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Polaris Rising: A Novel (The Consortium Rebellion) Paperback – February 5, 2019
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From School Library Journal
“POLARIS RISING is space opera at its best, intense and addictive, a story of honor, courage, betrayal, and love. Jessie Mihalik is an author to watch.” (Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestelling author)
“An intoxicating journey through the galaxy.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“Heart-pounding futuristic action and scorching chemistry make Polaris Rising a thrilling ride. A gripping and sexy space adventure!” (Amanda Bouchet, USA Today bestselling author of The Kingmaker Chronicles)
“The badass space princess adventure we deserve.” (Kit Rocha, New York Times bestselling author)
“I loved everything about this story...when I finished and the story left me craving more of this world and characters. Highly recommend!”
(Jeffe Kennedy, RITA Award winning author)
“Mihalik debuts with the first book of a science-fiction trilogy filled with high-tech action, political intrigue, and steamy romance. Fast-paced space opera, filled with daring rescues and blaster fire, thrown into high gear by the passionate romance between the lead characters.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Smart dialog among sharp-witted characters, as well as tight action scenes and a bit of sex and romance all come together for an exciting tale across the stars. This fun debut frolics through the space opera setup with an exciting and brave new heroine.” (Library Journal)
“Read this book. Right now. Immediately.” (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books)
“Along with her remarkable world building, Mihalik introduces rich supporting characters that are deftly drawn into both the running battles as well as the layered political intrigue... Polaris Rising sets a magnificent stage for Mihalik’s next installment in the Consortium Rebellion trilogy.” (BookPage.com)
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This should really be two and a half stars but I’m rounding up as it’s the author’s first full length novel.
I was looking for a new author and after an Ilona Andrews recommendation and having read the first three (free-to-read) chapters of this book I really thought I’d found one. So much so that I was prepared to pay the outrageous new release price (see Price Rant below) and buy the book. Sadly the first three chapters are by far the best and not indicative of the rest of the novel.
Jesse Mihalik (JM) has obviously spent some time on creating her world/universe and her heroine. The universe is an interesting one and Ada ‘s a fully fleshed out character with a good back story and a suitably badass personality. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of any of the other characters. The hero is a straight lift from a 2000 movie and everyone else is one dimensional. The interactions between the characters are not very convincing and sadly this includes the romance between the hero and heroine which goes from a wary respect and mutual interest in the first three chapters to lets-leap-into-bed sex/we-are-now-in-undying-love in record time and unlikely manner.
The same problem applies to the plot. JM obviously has a well-planned out multi-book overall story arc in mind for the whole series but the ins and outs of the plot of this novel have flaws (more details in the spoiler section). Not major flaws but enough minor ones to leave me generally unsatisfied.
So would I recommend this novel? Despite the general dissatisfaction the answer is -possibly. It’s basically entertaining and has enough promise that I will probably read the next book in the series but the price would need to be right (see Price Rant below). If you like space opera romance and you’re not too critical then it’s a reasonable way to spend an afternoon but I think this is more of a get-from-a-library book than a buy-for-your-collection book.
No stars taken off for this because the author usually has no control over price but US$13.37 (Kindle) is an outrageous price for a first full length book by a new author. To put it in context Ilona Andrews upcoming book Sapphire Flames is currently available on pre-order for under US$6 and IA is a NYT best-selling author. If you want value for money wait until this book drops to under US$6 or buy JM’s novella The Queens Gambit which has much the same pros and cons as this longer work and currently retails for just under US$3.
SPOILER SECTION – WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!
So things I had issues with:
1. Loch is a total rip off of Vin Diesel as Riddick in Pitch Black. Not only is he bald, buff and a badass bad guy with a bounty on his head, he’s also a super soldier bad guy (whose really a good guy) and has shiny eyes that can see in the dark. It’s a straight lift and Loch has so little personality of his own that it’s simply annoying. The only difference between Riddick and Loch is that Loch’s eyes can look normal as well as shiny and Loch gets the girl.
2. As mentioned in the non-spoiler section the romance between Ada and Loch is unconvincing. One minute they are reluctant partners thrown together in wary alliance the next minute they are so deeply in love they are prepared to die for each other. Even the step between wary alliance and sex seemed a stretch but they then go from sex to true love almost instantly. It’s just not a believable romance and JM should have spent longer on creating a more credible relationship arc.
3. The same applies to the second romance between Rhys & Veronica. They literally meet, have sex and are in a committed relationship in the space of one evening. This rarely happens with adults. That whole evening feels more like a frat party than an adult dinner party. There’s lots of juvenile dominance play by the guys and then everyone pairs off and leaps into the nearest bed. An odd thing for any of the characters in the book to do. A smuggler, a fence, a wanted criminal and a princess on the run from authority are unlikely to act like carefree college students or swinging singles.
4. Ada and Veronica’s relationship suffers from the same unlikely progression. One minute they are meeting as fence vs princess-on-the-run with mutual distrust between them, the next minute they are besties who swap girl talk and are prepared to die for each other. JM needs to spend way more time creating these relationships inside the storyline rather than on just jumping straight from the characters first meeting to the characters being totally committed to each other.
5. Veronica’s treatment of Lin. Given this was a child she desperately wanted and fought to hang onto it seems odd that she basically ignores his existence once she’s off planet. He’s there to provide a plot reason for Veronica joining up with Ada rather than because the author had anything to do with him as a character on his own. If JM couldn’t use him in the plot then she should have sidelined him in a way more consistent with Veronica’s supposed love for her child.
