Character Feature and Review: Otherborn by Anna Silver
London and her teenage friends live in a reprocessed world.
Confined within Capital City’s concrete walls, London has done the impossible and the illegal. She’s created something New- a song. But her mentor, club owner Pauly, is not impressed. Since the historic Energy Crisis forced everyone behind walls generations ago, the Tycoons have ensured there is truly nothing new allowed under the sun. Pauly warns London to keep her song to herself, if she knows what’s good for her.
What he doesn’t know is that London is keeping an even bigger secret: she dreams. And she’s not alone. London’s band-mates and friends have begun dreaming as well, seeing themselves in “night pictures” as beings from another world. As Otherborn, they must piece together the story of their astral avatars, the Others, in order to save their world from a dreamless, hopeless future.
When Pauly is murdered and an Otherborn goes missing, London realizes someone is hunting them down. Escaping along the Outroads, they brave the deserted Houselands with only their dreams to guide them. Can they find their friend before the assassin finds them? Will being Otherborn save their lives, or destroy them?
When I was first approached to review Anna Silver’s Otherborn, I was super excited. I mean, dystopian? Perfect! Well–I was not disappointed! Talk about a new twist, what with anything New being illegal. Loved main character London, who is saucy and a bit hardened. In her world, London does two things that are illegal: dreaming and creating something new–a song. Anyone who goes against the rules is my favorite!
Definitely a story dystopian and science fiction fans should get their hands on!!
Si’dah, also known as Anya, is main character London’s Other, an Astral shaman from a distant world, who ultimately makes the decision to give up her life and home to be reborn in London’s time in order to try and salvage any hope for humanity. The following is rare glimpse into her character and life before she made the transition into being London, and it reveals the deeper motivations behind her choice. Enjoy!
Anya couldn’t tell anyone where she was going. Not because she didn’t want to, but because it was impossible to say. She was the only Traveler in her tribe, the Si’dah, and her own mentor had been dead and gone now for too many years. No one else would have the capacity to understand. No one else had her same colorless eyes, solid black from lid to lid. Eyes that could hunt in the darkness and resist the light. Eyes that could penetrate the Astral, search the planes, and bring back what would keep her people safe and prosperous for another season.
She gathered her few possessions and tried not to think about all she would be giving up. Her dark feathered cloak, a mark of honor, had to be rolled up carefully. The feathers glinted purple and indigo in the light of her small hut fire. She took her time and great care in securing it, making sure it was tucked safely in the bottom of the pack. It would be too big for the small girl, of course, but in time she would grow into it, as Anya had. And she would have need of it when Anya wouldn’t anymore.
Atop this she added a few tokens that had been her peace and security when she was first learning to walk the dreams, a string of jet beads, the holy color, like her eyes. A hand-knapped blade, in glassy white stone, which could never be allowed to cut flesh. Her resin pot and several pouches of prized powders, the smoke of which protected her when she left her body to walk the Astral planes. The child would need all of these…eventually.
In her heart, she regretted that she wouldn’t be there to teach the girl as her own mentor had taught her. She would not stay the girl through her first journey into the dream space. She would not be able to quell her fears or even be certain that Dyna was worthy of the task. Somehow, all that Anya’s mentor had carefully instilled in her, Dyna would have to learn on her own. And if she failed? Well, Anya preferred not to think of that. She could not go if she truly believed she was leaving her people blind.
The sound of whoops and hollers outside caught her ear, and Anya moved to the door of her hut, pushing the curtain back just enough to peer out into the gathering dusk. The hunting party was massed at the center of their communal lands preparing to storm out into the night. Anya smiled at the sight, at the victory already drawn on their faces. They would reach their kill, of that she was certain. Only last night she had performed the rites and ventured into the Lowplane where the creature’s spirit was waiting. As they always did, it showed her the place of its death and how to strike to incur the swiftest kill. She gave her thanks and blessing for the animal’s passage back into the spirit world. It was an even trade and one she made often to keep her people fed. They might suffer for a brief while without her, but their hunters were strong and able and would soon find game on their own.
One of the men spied her peeking past the curtain of her hut and trotted over. His rich, brown skin was much darker than hers, but then, he was a creature of the day and she the night. “Si’dah,” he said with the customary signal of respect, touching his forefingers to his brow for a moment, right between the eyes. “Will you bless me for the hunt this evening before I go?”
She smiled at him, but resisted the urge to blush. Two years her junior and in his prime, Raku was a head taller than her, with glossy hair that hung beyond his shoulders. His chest shone like burnished metal in the light of his torch. He was a prized warrior and one many of the young women of her tribe would happily marry, but for reasons she could not understand, he’d taken a liking to her. “Of course.”
With a sacred word and a brief kiss on his brow, she blessed him for the hunt. “You hardly need it, Raku. You are the fastest runner in the tribe.”
He beamed with pride and a little arrogance. “We all need your blessing, Si’dah. Without it, where would we be?”
His words cut to the quick of her heart, though he couldn’t have known the weight of them under the circumstances, but she did well to hide the sting. “In any case, I know the party will be glad of your skill tonight.”
