Changing Worlds is the sequel to the short story Opening Worlds and picks up almost immediately after that book ends. Opening Worlds was originally published as part of the Wild Passions anthology, but Storm Moon has now added it to start of Changing Worlds. Which is totally awesome because now you get the full story packaged together. Woo hoo! This review spoils the first story just a teeny bit in that it makes clear some of the specifics of how that story resolves. But it is pretty minor and I don’t think it should be too big a deal.
Ok, so let’s get started shall we? So former ship captain Jason Kim has decided to give up his job and move to Perelan to marry his lover Ferran. Perelan is an incredibly insular society that rarely lets outsiders visit and has very limited trading and access to the outside world. Although some young men (like Ferran) are allowed a brief tour of the world before settling into marriage, it is almost unheard of for a human to move to Perelan or to marry one. Ferran’s mother is a highly placed leader and she has supported this union, along with many of her political allies. Yet there are many in Perelan who are still isolationists and firmly against Jason’s presence, as well as his marriage to Ferran.
Perelan is a matriarchal society, led by seven key families. Women are the leaders, often taking on multiple male consorts responsible for various domestic tasks, helping to raise the children, etc. When men marry they become part of their wives family, and these extended families take on enormous social and cultural importance. So Ferran and Jason’s marriage is an anomaly in this way too. Even though they remain part of Ferran’s mother’s house, they are not a traditional partnership.
Jason was aware that they would be living with much scrutiny in Perelan and that his life there would change dramatically, but he is still unprepared for all the new demands. He must spend hours in classes learning Perel customs, language, and culture. And Ferran is also in training for his new role as an ambassador, meaning the men have limited time together. Culturally there is a lot get used to for Jason, as he comes from being a military leader who is independent, used to making his own decisions, and a bit of a loner. Suddenly he is part of a big clan who live and dine together, following the guidance and rules of the matriarch, in a world where men are cared for by the women. He frequently finds himself chafing agains the rules and confines of this new lifestyle.
Yet Ferran and Jason’s love for one another is strong, and both men are thrilled to get the chance to be together. Not everyone is happy, however. Jason faces rejection and hostility from many who want to keep their world isolated from outsiders. The couple also must deal with a former suitor of Ferran’s who is jealous and angry that he returned home with Jason, rather than pursuing his intended marriage contract. As the politics and hostility heat up, Jason and Ferran face continued threats that could put their relationship, and even their lives, at risk.
I really enjoyed this second story in the Worlds series. While the first book takes place pretty much exclusively onboard Jason’s ship, Changing Worlds brings us fully into Perelan. Cari Z does an amazing job with the world building in this story, and everything is developed so beautifully. We learn about all facets of Perelan life — weather, language, culture, dress, customs, etc — in an incredibly detailed way that feels natural and never like an info dump. Perelan and those who live there just come to life in this story and I felt I could envision it completely.
With these details about Perelan, it becomes even clearer why Jason has trouble adjusting. It is so foreign, from the weather that burns his eyes and skin, to the culture that requires him to adjust to a completely different social structure. It was so interesting to watch as Jason adapts, often struggling when his instincts war with expectations. Seeing Perelan through Jason’s eyes really helps to illustrate what the society is like, as well as the person Jason is as he attempts to fit into his new life.
I continue to love Jason and Ferran together, and find them such an interesting couple. Even though he has loosened up quite a bit from his loner self, Jason is still a much more reserved and controlled person. As an empath, Ferran is more about emotion and feeling, and is used to a much more communal lifestyle surrounded by family and following the leadership of his mother. So the two are quite different, but the love they have for each other is strong. Even as they struggle to adapt to their new lives together, it is clear that their love is always there.
I think this book is at its best when it focuses on the political battles and the threats to Jason and Ferran. Some of the story ran a bit slow to me as we get lots of detail on Jason’s day-to-day life, classes, training, etc. But the book picks up a lot of energy as the conflicts continue to build and the later parts of the book are quite exciting. Despite the slow spots, however, I found the world created here quite fascinating. The world building is wonderful and the characters are great. I loved getting a chance to revisit Ferran’s cousins Neyarr and Parrel, as well as meeting Ferran’s mother, the Perelan ambassador, the twin’s younger brother, and others. But most especially I love Jason and Ferran together and enjoyed seeing how they are building their lives together. Definitely a great story.
Cover Review: This is definitely my favorite cover of the month. Totally gorgeous, yes? Plus, it represents an exact scene from the book, which I totally love. Amazing job!