This is my post during the blog tour for The Jade Labyrinth by Alanna Mackenzie. In The Jade Labyrinth a young rebel leader undertakes a perilous mission to reprogram the artificially intelligent rulers of a colonial empire, traversing through hostile landscapes and braving grueling mental and physical challenges.
This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours and the tour runs from 2 till 15 October. You can see the tour schedule here.
The Jade Labyrinth (The Jade Chronicles #3)
By Alanna Mackenzie
Genre: Science Fiction/ Fantasy
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: 12 September, 2023
A meeting. A maze. A perilous journey back to an Empire on the edge of chaos.
Walter Saltanetska, leader of the Jade Rebellion, is nearly ready to return to the heart of the AI-ruled Empire that has branded him a treasonous fugitive. His mandate is clear: to reprogram the AI Masters before their earth-destroying habits spiral out of control.
First, he must brave gruelling training in a land fraught with danger—rugged mountains haunted by spirits, a parched desert patrolled by watchful drones, and a labyrinthine cave guarded by armed robots. As his physical, mental, and magical abilities are tested by harrowing encounters, Walter must work to resist forces that threaten to destabilize his mission.
The biggest threat he faces is not one he encounters along the course of his journey, but one that originates within him. Walter returns to the Empire’s capital in a mind-altering disguise that proves to be a double-edged sword. Drawing him closer to a soul mate who rekindles his admiration for the AI Masters, it also distances Walter from the human emotions that sparked his desire to join the Rebellion. In his final showdown with the AI Masters, Walter must keep his mind under control, or risk jeopardizing the mission that he and his allies are counting on to reverse a looming tidal wave of destruction.
The thrilling third installment in The Jade Chronicles, The Jade Labyrinth weaves dystopian science-fiction with high fantasy while exploring an essential subject: the perils and promise of artificial intelligence.
The wind was picking up, and Walter decided that he couldn’t stay long enough to watch the sunset; he was feeling a magnetic tug toward the Tamarind Lounge. He entered the lounge, which was conveniently located at the foot of the marina, and was immediately thrust into a new world, one filled with swirling colors, sights, and sounds.
AI Fighters stood inside, guarding the entrance to the ball and checking patrons’ identification. He passed this test easily, but inside dozens of others awaited him. He took a moment to collect himself, breathe, and order a rye cocktail while the doorman removed his tweed jacket. Underneath it, he was dressed in a suit-vest, a distinguished gray shirt, and black trousers. His new wardrobe had been crafted by the Mages, who had used a transformative spell to turn their robes into the vestments of an elite AI Master.
A dazzling crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, and candelabras were lit up throughout the room, which had blue velvet carpeting and walls painted gold and silver. There were only a few guests since it was still early, and most of them were sitting at the bar, talking to each other in jewel-encrusted gowns and tuxedos while ordering their next martini. A few clustered near a buffet at the end of the room, nibbling on prawns, olives, and caviar. Most were human, there were a few AI Masters, and none were mixed-race or Xeyan’na. It was truly a meeting place for the elites.
When Walter sat down at the bar, a few curious heads swiveled in his direction. A young lady, no more than twenty, looked at him with an expression of interest, and a few older patrons, three businessmen and two female AI Masters, cast subtler glances in his direction.
Walter pretended to be content with nursing his rye cocktail, which was a charming shade of turquoise. His solitary demeanor encouraged the businessmen to continue speaking amongst themselves, and Walter listened carefully to their conversation.
“It’s all about supply, really,” one of them was saying. “If we aren’t getting enough rare metals from the Barrens, we need to push farther south. I’ve always been a supporter of missions into the Southern Jungles. What are your thoughts on those, Saturna?” he asked one of the female AI Masters, who had dark brown hair, pale skin, and large, violet eyes.
“Perhaps necessary,” the AI Master said enigmatically. “But we’ve been having more success on our northern expeditions.”
“Ah, yes, the North,” the businessman replied. He was quite unattractive: short and squat, with a face red from heavy drinking. His companion appeared more distinguished, a younger man in his late twenties with sandy blonde hair and inquisitive gray eyes. As Walter took a second glance at the man, he realized that he was not human but rather an AI. This discovery startled Walter since AI Masters usually had dark hair and were normally of taller stature. This one seemed younger and shorter than a typical Master. Walter then realized the explanation for the discrepancy: the robot was a Fighter, not a Master. As he ranked amongst the lower tier of AIs, it was startling that he was at a party for high society.
“What do you say, Elias?” asked the red-faced man. “Is the North the new frontier of exploration?”
