Book Reviews 2015 · Dystopian Books · Sci-Fi Books · The Indie Corner · Young Adult Book Reviews

‘Blue Karma’ by J.K. Ullrich

Water. It covers almost three-quarters of the planet, comprises more than half the human body, and has become the most coveted resource on Earth.

Amaya de los Santos survived the typhoon that left her an orphan. Now she scrapes by as an ice poacher, illegally harvesting fresh water for an always-thirsty market. But when she rescues an injured enemy soldier, she’s pulled into a storm of events more dangerous than any iceberg. After years of relying only on herself, she must learn to trust another…or risk losing all that’s left of her family. Logan Arundson should be dead. After a mysterious attack destroys his military unit, he abandons his Arctic post for his native California, where droughts have made water a religion and a resource worth killing for. But when the water wars follow him home, he must face his frozen demons if he wants to save his town, and the girl he loves. Paul Hayes is heir to an empire. But being vice president of a powerful hydrology company isn’t all gardens and swimming pools: he deals with ice poachers, water rights, and the crushing expectations of his CEO mother. His investigation into company sabotage and the miraculous appearance of a lake in a small California town lead him to a shocking discovery…and an impossible decision.

Blue Karma is a story of choices and consequences, humanity and love.

5 Stars

 I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have read many different types of dystopian and sci-fi books before, but seldom do I read the sub-genre labelled as ‘climate fiction’; books that handle the topic of the side-effects of global warming and climate change. Rightly so in my opinion, these books are rising in popularity, but I could not recall reading one before, so when I received an email from J.K. Ullrich asking if I wanted to read and review her debut novel, my interest was piqued. In reading ‘Blue Karma’, not only did I discover a sub-genre which feels both unimaginable and scarily real, I discovered a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I’m going to try to be spoiler-free throughout.

‘Blue Karma’ is set in a future where, due to severe climate change, fresh water is a scarce resource, and both weather extremes of droughts and flooding are driving people out of their homes. The vast quantity of environmental refugees is impacting the water rations, and if you want it, you’ve got to pay for it. The story follows three characters: Amaya, an environmental refugee (‘engee’) and orphan who is illegally harvesting ice to sell in order to get money to ensure survival for herself and her little sister; Logan, a boy forced into the military who returns home to discover the drought has caught up with his home town to drastic consequences; and Paul, the vice president to the company that holds power over everyone – control of the water source.

One of my first thoughts was how well the book is written. It flows incredibly well, there are some really nice quotes that I instantly highlighted and tabbed, and it’s paced very effectively. I was reading this at past midnight, and kept saying to myself ‘I will put it down and go to bed at the end of the next chapter’, however, I would reach the end of the chapter to find an annoyingly captivating cliffhanger, or a question I wanted answering, that kept me reading for another couple of chapters (due to the alternating viewpoints) until I got my answers. It was for this reason that I was still reading at 1:30am, when I finally finished the book. It was overall written in such a way that I was completely immersed in what I was reading, and just couldn’t put it down.

I really liked the complete cast of characters. For starters, the three protagonists were all endearing as they were genuinely flawed, and that made them feel very believable. Amaya could be a little rude and impulsive, but it stemmed from her determination to do what was best for her sister, and from having placed her trust in the wrong people in the past. Logan was hypocritical and made some poor decisions, but it was due to a desire to do ‘the right thing’, and out of desperation to save his home. Paul was initially blind to the suffering of the people around him, but with a mother like his, I hardly blame him. Most importantly, I felt like all three of them progressed throughout. The characters I was reading about by the end were different to those at the beginning of the book; they had learned and developed, and I enjoyed watching them do so.

Amaya was ultimately quite likeable; her tough exterior melted (no ice-related pun intended) to reveal a funny and brave individual. The relationship between her and her sister Sayuri was lovely to read about, as it felt very real; you could genuinely believe that Sayuri was Amaya’s motivation. Normally, I’d find myself annoyed at characters who behave with the hostility that Amaya directs towards Logan upon their first meeting, but the back-story of the sisters, and the strength of their relationship, succeeded in making me understand Amaya as a person – more often than not, I find that an author fails to 100% convince me of the motivation behind such characters, but Ullrich convinced me completely of Amaya’s motivation.

It was Paul, however, who was the most intriguing character for me. Not to say that he was my favourite (Logan was), but because Paul completed that rare feat of making me change my mind about a character. Initially, I was convinced that I hated him; we saw him swimming in pools full of water whilst Logan and Amaya struggled to get water to drink, and he seemed to be caught up in a selfish bubble of his own, unaware of the suffering his company was causing. However, by the end (I don’t want to spoil anyone!) he had overcome all of the problems I had with him earlier on and was a strong and commendable character. What all of this proved to me was that Ullrich is good at writing realistic characters and developing them throughout.

The story itself was unlike anything I have read before (although, I admit to not being clued up on ‘cli-fi’). There were some aspects that were predictable, but on the whole, I was surprised by many elements of the plot. There were also moments that made me well up, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I actually cried…twice… Also, the end was very satisfactory. Every seemingly insignificant detail from early on turns out to be relevant, and there isn’t a single loose end left untied. I was expecting the situation the characters found themselves in at the climax, but the way in which it was resolved was a complete shock, one that I was very fond of.

When I read that there was one female protagonist and two male ones, I was expecting a love triangle. I was wrong. There is no long-winded love triangle, with the female flitting back and forth between suitors. Romance did feature, but it by no means overshadowed the plot; it was understated, and actually quite enjoyable. None of the characters existed solely for the purpose of romance, and Amaya was thankfully not dependant on the male characters; in fact, never do we hear of her moaning of her love life, which makes a lovely break from the usual whiny female YA protagonist.

Ultimately, I’m very quick to recommend this book, and I’d love to see more people reading it. I think it’s a strong debut, and Ullrich is an author I’d like to read more from. This ranks very high on the list of books I have read so far this year.

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10 thoughts on “‘Blue Karma’ by J.K. Ullrich

  1. Emma, great review and I have been following JK
    s blog recently where she explains “how to write a cli fi novel” in 7 part series. and re where you wrote in yr very good review: ”The story itself was unlike anything I have read before (although, I admit to not being clued up on ‘cli-fi’). ” NOTE: if you want to know MORe about the rising genre of cli fi see The Cli Fi Report which I edit at and if any questions later about how cli fi is different from sci and a completely new and diferent genre from sci fi, email me or tweet me at @clificentral email danbloom AT gmail and yes, I coined the cli fi term, ask my why. JK Ulrich cli fi novel is a good example of the kind of writing that cli fi is producing. cheers, dan bloom RSVP


  2. I’ve never read “cli-fi” either, but it sounds like a very cool new-ish genre. Blue Karma really sounds interesting from your review. Great to hear that the characters are likeable but flawed, and that there’s no love triangle. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for this book because I really want to read it now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Mallory,

      If you’d like to read and review the book, I’d be happy to gift you a promo copy as I did for Emma. Then you two can compare notes. 😉 (Actually, I’d love to feature you both in a guest post for my blog: an interview or dialogue sharing your thoughts about the book.) Emma’s comments proved really useful to me as a writer, so I’m eager to hear from more literary young ladies! Hit me up on my webpage if you’re interested.

      J.K. Ullrich
      (Gryffindor, Aries, Queen of Catan)

      Liked by 1 person

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