Publisher: Baen Books
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Stephanie Harrington always expected to be a forest ranger on her homeworld of Meyerdahl until her parents relocated to the frontier planet of Sphinx in the far distant Star Kingdom of Manticore. It should have been the perfect new home --- a virgin wilderness full of new species of every sort, just waiting to be discovered. But Sphinx is a far more dangerous place than ultra-civilized Meyerdahl, and Stephanie’s explorations come to a sudden halt when her parents lay down the law: no trips into the bush without adult supervision!
Yet Stephanie is a young woman determined to make discoveries, and the biggest one of all awaits her: an intelligent alien species.
The forest-dwelling treecats are small, cute, smart, and have a pronounced taste for celery. And they are also very, very deadly when they or their friends are threatened as Stephanie discovers when she comes face-to-face with Sphinx’s most lethal predator after a hang-gliding accident.
But her discoveries are only beginning, for the treecats are also telepathic and able to bond with certain humans, and Stephanie’s find --- and her first-of-its kind bond with the treecat Climbs Quickly --- land both of them in a fresh torrent of danger. Galactic-sized wealth is at stake, and Stephanie and the treecats are squarely in the path of highly-placed enemies determined to make sure the planet Sphinx remains entirely in human hands, even if that means the extermination of another thinking species.
Unfortunately for those enemies, the treecats have saved Stephanie Harrington’s life. She owes them and Stephanie is a young woman who stands by her friends.
Which means things are about to get very interesting on Sphinx.
A Beautiful Friendship is a solid YA Science Fiction novel. The story is definitely tailored toward the younger YA audience, but the reading/apprehension level is quite high for the younger YA crowd… It appears as though Weber was unsure as to what age group he wanted to target with this book. Not only was it wordy at times, but A Beautiful Friendship was also overly descriptive of certain elements. For this reason, I found myself skimming a few times as much of the description didn’t seem to add to the story. I also found there to be some issues with pacing. I would have liked to see this split up into a couple books versus having one big climax at the beginning and one at the end.
What saved this book for me was the wonderful world building. Weber managed to create a completely original, complex, and dangerous setting for A Beautiful Friendship. The humans were fairly flat characters, but the treecats were well thought out and interesting. As a reader, you get a deeper look into their minds than you do the humans.
I would recommend this for more skilled YA readers. As both a Sci-Fi and YA reader, I found this book to be a bit confusing. It doesn’t know exactly what it wants to be. Overall, it was an interesting read, but I think I’ll check out Weber’s non-YA Sci-Fi books next time.