The Mer-sons and The Sword of Senack is a young adult fantasy novel by EC Stilson.
It's set in the future, on another planet which humans have colonised from Earth, but it's definitely fantasy rather than sci-fi. As for the YA part: I think it would be a spectacular book for younger readers, but it's also good enough that the writing style isn't annoying for those who would usually choose something a bit more mature.
The plot is original and dramatic - very dramatic: within the first half-dozen pages we already have magic and a kidnapping, and rumours of hauntings - and keeps going with the action right the way through with plenty of twists and turns. Some of the twists I could see coming - and fictional characters can be frustratingly slow on the uptake sometimes, others were unexpected.
The world and the characters are nicely fleshed out and 3D. I had the feeling right the way through that there was a whole world there, even a whole galaxy, not just the immediate setting, and it's teeming with its own living things - peoples, animals and plants - and cultures and customs and geography and politics and everything a world should have.
Varied, relatable characters, not half! From devious villains, plotting and double-crossing away, with a little light sadism for entertainment, to brave and heroic warriors, and plenty more. There's Vander, for whom the word 'indomitable' might have been designed, and Hivis, whose first impression may be misleading, and he's not the only character who you might get the wrong idea of. I must say, I found myself getting a little exasperated sometimes with the main character, Aliya.
I'd heard about The Sword of Senack from following the author's blog, but I hadn't planned to read it: YA fantasy doesn't have a huge appeal for me these days. A few years ago, back when I was still very much into stuff like the Edge Chronicles, I'd have jumped at it, but now I usually prefer something a little more mature. In fact I only read it because I won a copy, and I'm extremely glad I did! I shall certainly look out fr the sequels promised by the ending, and I'll even go so far as to say I think this will be one of the books I'll reread a lot in the future.
Well worth a read, then: a fast-paced, original and immersive story, well-written, and recommended even if YA isn't really your thing.