Zachary Rawlins' The Far Shores may be my favorite book so far this year. I almost dropped this series after the first entry The Academy–but with books two and three, I became hopelessly addicted.
A few years back I wrote a review of The Academy, a book in which teens discover they have special powers and belong to a special society fantasy series. I thought Rawlins' world-building and technology were fantastic, but I found his focus on an angst-ridden teen protagonist hard to bear. The series matured fantastically in the second installment, The Anathema, and I was eagerly awaiting more. With The Far Shores, Rawlins has knocked it out of the park. I can't stop recommending it!
The Academy focused heavily on world-building and teen angst. In that novel, The Academy is a learning center for humans who show an affinity for using an ethereal energy source, known coincidentally as Ether, to power nano-technology that allows them various pseudo-magical strengths. This story revolves around teens being trained. Teenagers written realistically are hard for me to sympathize with. In the second and third installments Rawlins really opens the playing field and shows us how the socio-economic structure of Central and how all these Ether-using, nanite-powered Operators inter-relate.
The characters grow and deepen in wonderful ways. The plot twists and turns in ways I would not predict, and often leaves you guessing. Rawlins writes about loyalty, family, and a sense of obligation to society through each character's unique worldview. He deals with interpersonal relationships, mental instability, and simple growth or maturation in wonderful ways that make you care. New races and mysterious species are also making their way into they story in meaningful, well developed ways. You may be surprised by their actions, but maybe you should have seen it coming.
While the world with a magical overlay reminds me of Harry Potter or The Magicians, Rawlins also employs a Zelazny-like court intrigue reminiscent of the Amber Series. I care about the characters. I want to see how the politics play out.
What started out as a good idea that felt rough in book one is by book three an absolute favorite. Give Zach Rawlins' Central series a try.