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Rider by Joyce Chng
I should know better than to start anything Joyce has written before bed. It guarantees I will be up long past my bed time. Happens every time.
But oh, what a problem to have. Joyce has a way with words that makes mundane things like getting to bed early enough to be well rested for work tomorrow seem irrelevant, far away. As soon as I started Rider, I more or less knew I was doomed to be up with the sun, and I was quite alright with that. The desert world she brings us to, with its encroaching sands and talented Agri-seers working with plants to try and keep the dunes at bay and people fed, is so real and dangerous and engrossing and is peopled with characters that breathe and hurt and love. I was content to be held captive.
Lifang has always been able to make plants sing, and so she ends up selected for the Agi-seers. But she dreams of being a Rider, like her sister- one of the humans partnered with the intelligent Quetz that were discovered with the planet. Humans have a partnership with the Quetz, a sort of understanding. But there are the Quetz, and then there are the Hunters, their wild cousins. And before Lifang leaves to join the Agi-seers she encounters a Hunter at a waterfall, and that encounter will change her life.
One of the things that stands out most about Rider is the culture that Joyce has woven so tightly throughout this alien world she has created. The humans are rich with it, but so are the Quetz. One of Joyce’s strengths as a writer has always been her ability to make cultures sing out to her readers. Nothing is ever shallow or simple and it adds just an enjoyable beauty to everything she creates.
Rider is a YA novel, but I would encourage adults to take it for a spin. Allow yourself to be captivated by a coming of age story that is as familiar as it is alien and let yourself grow along with Lifang.