JA Jaken begins by introducing the main character Shai – who is not, in fact, shy – and the world in which Pathfinder takes place. Her writing is definitely great, and I fully enjoyed every moment of reading this story to the point that it was hard to pull away for even a moment. It definitely has a fast-paced, action-y feel to it that works to its advantage, pulling you along for the ride just as Shai lives it.
This probably isn’t a read for the faint of heart. Shai’s world isn’t a nice one, and bad things happen to him including being kidnapped, beaten, raped, and overall having his life threatened all while being just 16 years old.
Even with all the horror that befalls Shai, this is a surprisingly heartwarmingly sweet story with equal amounts of inspiration. Granted, there’s a lot of detail work about the pain Shai goes through and all the wrongness of that, but there’s also so much that’s done right that doesn’t really make up for the pain you can’t make up for the pain of being raped, but that does make things better. This was a pleasant surprise, since going into this I expected there would be even more pain and horrors for Shai to deal with the continued elusion to their very real existence and the ever present possibility, as well as some chapter names, made me think gang-banging would be one of these horrors for Shai to face, but that didn’t happen. Mostly, I really liked that this story had so much beauty to it, toward the end anyway, since the majority takes place in a horrible world in the aftermath of a World War.
But I really got the feeling that this was a story about finding your place in the world. About gaining personal acceptance for who and what you are, finding happiness and joy even in a world gone wrong, maintaining hope for the future, and understanding that trust in and dependence on another is not a weakness, but can sometimes be what gives you more strength than absolute independence, and that such companionship can help to heal the worst of wounds and fears. Jaken also does a great job of showing the importance of choice throughout life’s events, and especially the importance for people to establish more than just consent and trust in relationships: the need for equality between people (especially partners) to maintain a healthy relationship on both sides.
Overall, if you can get past the cruelties that Shai faces in the world of Pathfinder, it’s definitely worth the read.
So apparently there's going to be a sequel to Pathfinder. This is something I can definitely get behind! My god I'm so excited for this!!