ARC Review: GODDESS IN THE MACHINE, by Lora Beth Johnson

I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white in front of blue and orange toned girl's face
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4.5 stars
Series: Yes - book 1 of duology


Book cover for GODDESS IN THE MACHINE: title in white in front of a blue toned girl on a red background of tech lines

When Andra wakes up, she’s drowning.

Not only that, but she’s in a hot, dirty cave, it’s the year 3102, and everyone keeps calling her Goddess. When Andra went into a cryonic sleep for a trip across the galaxy, she expected to wake up in a hundred years, not a thousand. Worst of all, the rest of the colonists–including her family and friends–are dead. They died centuries ago, and for some reason, their descendants think Andra’s a deity. She knows she’s nothing special, but she’ll play along if it means she can figure out why she was left in stasis and how to get back to Earth.

Zhade, the exiled bastard prince of Eerensed, has other plans. Four years ago, the sleeping Goddess’s glass coffin disappeared from the palace, and Zhade devoted himself to finding it. Now he’s hoping the Goddess will be the key to taking his rightful place on the throne–if he can get her to play her part, that is. Because if his people realize she doesn’t actually have the power to save their dying planet, they’ll kill her.

With a vicious monarch on the throne and a city tearing apart at the seams, Zhade and Andra might never be able to unlock the mystery of her fate, let alone find a way to unseat the king, especially since Zhade hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Andra. And a thousand years from home, is there any way of knowing that Earth is better than the planet she’s woken to?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


GODDESS IN THE MACHINE is a stunning debut, a mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy, depending on the POV, that has really thought about how language changes with time.

The book is set in the fourth millennium, but technology has been forgotten and the inhabitants believe it is magic – hence the genre blend. Andra, the primary POV, knows that it’s not magic – though she has to puzzle out exactly what the technology is – which is why this book leans more towards Sci-Fi. Zhade, the secondary POV, believes it’s magic, and this difference in outlook helps distinguish the two POVs.

I loved seeing how perception can change the nature of a thing. Andra approaches the technology with a more clinical mindset, breaking it down into smaller component problems. Whereas Zhade, even as he learns about the nature of “magic”, still considers it with more reverence and power.

The world itself if so much fun, but talking too much about that would be spoilers. Suffice to say, it’s littered with clues to pick up on the second time round and the red herrings are going to catch you out. Societal evolution is something I find fascinating, as well as how people adapt to their environments. If that’s something you enjoy, then this is a book for you!

Which brings me onto the language. Zhade (and the other inhabitants) speaks a different dialect of English to Andra. Lora Beth Johnson must have spent so much time designing it, all the care obvious in how seamlessly it fits into the book. It’s simplified and several words are not in the context you’d expect but it’s perfectly readable. All of Zhade’s POV is written in this dialect.

In a few cases, it takes a little bit of effort to work out what the word means (using context). Once that’s done, it’s so interesting to trace it backwards and figure out how the language evolved. For example, the verb “to talk” is replaced with “to convo”. As someone who has spent a lot of time learning (and teaching) the mathematical principles underpinning code breaking (and how this lead to working out Linear B), it was a huge nerd moment for me to see all of that applied to languages in a book – and yet it fits perfectly into the background.

All this babbling and I haven’t touched on the story or characters! Oops! In short – it’s a very engaging story (I’ll admit, most of my focus was on the world and language, nerding out about that). I breezed through this book, as Andra tries to navigate an uncertain world. Zhade is very interesting as a character, his motivations and plans always shifting as he adapts.

This is a duology, and you can bet I want to read the second installment!


3 thoughts on “ARC Review: GODDESS IN THE MACHINE, by Lora Beth Johnson

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