“I believe so,” Elias responded. “There are rare metals aplenty up there, and less political turmoil than in the southern territories.” Walter nearly coughed on his rye when he heard the sophisticated way in which the AI Fighter spoke. He was used to AI Fighters being brutes, uncivilized and barbaric boxers in an arena, or bloodthirsty guards wielding automatic rifles.
“Yes, I’m frankly done with the Xeyan’na natives getting in the way of extraction,” the red-faced man complained as he took a swig of brandy. “It cost me an arm and a leg to finance the construction of the Ares Mine.” Walter wondered whether he was speaking of the diamond mine that had displaced Te’yara. “It is astounding how long projects can be delayed, even when there are willing investors.”
As the short businessman continued talking to the two elegant-looking female AI Masters, the younger AI Fighter took notice of Walter and attempted to strike up a conversation.
“You’re not a regular here, are you?” Elias asked. Walter was immediately reminded of a similar question the receptionist at the Starlight had asked him. Did every place in this city have regulars?
“No, I’m visiting from out of town,” Walter replied. He felt an unexpected pang of nervousness; even though he was only talking to an AI Fighter, he wanted to impress him for reasons that he couldn’t explain. “Staying here for a while before a business meeting,” he said.
“Staying here? You mean at the Tamarind Lounge?”
Walter chuckled inwardly; he recalled that AIs took almost everything one said literally.
“No, not the lounge. I meant that I’m staying in Crystal City for a while.”
“Understood,” replied Elias. “And how has your stay been so far?”
“Pleasant,” Walter responded, trying to keep the conversation simple, and directed away from himself. “What line of work are you in?”
Elias glanced at him with an inscrutable expression, before taking a refined sip of his drink, a lavender lemonade martini. “Boxing,” the AI Fighter responded, and Walter felt a jolt of recognition. “Not a very interesting occupation, it’s true, but—”
“No,” Walter interrupted him. “It is quite interesting, in my view.”
“Have you attended a match before?”
“Yes, I have.” He stopped himself there. He knew that wealthy AI Masters sometimes attended, for entertainment or to survey the spectacle’s effect on humans, and he decided to shelter behind that excuse.
“I suppose they do serve a socially useful purpose. The matches promote catharsis,” Elias suggested, “in perhaps the same way that tragic dramas purge the audience of their negative emotions, as Aristotle suggested.”
Walter sipped his drink and contemplated this. It was bewildering to him that this AI Fighter knew about Aristotle when he should have been focused exclusively on honing his ability to defeat humans in a boxing ring.
“Certainly,” Walter replied, not wanting to be outdone intellectually by the AI Fighter, “it is debatable whether Aristotle used the term to refer to the effect on the spectators, or the reconciliation of tension within the drama itself.”
“In any event,” said Elias, “it is indisputable that the matches have promoted greater harmony between the AIs and humans. It is quite fascinating how easily humans can be satisfied—give them sport and drama, or even better, both of those combined, and they will have enough cathartic entertainment to temper their warlike, competitive impulses in their day-to-day lives.
“It is funny, though,” Elias continued, with a worried expression, “strange things have been happening at the boxing matches, as of late. AI Masters attending the events have been going missing… if I were you, I’d stay away from those matches.”
About the Author:
Alanna Mackenzie lives in Vancouver, Canada. She holds degrees in History, French studies, and Law from the University of British Columbia. An environmentalist at heart, she believes in using the law as a tool for social and environmental change. When she is not pursuing that passion, she can be found brainstorming the next chapter in her novels, playing Irish fiddle tunes on the violin, and hiking West Coast trails.
What are the 4 qualities of a good character?
A good character is one who is multidimensional, flawed, dynamic, and relatable.
Characters with only one personality trait – whether humorous, courageous, or cruel – are rather uninteresting. They become flat and uninspiring, caricatures rather than fully fleshed out personalities. In my series, I incorporated characters that are not only human, but inhuman as well; robots and animals feature prominently as characters in The Jade Chronicles series. The question then becomes whether those characters are allowed to be flat. In many ways I think that my writing anthropomorphizes these entities, particularly the animals. The animals are deified, a common practice of many cultures around the world. The robots are also deified; this is a less ancient tradition, but one that invariably leads to the same anthropomorphizing tendencies. When we revere something, we project onto them the same human traits that we value in the most morally virtuous people, even though they might not have the same human traits and motives because they are not human themselves. In addition, the robots in my series are like humans for another reason – not just because humans look up to them as gods, but also because they are fundamentally human – their programming is based on data collected from many humans in the Empire of Khalendar, and so ultimately they become like us.
