In Tacenda Kerris and Arucken are messengers, sent by the Concordat to assist new colonies in on uninhabited planets. The two are linked mentally and emotionally, one of the only pairs of linked human and alien crews. When they are sent to Arroyo to deliver seeds and supplies to the colonists of Kalinaw, they learn that someone or something has been stealing the children.
Solving this mystery is their first task and leads to danger and adventure unforeseen.
Theme of the Book
Despite the fact that characters come from different species, all have in common the need to communicate, to overcome past trauma, and to work together. This universal cooperation and acceptance is a thread that pulls together all the characters and events in the book.
What I Liked About the Story
Tacenda begins with several promising premises.
First, the pairing of a human (Kerris) with an alien (Arucken) who have a mental link begins the theme of interspecies cooperation. This is certainly not an original theme (see any of the Star Wars movies) but here the mental and emotional link is done very well. Each of the two messengers has something in their backgrounds that make them vulnerable and this vulnerability leads to an intimacy between them that is stronger than one would expect. The reader learns of Kerris’s guilt and despair over the death of her twin sister, but is left in the dark as to Arucken’s source of pain.
Ms. Vann has also outlined a fascinating result of the discovery of non-human intelligent life. Some humans are able to cope with this new knowledge while others deny it. The deniers are kept in ignorance, living what they believe is a normal Earth life all the while surrounded by alien intelligence and protected by the efforts of the Concordat.
The introduction of the sea creatures is first thought to be the beginning of an inter-species conflict. However, this is handled in a sensitive way when the readers discover the real purpose of the sea creatures’ ‘kidnapping’ of the colonists children. Where this reader had expected action and battle, we find instead communication and understanding.
The character of Lily, a non-neurally normal child, is also a source of interest for the reader. Lily seems to have a sensitivity that the other secondary characters lack. She is accepting of Arucken (the bug-man) and of the sea creatures as well.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
Unfortunately, Tacenda leaves the reader with more questions than answers. What is the reason for the antipathy between Arucken and his first-sibling, Talibeth? Is it simply that Arucken is linked to a human or is there something in the past that would explain the ill feeling between them? The reader never finds out.
Why did the colony’s home base of Arroyo neglect the colonists for so long? Why was the colony of Kalinaw invaded by unknown soldiers? Who were they? Who sent them?
What did Eland find in the cave and why did he think it was so important?
If this is the first book in a series, perhaps those questions will be answered in later volumes. This reader found the number of unanswered questions disconcerting and the whole book puzzling.
Toward the end of the book, the colonists’ ship is attacked by what seems to be a space pirate. Was this episode inserted simply to provide a bit of action or will it turn out to be important later on?
While Ms. Vann has created a whole multi-planet, multi-species world, she has neglected to provide an idea of overarching plot development. I felt as if a movie had ended unexpectedly without my having seen the final scenes.
As the first novel in a series, if that is what this is, Tacenda leaves the reader wanting, indeed needing, to know more. To me it felt disjointed, as if the author couldn’t quite decide what she wanted the novel to be.