“Lulu knew why they lived in darkness. The knowledge existed in her bones. She knew that the darkness was what the people of Dalia deserved. She could feel it as surely as she knew the flames were coming to end their existence.”
Domani is the first installment of Caroyln Gross’ latest science-fiction series centered around one woman’s fight to save her planet from the flames of doom. Literally.
What I loved:
First off, the freaking cover. Oh my gosh, whoever designed this cover is a wonderful human. It’s minimal, but gorgeous. Simple, but the colors and imagery represent the story perfectly. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I said YES to reviewing Domani for Smith Publicity. I couldn’t get the cover out of my head. I wanted to know what adventure lie beneath it.
Secondly, I loved the opening line of Domani. I already posted it at the start of this review. From the very first line, I was hooked. Right away, I was introduced to LuLu, who knew why the Dalians lived in darkness and she knew it was what the people of her planet deserved. Right away, I was bursting with questions. Is it literal darkness? Figurative? How did the Dalians survive in darkness? And….what did the Dalian’s do to deserve darkness and a fiery death? If Gross is to be complimented on anything, it should be this stellar opening line that sunk its claws in me and wouldn’t let go.
Right off the bat, I was flung head first into the action. The world is built seamlessly within the rise and fall of action, with breadcrumb peeks at the undercurrent of tension. We get a view of a bleak and struggling population who depend solely on this other planet to keep them from becoming crispy critters….but all that has changed and now they must figure out a way to survive. I do love a scenario in which people must suddenly do everything in their power to make it out alive. It’s a great way to find out who people really are. This showcased Gross’s writing and her ability to balance various elements of the story. It was beautifully done.
Thirdly, the characters. Okay. I personally feel Domani is a plot-driven story (it just had that PLOT focus feel to it), BUT it also featured surprisingly well-created characters. From the very first page, I get a sense of who LuLu is: her desires, inner conflict, outer conflict, and her view of the world around her. Without saying too much about it (I don’t want to spoil anything), her arc does develop and unlike many other stories of this genre, LuLu must bust her buns for it, Nothing comes easily to her, which makes her stand out when compared to similar protagonists. Gross created complex characters with consistent traits and unique personalities. Sometimes, with a large cast, all the voices of each character will blend together…like a choir….or bar chatter….but in Domani, I was given a clear picture of who each of the characters were and how they developed throughout the story.
Domani is written in Third Person POV, alternating between LuLu & Mikael. What made this so different was it wasn’t a pov switch between two potential love interests or friends; it was a switch between father and daughter. Although I don’t really care about parents in books (probably a by-product of my own lack of parental influences), I did like that the theme of family was present through the entire story. Mikael is a parental figure who remains by his daughter’s side from beginning to end, often providing protection, encouragement, and guidance. This is so uncommon in YA literature today and the fact that it was done well (with Mikael being a consistently protective, knowledgeable, and cautious character) warrants appreciation.
What I wasn’t crazy about:
The plot. Domani is a plot-driven novel. This alone didn’t prevent me from reading or enjoying the story. In fact, I DID enjoy it quite a bit, but at times, the plot felt too familiar to me. For one, LuLu turns out to be a special savior of sorts (the chosen one trope). The aliens aren’t really aliens. Perhaps the biggest detail I wasn’t crazy about was one of the themes: Good versus Evil. To be honest, I adore moral ambiguity. I want to feel conflicted when I read a book – Is she good? Is she bad? Is she both? Will this character’s selfishness be his or her salvation or damnation? or maybe that’s both, too. In Domani, there are those who are good and those who are not. Very seldom did I encounter an instance in which a character or situation fell into both. All of these are tropes….ones so overdone that it’s hard to do them today without thinking of a million other books that did them, too.
Gross’s writing is beautiful and that twist at the end was amazing, but I wish Domani could have given the tropes a twist too. Because while I enjoyed Domani, it felt familiar. I couldn’t help thinking about other books I’ve read with similar predictable plots and this, in a way, prevented me from being too emotionally invested in the story. And Domani reminded me more of a teen dystopian than a sci-fi, with LuLu living under the thumb of a religious regime she must defeat or evade in order to save her world.
Despite being a tropetopia with the odd flaw or two, Domani is well-written with a rich world I wouldn’t mind taking a space vacation to revisit. The chapters are short, the pages PACKED with tension-infused action, the twists are delightfully unexpected, and overall, it’s the kind of book I’d read when I want something foreign and exotic, but not too far out of my own solar system of comfort.