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Dominion by Shane Arbuthnott
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I would like to thank Orca Book Publishers for providing me with this book via LibraryThing.

I don't usually do half star ratings, but...

4.5 stars
⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

"I am Molly Stout," she said, each word bringing more of her body alive around her. "I am human."

I really loved this book. Like, a lot.

The Writing

Shane Arbuthnott is a very good writer, I daresay. The atmosphere and the setting felt consistently tangible and real. The dialogue was distinct for each character, which really brought them all to life. I really loved the visual descriptions and sensory details, as they allowed me to really immerse myself into the story. I wish, though, that there had been more clothing descriptions, because it was difficult to imagine what kind of attire everyday people wore.

The plot was really very slow, though, for the first half, and while I found the world and characters interesting enough, I wasn't keen to pick this up all that often. Once the plot picked up, though, it didn't slow down for long, and I was ultimately extremely pleased with the progression of plot and character arc.

I found some elements in this story to be a bit darker/more mature than I would have been comfortable reading when I was 10, which is the starting age suggested on the back of the book. Namely, the frequent use of the D word by many of the characters, the 14 year old MC included, and alcohol abuse and domestic abuse on the part of Molly's father. Since I am a young adult, I was not bothered by these things, but I can imagine a younger reader being shocked or even frightened.

"If it's a monster, we made it that way."

The Worldbuilding

This world was so unique! I've never read anything quite like it! Basically it's a science fiction fantasy alternate history. How cool is that?! The American continent is uninhabited save for the technologically advanced city of Terra Nova, while all of the Eastern hemisphere seems to be as it is today, with countries like France and England. In this world, machines are primarily powered by spirits that are caught by people like Molly, our brave MC, from portals in the sky called fonts. These spirits, which have elemental abilities, were reminiscent of traditional Asian spirits, and I got a strong Spirited Away vibe.

"I do not need your guilt, nor do I care for it. This is not about you. If you feel guilty, then use that to change things for the better. Otherwise, your feelings mean nothing."

The Characters

Molly Stout: Molly is the perfect protagonist. I do not mean, of course, that she is perfect, or that she thinks she is, but that she is exactly what a good MC ought to be. She is selfless and kind, brave and persistent, and she sticks to her principles and uses her many skills to do what's right. I really related to her. She was a treat to read, and I especially liked that there was no love interest for her, as that would have been unrelated to the plot and would have brought down the whole book.

Ariel: This spirit is the one who changes everything for Molly. She (though spirits are non-gendered—Ariel is alright with being referred to as female) is just as stubborn as Molly is, and watching them clash and team up was great.

Cog: My sweet baby Cog! Get you a Cog, guys. We all need a Cog. He's seriously the Dobby of this book, but cuter and sweeter. I love him with all my heart ❤❤❤

Arkwright: Dang this dude's creepy.

Mr Blaise: His name's a bit on the nose, but he was a formidable enemy and I was spooked, I gotta admit.

Da (idr his real name lol): Molly's father is a very complex and interesting man.

Rory Stout: I loved Rory! He was a riot! His extroversion and wit were not only needed comic relief in this rather melancholy book, but also useful, and made him into a great character I really enjoyed reading.

Kiernan Stout: Kiernan, despite being Rory's twin, was the quintessential overburdened older brother, carrying the family name on his back. He is loyal and honest, and as someone who doesn't have an older brother, even I felt brotherly love from him.

Conclusion

This book was excellent! If it weren't for the slow beginning, I would have definitely given it 5 stars! I haven't read a book so unique, or an ending so satisfying and epic, in a very long time, and it was so appreciated. This is definitely an underrated gem. ( )
  Faith_Murri | Jan 5, 2019 |
This is such a wonderful story! I'm pleased as punch that requesting the second book in this series for review, and then finding out that I needed to read Dominion first, put this on my radar. You all know how much I love a good Middle Grade book! Dominion is wonderful. Molly Stout is wonderful. So please pardon me while I gush a bit.

In this reader's opinion, the best part about Dominion is Molly herself. Although there's a lot of other parts that are definitely worth gushing about, Molly reigns supreme as the reason this book is so easy to love. I adored Molly's passion, empathy, and the fact that she had just enough reckless bravery to really make things fun. Better still, there's so much growth that happens in this book. From learning that preconceived notions aren't always healthy, to learning that it's okay to love someone and not forgive them, there are messages in this book that I found so important for this age group. Molly's family isn't perfect, her life isn't easy, but she shows how strength and perseverance are what change things for the better.