Suddenly, he leaned in, letting his fingers graze the line of her jaw. “May I see you tonight? After?” he whispered.
Anya sighed. In truth, taking Raku into her bed would have been satisfying, but love was forbidden to the Si’dah. Her heart and body must be pure. Though, it had not stopped her from loving another, a man not of her tribe or her world. A man she’d met in the Astral. A Traveler, like herself. Her heart thrilled at the thought of him, Roanyk, but she quickly pushed it away.
“Raku,” Si’dah began, seeing his pride falter at the tone of her voice. “You know I cannot.”
He frowned and glanced down at his hands. “We’ll see.” Then he took off after the tail of the hunting party as it wound its way through the far end of their gathering of huts and made for the forest.
Anya dropped the flap of fabric and pressed her fingers over her eyes. He would be back, she knew it. She couldn’t say how she knew such things, she just did. It was part of being a Traveler, this gift of sight. He would come anyway, hoping. And she would not be able to spare him the pain and disappointment of how he would find her. However much she loved another, she still cared for Raku. She hated that he, of all people, would be the one to discover her.
Picking up the pack she’d neatly arranged, Anya slipped out into the fading light and began making her way carefully through the tangle of huts and vegetation that comprised their communal lands. Before dark was fully upon them, before she laid down on her mat for the last time, she needed to be certain that Dyna and her mother received the relics they would need to carry on in her stead. Only one child was ever born at a time bearing the black oval eyes of a Traveler. Before Anya, it had been her mentor, who waited a long time for Anya to come along. She was lucky Dyna had been born so soon after she assumed the role for their tribe. Otherwise, she might not have been able to leave.
She found the hut easily and slipped inside. Dyna was sitting on the floor between her mother’s legs, getting her hair re-plaited. Her mother looked up at Anya in surprise.
“Don’t get up,” Anya said quickly, before they could interrupt her. “I brought something for the girl, that’s all.”
“What is it?” Dyna asked. “Can I see?”
“No,” Anya said. “Not yet.” She set the pack down beside them. “You must keep this hidden until Dyna comes of age. It is the way.”
The girl’s mother nodded obediently. No one dared question the word of the Si’dah.
Anya turned to leave, but then turned back. She squatted beside the child and kissed her brow in blessing. “Whatever comes, Dyna. Whatever you see or hear, know that I am always with you in spirit.” Then she left quickly, feeling the tears spring to her eyes, before they could fall.
Back in her own hut, a twin moon was steadily creeping across the gray skies. Anya dropped the door flap and laid herself on the mat. She made sure her hair was neatly braided and beaded, and arranged long over her shoulders and chest. Carefully, she placed her hands across her abdomen, a womb that would never bear children of its own. A little pang went out to Dyna, who was more her own child than her mother’s, but she could not think of Dyna now. She must think of herself. And of Roanyk and of Hantu’s world, which needed her more than her own.
If she were completely honest with herself, she would admit that the real reason she was doing this, even considered it, was to be with him, to find a world where they could live together, as they were, and be free to love one another. But it felt better to pretend that she’d made this decision to honor Hantu and the needs of the world she would wake up in, than to confess that she’d done it for herself. A Si’dah had so little that was her own. Hers was a life of perpetual service to the tribe. Was it so wrong for Anya to crave something for herself? Was it so wrong to love him?
Anya swept all this away like ash and cleared her mind for the final journey. In a few hours, Raku would find her lifeless body just as it lay now. Tomorrow, everyone in the tribe would know she had left them. Dyna and her mother would open the pack, despite Anya’s warning, and understand what had befallen them. And then, all would go on— without her.
But tonight, Anya was making the most important journey of her life. She was traveling to meet him, Roanyk, in the grove once more. Together, with a few others from the Circle, they would set out for the far shore. They would find the current that poured into Hantu’s world, in the time he had foreseen, where dreaming was dead and they were the only hope of reviving it. They would each take new hosts and be reborn as another. And she and Roanyk would finally have a life together.
Anya took a breath and whispered, “Al mihte ru, Roanyk.” Then she closed her eyes for the last time.
Anna Silver grew up with a passion for words, books, and storytelling. She began writing as a child and eventually landed at St. Edward’s University in Austin where she studied English Writing & Rhetoric. She has always nurtured a vivid imagination and a love for art, expression, and fantasy. Currently she resides in the greater Houston area with her family and pets where she continues to read, write, and dream. Otherborn is her first published novel.
“Anna Silver weaves a dark new world full of taut suspense and characters that leap off the page.” –Sophie Jordan, NYT bestselling author of the Firelight trilogy
“Travel to a world where dreaming is a radical act that can save the world… Anna Silver’s post-apocalyptic vision is rich with imagery and metaphysical ideas, grounded by vivid, three-dimensional characters. A truly fresh take on dystopian.” –Nina Berry, author of the OTHERKIN series
“Silver built the right amount of conflict and tension to draw readers into her dystopian world, and created characters who are leery, yet determined to embrace New.” –Natasha Hanova, author of Edge of Truth