Friday, October 5, 2012

Book Review: Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn

Title: Jenna Starborn
Author: Sharon Shinn
Publisher: Ace
Paperback: 384 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
From the award-winning author of the Samaria trilogy-a classic story of a woman with the will to rise above the darkest secrets...  
A baby harvested from the gen-tanks on the planet Baldus.  
A girl scorned by the only family she has ever known.  
A woman brave enough to follow her heart-wherever in the universe it may lead her.

Overall Rating: 3/5

In Jenna Starborn, Sharon Shinn gives us a science fiction version of Jane Eyre. As always, the level of complexity of the universe she creates is astounding. Worlds with their own distinctive cultures, an awesome problem-filled caste system, and the ability for the rich to do just about anything, include commission the creation of a baby in a gen tank.

Jenna is the cast off gen tank baby of Mrs. Rentner. When doctors find out that she's being neglected at home, they send her off to technical school, where she learns how to maintain and fix nuclear generators. Fast forward some years, and she arrives at Mr. Ravenbeck's house as a technician and finds that there is more to the place and to Mr. Ravenbeck than what first meets the eye.

To be honest, I enjoyed the changes that Shinn made to the original story. While the horse-and-carriage nineteenth century thing is great, I just think that spaceships, terraformed planets, computerized houses, and robots are even cooler. I loved immersing myself into another unique Shinn world, and figuring out this new universe kept me entertained for most of the time. However, unlike the original Jane Eyre, the characters just didn't draw me in. Mr. Ravenbeck's young ward, Amelia, didn't have the vivacity of Adele, and Jenna is nowhere near as feisty as Jane. While it makes Jenna and Mr. Ravenbeck's relationship less creepy and unhealthy, it also makes it fall flat and lack heat.

I also wished that this story could have been more different; I went through the whole novel, hoping to see some sort of tweak to the story, other than the fact that Mr. Ravenbeck falls in love with  Jenna instead of the nanny character: Janet Ayreson. It was different in the sense that this story is put into a science fiction universe, but I was hoping for something more. In the end, it really is just the story of Jane Eyre with cyborgs and spaceships instead of crazy wives and horse carriages. (Okay, that sounds really cool, but you see what I'm getting at, right?) If you've read Jane Eyre, then the small sci-fi tweaks Shinn makes here and there will give you amusement, but that's about it. It really has nothing on the original. If you haven't read Jane Eyre, you probably won't love this book, to be honest. There isn't much in the way of heat and romance and the changes won't amuse you. In either case, it isn't very satisfying. A nice read, but lacking in depth.