather than for character development, but the more prominent characters, Sira and Morgan, are likable and interesting and complement each other well. They obviously care for each other very much, and it’s great to read about a fictional couple who work well together. Even though they face obstacles that could potentially be a source of angst, drama, and relationship tension (and would be in many other books!), these two are not divided by such events and support each other. Sira is brave, determined, and uniquely powerful among her people; Morgan, a spaceship captain and trader, is generally optimistic and cheerful, artistic, and an unusually strong telepath for a Human. Though compelling, I didn’t think they were quite as multi-faceted as they could have been since I didn’t feel like I understood them as people beyond a few abilities and traits, although this reaction could also be the result of not having read previous books that established their characters more.
This Gulf of Time and Stars contains much of what I love about science fiction—aliens, telepathy, and space travel—combined with other elements I love in fiction—mysteries, secrets, and revelations. Although I struggled with the earliest chapters and didn’t think the characters were as lifelike as many in other books I’ve read, I did find it quite readable and enjoyable. It left me quite curious about both Sira’s future and her past—and it definitely made me interested in reading more of the Clan Chronicles!
My Rating: 7/10
Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the author and publisher.
Interested in learning about Julie Czerneda’s process when developing the various types of aliens in the Clan Chronicles and how it’s influenced by her background in biology? Curious about the book she read that first began her fascination with aliens? Check out my interview with her during the This Gulf of Time and Stars blog tour!