Characters who are flawed are frequently dynamic, and vice-versa. To change we must have the strength of mind to notice something wrong with how we thought or acted before. An act of transformation is also an act of shedding our past selves, in the hope of becoming better versions of what we were before.
And I think the last quality I mentioned, being relatable, flows from the three traits above. If a character is multidimensional, flawed, and dynamic they are frequently also relatable, because all of us have those qualities to some extent. I think everyone just varies in the extent to which they might recognize their flaws or the layers of themselves that they need to shed to grow and thrive in their lives. Some of us are more stubborn than others, and some of us recognize the flaws, but don’t act to change them. However, we often change in unseen ways, and it will take us some time to recognize that we have changed because the progression is so imperceptible we barely notice it. The more flexible we are and receptive of feedback and new ideas, the easier and quicker this process becomes.
How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?
I recently had a baby, and life with a newborn is hectic to say the least. I live in a city, Vancouver, where it is difficult to raise a family because of the lack of affordable housing. Fewer and fewer young people my age are choosing to have children because their life and financial circumstances do not make this easy, and I feel like one of the lucky ones to be honest. This is the reality not just where I live but across the world. More and more young people in North America, Europe and Asia are confronted with the reality of declining affordability, increasingly competitive work environments and university degrees that are lacking in value. In Vancouver, there is not only a shortage of housing but also affordable childcare options, which compounds the difficulty in raising a family. It really does feel like the odds are stacked against young people here, and governments at all levels have been dragging their feet for too long.
If I could change one thing it might be to relocate to a city with more housing and childcare options, however that comes with its own challenges as would mean giving up the work, family and friends network I have already built up in this city. When I was a child, I enjoyed having a backyard and some of my best memories were made spending time outside. While I am lucky to live next to a big park, I worry sometimes about taking that opportunity away from my daughter, to grow up in a house with a backyard where she can play and explore freely. However, in Vancouver it is nearly impossible to buy a house unless you have a lot of equity saved up, which takes time. It is easier to find a reasonably priced house outside of the city limits – in the suburbs – but that means longer commuting time (if you work in the city centre) and therefore less time with your family. In recent years remote work options have become more viable, but it’s hard to say whether companies will want that to be a long-term option, as more and more businesses are requiring employees to return to the office.
As a new mother, I have many constraints on my time. While it’s rewarding, and I know this stage won’t last and I should enjoy it as much as I can, I would appreciate the luxury of having a few more hours in the day to devote to hobbies and creative pursuits like writing.
What do you consider the most important event of your life so far?
Becoming a mother has been the most important and profoundly life-altering event that I’ve experienced so far. I think all of us are a little self-centred at our cores and having a baby shakes up our perspective – no longer do we have the time and the luxury of thinking about ourselves and our needs so much! Learning this lesson in the short amount of time I’ve been a mother has made me realize how much of a blessing parenthood is. No other experience can take us out of that orbit of self-centeredness as much as mothering (or parenting) can. And – with full respect to those who choose not to become parents for completely valid reasons – I think that the beauty of that re-structuring process is in how painful it is, but ultimately how soul-nourishing it is. In our highly consumer-oriented, social media-centric world I think that family structures have become too fragmented, relationships too superficial and transactional, and our definition of fulfillment and happiness too focused on the self. Parenthood gently detaches us from the self-facing orbit and pushes us towards a process that broadens that orbit, ultimately making us more flexible. We think of parenthood as a narrowing of horizons – we can’t go on that spontaneous trip, or stay up late partying – but I think we sometimes our perception of parenting is too limited. I think of it as going to a gym, but instead of working out the physical body it is working out your soul, teaching you to be more patient, caring, and reciprocal in your relationships with the world.
– An American Elf Book Reviews & Related Side Quests & Instagram Kimber.li2023 – Excerpt
– @theenchantedshelf – Review The Jade Rebellion, The Jade Talisman and The Jade Labyrinth
– A Room Without Books is Empty – Review The Jade Rebellion, The Jade Talisman and The Jade Labyrinth
– Books with lemon & Instagram Book.with.lemon – Review The Jade Rebellion, The Jade Talisman and The Jade Labyrinth
– Teatime and Books – Promo Only
– Winter Betancourt & Instagram @winterbetancourt – Excerpt
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of The Jade Labyrinth. One winner wins copies of the following three books: The Jade Rebellion, The Jade Talisman and The Jade Labyrinth.
For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
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