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By D. Hart St. Martin

The second in the Lisen of Solsta series, TAINTED continues following the journey of Lisen, a former “valley girl,” as she becomes acclimated to a new body, a new dimension, and a new life.

Continuing right where Fractured left off, author D. Hart St. Martin begins this sequel as Lisen is recovering emotionally and physically from her possession by Jozan at the end of the last installment. Though the quiet recuperation is beginning to bore her, Lisen need not remain so for long, as a visit from Captain Rosarel begins her long journey out of Rossla and into the great unknown to reclaim the throne that is rightfully hers.

One of the most distinguishing features of both this novel and its predecessor is St. Martin’s development of complex characters. To attempt to reclaim her crown, after having done the nearly impossible by surviving a possession reflects on Lisen’s character as the strong young woman she has become. Despite mourning the loss of her Earth parents, missing her previous life, and understanding that she has no way of ever returning to Earth, Lisen boldly takes on each challenge presented to her as she battles for her crown. Not only does she succeed, she does so with frankness and humility that mark her as a positive role model for young people everywhere.

The magic of TAINTED lies not only in its relatable characters, but also in St. Martin’s writing style. Through imaginative description, St. Martin paints a vivid picture of Lisen’s new world. Using phrases like “the discomfort of the moment blew wide open,” and “her passion still filled the space,” St. Martin goes beyond the obvious physical surroundings to give life to the emotions experienced by the characters.

St. Martin also contributes to the realistic feel of her new dimension through extensive use of specialized words and phrased. While Lisen uses English colloquialisms like “Jeez” and “SOB,” her alien counterparts have their own language. St. Martin seamlessly works their use of “May One Be” instead of “goodbye,” “evenday” to replace “solstice,” and “pouching” as a way of giving birth into the speech of the aliens. In doing so, St. Martin creates a fully developed world, rich in history and customs. This greatly contributes to the realism and connection felt by the reader.

TAINTED also stands out through the mature themes with which Lisen must grapple as she transitions not only into adulthood, but also into her life in the new dimension. Most obvious to her are the physical changes she has undergone, and she often laments her new form. While she changes physically, Lisen also develops a new perspective on the world. After being ripped from her previous life and seeing that it was actually an elaborate lie, she has become more wary of the future, and less willing to trust those around her. In leaving her parents and childhood on Earth behind, Lisen has been forced to rise to the occasion and prepare herself to become the adult her empire requires. This transition parallels the mental and physical changes of puberty, and thus might especially appeal to the young adult reader.

Through fascinating and inspiring characters, imaginative writing style, and complex themes, St. Martin has once again brought Lisen’s world to life. Fantastical and realistic, TAINTED is a unique, compelling tale that would likely appeal to readers of all ages.

Reviewed by Claire Colburn for IndieReader.