Kerry Panes’ fantasy Knowledge of Good and Evil successfully draws on a trope familiar to fans of many genres: her protagonist must learn new skills and face unprecedented challenges when she catches a ride on a spaceship in order to satisfy her wanderlust.
Arie isn’t content with the pace of life on her idyllic home planet. She’s a young upstart and a rebel in her community, a race that communicates telepathically and lives in peaceful coexistence with the plants and animals. When a spacecraft lands on her world, she finds her chance to escape an arranged marriage and leave home to pursue her dreams of high adventure.
In her new world, she has to communicate with beings she labels “Sky People,” a people who communicate via speech rather than thoughts. She receives a name (in her race, titles are based on mental images and concepts, rather than words) and has to face new degrees of violence and inhumanity. As in all good fantasies, Arie must combat a great foe, an ancient, malicious baddie bent on mass destruction. These challenges take their toll, and Arie must eventually realize that the bonds with her home planet may have been permanently broken.
This theme of wanderlust goes all the way back to The Odyssey, yet Panes brings her own verve and distinction to this story. Amid the wealth of cues from popular science fiction and fantasy (Avatar, The Fifth Element), Panes manages to carve out her own narrative territory.
Her prose is expressive and colorful, even if it does suffer at times from a lack of editing. Because so much of the dialogue comes in detailed telepathic messages, Panes delves deeply into the emotions and motivations of the characters, adding a distinctive quality to a story that would otherwise feel overly familiar.
Also available as an ebook.