6. I found JM’s choice of clothing options weird. No stars off for this as it’s her world so she can do as she wishes but I found it odd that it’s all hoods, cloaks, skin suits, uniforms and tunics one minute and then all business suits the next. Having the men all wearing suits for formal wear definitely dropped me out of the universe. Technically there is no real reason why not but in practice it’s like finding James Bond in a tuxedo sipping a martini in the Mos-Eisley Space Bar. Just wrong.
7. Also on clothing I think the author showed a real lack of imagination over Ada’s red dress. As described it sounded very bog-standard and something I could pop out and buy in the high street. This is a fantasy novel – use your imagination. Make the dress look like flame, like water, like lava, make it dance as if in a breeze, make it seem the aurora borealis has been torn from the sky to form it or weave it from a rare plant found only in the far reaches of a remote star system. The possibilities are endless so to go with bog standard was really a wasted opportunity.
8. Everyone is a cardboard cutout cliché rather than a real person. The bad guy is so cliché all he needs is a cape and a swirly mustache. I was expecting him to cry “Bahwahahaha!” every time he entered the picture. This inability to flesh out characters other than the heroine extends to almost everyone else in the book. Veronica, Rhys, Loch, Ian, the heads of Houses – all cardboard. Only Bianca seems a little more realistic and that’s because she’s destined to be the heroine in the next book.
9. There’s a lot of talk about the Byzantine-like politics that rule the universe and how Ada has had to become a master at political machinations. Sadly that’s another thing that’s just given lip service. In practice she exhibits zero subtlety in political negotiation and usually resorts to threats and straight out blackmail to achieve anything. That might not matter so much if someone else was being subtle and cunning but all the so-called political masters act with the political savvy of a two year old in a temper tantrum. Machiavelli they are not. You can’t just say it’s Byzantine politics – you have to show us.
10. Agatha Christie’s fictional author Ariadne Oliver once said that she would finish writing her book, realize she was 10K words short and have to throw in another murder and get the heroine kidnapped again to pad the story out. JM leaves out the murder but her plot revolves way too much on Ada or Loch getting captured and needing rescuing. If you don’t count the opening predicament there are three other times this happens in the story. Admittedly twice it’s Loch who gets captured but gender equality aside this is poor story telling. Four effective jailbreaks are too many for one relatively short novel.
And that’s the problem in a nut-shell – it’s not properly thought out. Most of the actions of the all the characters aren’t fully believable or compatible with the persona they are supposed to have and the plot is patchy when it comes to credibility. This keeps jolting the reader out of what could be a nice little story set in an interesting universe. JM has the overall story arc down pat and her writing shows promise but she needs to spend way more time on the plot & character details to sell her story to the reader.
Things were going good until Loch tells her that if she stays near him longer, they're going to f***. Then the explicit sex scene (no other reviews mentioned).
I paid $10 for that kind of juvenile content? Why are sci-fi romance writers pervs????!!!!!!!! I give up.
It's definitely overpriced for an author who has yet to prove herself.
Honestly, this book is WAY overpriced I expected better plotting because all of that super fast crappy relationship building (and lack of character development yikes) that JM fails here, she got right in her first book. I pre-ordered this based off of that but.... This is just bad. It still was still an entertaining read because the writing is done well and I actually thought the word building was great. But honestly the lack of depth in both the relationships and personalities of the characters left me wondering if I was reading the same author...?
I will still check out her other books because the writing shows real promise but this book read like a rough draft of a really good book, truly. I would not pay 10 dollars for a book of hers again :(
Top international reviews
So Loch, our hero, has a lot to live up to. Which he does, admirably, in his own way, without being emasculated by Ada. He supports her, stands by her, fights his own battles - and is big and sexy and, when the need arises, a champion hugger!
She has sisters who stand by her despite her being on the run from their father, sisters who sort things for her, and help as they can, and there are two supporting characters who are well drawn, and pretty capable a well.
As well as a good mystery/how do we stop a war sort of book, with some ok sc-fi bits and bobs, this is also a romance - nothing slushy and no insta-lurve, fate and events mean they are forced to take time to get to know each other before the inevitable consummation, which is nicely lacking any purple prose or crudities, and tells you just enough for you to get the picture!
So, as is probably evident, I liked this. I like books with competent capable women who don't get all silly when a man flexes his pecs at them, and a man who knows when what's needed most is a cuddle.
This is expensive for a kindle book from a new author. I've read the author's novelette The Queen's Gambit, and am following the serialised sequel to that on her website, so I wasn't diving into the unknown. This is worth the pennies - it's well written, engaging, and will take re-reads, always a key test for me.
Expect to be wowed by insane skills and crazy, reckless, action scenes. Ava and Loch are unstoppable, and I was whooping inside reading about their escapades.
Really clever, tight plot. Great secondary characters. Finishes too soon. What else do you want? Read it.
If you want the good stuff, stick to Bujold, Moon, Weber, Modesitt, Ringo, Scalzi, Banks and MacCaffrey. There are many others better than this.
No need to avoid, but certainly nothing worth real money or a series!
I also loved the world building, the technology and the houses (both across houses and within; the family set up makes it easy to relate to this distant future).
However.....worth a read and will take a look at what else the author has written.