The Captain’s Log – the Themis Files (Sylvain Neuvel) – a series review

Ahoy there me mateys!  This here be a combined review all three books of the Themis Files trilogy.  There may be minor spoilers (i.e. small things found in the blurbs) so read at yer own peril . . .

Now I don’t normally do single posts for full series.  But I started listening to book one, became hooked, and quickly gobbled them all up.  The books start when an 11 year-old girl named Rose is out riding her new birthday bike.  She falls into a hole and lands on a metal hand.  The giant hand turns out to be part of an alien structure.  That structure turns the past, present, and future of Earth upside down.

One of the negative things I heard about this series before embarking on the adventure meself, was that the time frames were odd.  And it be true.  The books jump around and skip huge chunks of time.  A next chapter might take place several decades later.  There be jumps into the past and back again.  I was glad I was forewarned because I was able to go with the flow.

Another thing I be glad of was listening to the first and second books in audio book form.  The majority of this book is told in epistolary style via audio file format, journal entries, etc..  I wanted to listen to book three on audio book but there was a massive wait list.  So I got the available ebook.  It was hard to read the book in that format.  The audio book was first rate and I loved the voice performances.  Each character is played by a different person.  I particularly enjoyed Kara Resnick and crazy Alyssa.  Two thumbs up for excellent production values.

The other thing that would normally bother me was the cliffhanger endings of books one and two.  But they were rather perfect for this series and are part of why I had to immediately know what happens next.  I treated the series as one long book instead of three separate ones and that actually increased me enjoyment.

So what about the story itself?  Well I loved book one the best, followed by book three, and then book two.  Basically the hand that Rose finds belongs to a giant robot.  The giant robot is from an alien race.  Rose ends up studying that hand when she has grown and helps sets all of the events in motion.  She was one of the better characters and has the best personal growth in the trilogy.

One of me favourite things about the book is that even though the alien race is technologically advanced, they don’t seem to culturally be any better than humans.  I loved that the aliens made mistakes.  I loved the snippets of their lives and politics that we do get.  I would have preferred more about them, actually.  I also loved how the trilogy ended because I thought it was realistic.  I enjoyed that the aliens aren’t godlike despite their godlike technology and the humans’ tenacity doesn’t solve all their problems or even most of them.  I do admit that the end was rather bleak for the human species.  But the aliens weren’t much better.  That was refreshing for a sci-fi book.  There is hope but it is slim, indeed.

The robot parts of the book did get a little bit old for me.  I loved them in book one but subsequently wished they would go away.  That could be because of how the dumb humans chose to use them.  To be fair, there were some political consequences that I did not expect and those elements were lovely.

As for characterization, in general I did find it hard to connect to the characters as people.  There were me favourites and I enjoyed them but it was hard to watch most of humanity make such dumb mistakes and stupid assumptions.  Also there wasn’t a ton of growth for any of the characters with the exception of Rose.  Many choices were made from outright emotional reaction that never seemed to change regardless of the circumstances.  So I did watch a lot of the story as an observer rather than a participant.  But not all of it.  There were deaths and choices that made me tear up.  There were sections where I cheered for me favourites.  There were also “philosophical” sections where I sat back and watched from afar.

I think overall this be a very lovely trilogy despite the small flaws.  It has been a long while since I had so voraciously read a trilogy in such a short time frame.  I think it is a stellar beginning for a new author and will certainly be picking up whatever he writes next.  Arrr!

Goodreads has this to say about book one:

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved – the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history’s most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

To visit the author’s website go to:

Sylvain Neuvel – Author

To buy the novels please visit:

sleeping giants – Book 1

waking gods – Book 2

only human – Book 3

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

12 thoughts on “The Captain’s Log – the Themis Files (Sylvain Neuvel) – a series review

  1. I can see this series being excellent in audio! I read the books, and found the format a bit of a challenge to get used to at first, and I can’t say overall the series blew me away or anything (like you said, too many little flaws for that) but I enjoyed myself all the same 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I loved the entire reading experience, I don’t think this series has a ton of re-read value for me. Though I do enjoy thinking about it after the fact. I will have to check out yer reviews. Thanks for the lovely comment!
      x The Captain


  2. Thank you for a great review, Cap. I’m glad you liked this series – I read the second book and a chunk of the first book. But this one simply didn’t work for me. I have a hunch I would have preferred the audio version, given the way the story is told. I couldn’t form a close enough bond with the main characters and that’s always key for me. But I’m aware it is a really successful series so it’s clear my opinion is in the minority:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t really bond with many of the characters. And the like of them turned on and off. I can totally see why this one wouldn’t work for everyone. It is odd and weirdly structured. So ye read the middle book first? Off to check. Arrr!
      x The Captain


    1. Hmmm favourite? No not really. I used to prefer paper but me tastes have changed since blogging. I like that the Kindle lets me read in the dark. And audio is good for when I have to do something boring at the same time. And paper is lovely because of covers, smell, texture, nostalgia, etc. But I don’t really have much space in the hold for more paper books. I adapted. Thanks for the question!
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I still need to read book three, but since you enjoyed it more than book two, it makes me hopeful. I really like this series as well. Also, I’ve heard the author speak and he’s super funny!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The author seems like a bit of a (fun) nut based on his profile. Where did ye hear him speak? I think ye will enjoy book three. It is fun and the ending made me happy (because I be crazy). Arrr!
      x The Captain


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