Travelers by V. S. Holmes

★★★★★   Travelers by V. S. Holmes kicks off the Starsedge series, in which an acid-tongued archaeologist named Dr. Nel Bently makes her debut. Passionate about her work, Nel is excited to see what she can uncover deep beneath the Chilean soil where her dig is located. But her project becomes significantly more complicated when a group of activists known as the Founders (or Los Pobladores) sabotage the dig site. Surrounded by an eager—but green—group of archaeology undergrads, and with only her friend Mikey to back her up, Nel’s team is feeling dangerously outnumbered. But just when things seem at their worst, a mysterious woman named Lin arrives and offers to help—though her true motives only come to light after Nel gets to really know her. With assaults and questions batting her from all sides, what exactly will Nel uncover?

Pinning a series on a single character is usually a risky move, but Holmes has certainly struck gold with Dr. Nel Bently. Nel is a bit like her beloved dig sites—the more time you spend with her, the more you’ll uncover. Her outwardly gruff exterior is nicely balanced and buffered by a few key characters around her, and it’s clear she cares about the undergrad students she works with, even if she sometimes struggles to be patient with them. The sci-fi elements are a bit underplayed in Travelers, but only because Nel is trying to puzzle out what exactly her team has stumbled upon. With answers—and, of course, more questions—served up later in the novel, the series can now take off in whichever direction it chooses.

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