A World Away
Grade : A-

A World Away is one of those books that hooked me from the very first page and kept me eagerly turning the pages and getting ever closer to the edge of my seat as the plot unfolded and the stakes kept getting higher. It’s a creative and imaginitive mix of fantasy, sci-fi and romance, a riff on the idea of parallel universes and alternate worlds in which we meet two best friends who have grown up in a world in which some people have special ‘talents’ – telepathy, telekenesis and much more – and which is also a world at war.

Nathan Duffy and Camilo Almenara have been friends ever since they were seven years old, when they met at a special Arcana camp for talented children. Cam actually has little or no talent but was present because the camp was run by his father, the most powerful Arcane-adept there is and a former Colonel in the army who is now responsible for overseeing the training of all those with Arcane potential in the whole of the Eastern Region. The two boys became firm friends and have been practically inseparable ever since. Years later, when they were perhaps on the verge of becoming more than friends, everything changed in the blink of an eye. A drunk driver crashed into Cam’s car, and although Cam walked away without a scratch, Nathan didn’t walk away at all. Somehow his talent – which has always been middling – protected Cam from being hurt, but then tried to heal Nathan and got it wrong, meaning Nathan needed extensive corrective surgery and was left unable to walk without the aid of a leg brace and crutches, and sometimes needing to use a wheelchair.

The accident and the months of recovery and rehab that followed have changed Cam and Nathan’s relationship in ways neither of them is prepared to talk about. Nathan changed, too, he’s more angry and caustic, and is careless of his health in a way that forces Cam into the role of ‘annoying nursmaid’ – which he hates, but which he accepts because he doesn’t really know what else to do or how else to help. Five years later, they’re in college and are still best friends, but Nathan has decided that the best thing he can do for Cam is to push him away – Cam is a genius-level physicist with a brilliant future ahead of him and doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of his life as a caretaker for someone with mobility issues simply because he feels guilty. Cam, however, knows exactly what Nathan is trying to do and will have none of it – but he doesn’t know how to convince Nathan that his feelings for him are real and not just the result of some kind of survivor’s guilt.

The one bright spot on the horizon is that as Cam has no Arcane talent and Nathan’s is mediocre – despite showing a lot of promise when he was younger, his talent has never progressed beyond a middling level – they will both escape being drafted to fight in the East/West war that has been going on for longer than living memory. High-skilled adepts are sent to the front and often don’t return, and even Nathan’s disability wouldn’t save him from being drafted if his talent level was higher.

But one day, Nathan inexplicably finds himself in the middle of a dream that isn’t quite a dream and in which he’s him but not him – he can feel both his legs, he’s tied to some weird stone table that is pulling at him, a woman he doesn’t know is snarling questions at him and his own voice is pleading with him to “find Cam, find Cam, find Cam”… before he wakes in his dorm room to find it completely wrecked. The talent he’s kept tightly locked down since the near catastrophe he caused when he was three years old – and which tried to heal him after the accident – must have got away from him while he was in the grips of that nightmare or whatever it was. Terribly shaken and sick to the stomach, Nathan knows he can’t let Cam know about what’s happened. Cam will insist on helping and Nathan isn’t willing to risk putting him in the path of whatever power he is capable of unleashing – it’s too dangerous. But he also knows he won’t be able to hide what’s happening for long, and that once he’s found out, he’ll be pumped full of blockers and cut off from his talent for the rest of his life, or sent off to war. But if that’s the way is has to be then… at least Cam will be safe.

The story is gripping – fast-paced and complex without being confusing, and full of twists and turns. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling it, but we’re thrown into the story on the very first page and are very quickly drawn into the mystery of what is happening to Nathan and why. The writing is excellent – the authors build the suspense skilfully throughout the story, ramping up the tension in some nail-biting set pieces and scary scenarios, and juxtaposing them with some tender and heartwrenching moments between Nathan and Cam, who are both so determined to sacrifice themselves for the other that they sort of fail to see – or admit to – what is right in front of them. I’m not usually the biggest fan of romances where everyone knows the leads are in love but them, and there’s nothing really keeping them apart other than whatever is in their own heads, BUT I didn’t mind it so much here as I was able to put most of it down to youth and inexperience (Nathan and Cam are twenty/twenty-one) and a response to trauma. They’re superbly written characters with a lot of emotional baggage to overcome; there’s some serious pining going on (I’m here for ALL the pining!) and they both show emotional growth and depth as the story progresses. There’s lots of humour and snark and some well-written secondary characters including Cam’s sister Beatriz, Nathan’s friend Andi and the Colonel, who has been somewhat estranged from Cam ever since his wife’s death when Cam was nine years old. I enjoyed seeing him and Cam beginning to understand each other better and taking steps to repair their relationship. My only real quibble with the book overall is that I’d like to have known a bit more about the background to the East/West war – although as this is the first in a series, perhaps that will come.

An enjoyable mix of sci-fi action thriller and best-friends-to-lovers romance, A World Away is a captivating series opener, and I’m looking forward to diving into Nathan and Cam’s future adventures.

Note: This book was previously published as Relativity: Lateral Parallax book one and has been updated and extended. There are no essential changes to the story, but an 8,000 word epilogue has been added.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : A-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : October 18, 2023

Publication Date: 07/2023

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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