As for the setting itself, I think the technology of Dominion is truly what sets it apart from a lot of the other MG Fantasy that I've read. Instead of being Steampunk, I'd pin this book more as "Spiritpunk". Molly's world is one that floats in the clouds and sees spirits as fuel. Which, as I mentioned above, allows for this grey area that Arbuthnott really uses as part of Molly's awakening. I could close my eyes and picture massive ships floating in the clouds. To say that it was easy to get caught up in this book is an understatement.

My only issue, and it's a small one, was that there were some loose ends upon finishing. The ending felt a bit like it was rushing to tie as many things up as possible, while setting the stage for a cliffhanger. I know that there's another book on the horizon though, and so I'm willing to be patient! I'm more than happy to follow Molly, no matter where she might go. ( )
  roses7184 | Oct 1, 2018 |
Set in a world where ships sail the winds not the ocean, where spirits are harnessed to power machines and 14 year old girls can be an engineer.

Molly is an engineer on her father's ship called Legerdemain. They sail the winds to capture spirits believed to be evil, and they use these spirits to power machineries, such as ship engines. But Molly has a secret, she can see and hear these spirits, what's more they communicate with her asking her to help them. Molly must protect this secret or be deemed as "touched" which will bring dire consequences to her and her family.

But when Molly uncovers the long-hidden truth about an ancestor and his relationship with the spirits, Molly must make a choice between protecting her secret or revealing the truth.

The premise of this story is quite interesting, I also like that the protagonist is such a strong, brave and wise beyond her age character. I like Molly's brothers too, they add a dash of humor, and Cog surprisingly adds heart to the story even though it's not human. However, it took me a while to finish this book because, although the writing is impeccable, I found it technical at times. The pacing of the story is a bit slow too, and I just couldn't wrap my head around how capable the protagonist is despite being only 14. The physical, mental and emotional pain she went through, I don't know if someone so young can handle that - realistically speaking.

I'm still looking forward to reading book 2 though, and hope Molly will finally have the peace and happiness she deserves. Thank you to Orca Book Publishers for sending me a review copy. ( )
  VavaViolet | Sep 9, 2018 |
So, I actually put off reading this book because the blurb made it sound a bit... well, flat. And young. I don't read much MG fiction, and I really have to be in the mood for it, so this kept on getting pushed back on the stack. But then... I picked it up and I couldn't put it down.

First of all, I suppose I should note that it's hard for me to think of this as MG, and I'd say it straddles the line between MG and YA. The book has a ton of detail and depth, and the protagonist may only be 14, but I think readers of any age will be able to fall in love with her and go along for the adventure of the book. Once I got to page 40 or so, very simply, I had a hard time putting this one down. It kept surprising me with the directions it took, and I loved getting to know the characters.

Arbuthnott did a masterful job of creating characters we can believe in and relate to alongside a fascinating world that he builds beautifully, and I loved every minute of the journey. I only finished it a few days ago, but I've already passed my copy on to another reader, recommending it to more than one, and I can't wait to get on to the sequel.

For readers of sci-fi, fantasy, or adventure in the MG/YA world, this is a must-read... it's simply kind of wonderful and fun, and has an odd ring of truth to it, despite genre. I loved it. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Aug 11, 2018 |
A very fun and enjoyable book. Molly Stout is an appealing heroine—she knows in her heart what is right but just needs to convince her mind to follow, because what she has learned flies in the face of everything she’s ever been taught and believes in. She is such a relatable character—at fourteen, how many people have immediate and strong convictions about what they need to do? Her hesitation is natural—after all, what she has been coming to believe makes her “spirit-touched” and in need of a disposal officer—a frightening prospect. If it’s true that the spirits that are harvested to run airships and all other manner of devices have wills of their own, that means they’re being enslaved against their wills. Molly has an affinity for working with engines, powered by powerful spirits enslaved in iron traps. What does this ability mean? Molly is a plucky enough young woman to find out. This seems to belong to an emerging genre I would call something like Spiritpunk. I think it’s awesome, and the other book I read with a similar theme was definitely adult oriented, so it’s great to have something along the same lines for Young Adults—I think it’s an intriguing idea and makes for a really fantastic new universe. ( )
  waclements7 | Jun 6, 2018 |
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