Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Discussion/Review: Polaris Rising by Jessie Mahalik


Polaris Rising
(Consortium Rebellion #1)
Jessie Mahalik
Release: February 5, 2019
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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.

In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.

Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.

When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancĂ© captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.

But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .

Every so often both Rose Red and Gretl get approved for the same ARC and sometimes we just can't decide who will be the one to review it here on the blog. Polaris Rising was one of those books so we decided to have both of us review it. We broke it down by topics so it was easier to follow so it's going to be more of a review/discussion than a regular review. We hope you'll share your thoughts in the comments. We've tried to avoid spoilers for this book so it should be safe to read this post if you haven't read it yet.

Rose Red: Ada really is a brilliant character who is both smart and fierce and sensible to boot. There were instances where she could have lashed out when things didn’t go her way but she never did. I found that I loved how her mind worked. Despite being fiercely independent, she allows herself to be emotionally vulnerable in certain situations. She was definitely the main highlight of the book for me. There are some references to events in her past throughout the story that are never really explained as well as I would have liked.

Gretl: I agree. I was also impressed with her political savvy, which really comes into play in the second half. Everyone wants to use her as a pawn, but she's able to outplay them all.

RR: Loch as a character felt awfully flat to me. He’s the typical brawny alpha male fugitive and we didn’t get to see much else from him. I would have loved to see him interact more with Ada instead of silently brooding in a corner. I probably would feel differently about him if we’d gotten some of the story from his POV.

G: Loch is an enigma for most of the book. I saw someone on Twitter compare him to Curran in the Kate Daniels series who's another alpha male that it took me a while to warm up to. I think including his POV would have made it harder to keep his secrets. Not that that would have been a bad thing necessarily - I realized right away that there would be more to his story than was public knowledge.

RR: I really loved the secondary characters in this book. I'm intrigued by a few of them and want to see more of them in future books. Most especially a certain gunrunner and head of security.

G: Definitely! I suspect that those two will both have their own books before the series is over.

RR: Another thing I really liked was the world building. Yeah, there are some info-dumpy parts but it doesn't feel awkward or unnecessary. I personally found the politics and ruling house structure fascinating and would like to learn more about it in the next book. I was kind of disappointed because everyone in this universe is human. No alien life at all so far. 

G: I've seen both schools of thought in space-set SciFi Romance. Either there are lots of other worlds with lots of different people in them, like Star Wars, or humans are alone in the universe and will one day colonize it all, like The Expanse. When I read Amanda Bouchet’s Nightchaser, which released earlier this year, I wondered why there were no aliens in it. With Polaris Rising, I didn't think that. Maybe because the politics were so interesting you don't need aliens? Or maybe I was expecting it since I had recently read a similar book?

RR: I don't think the political system would have worked if there were non-humans in the universe.

RR: I had a bit of an issue with the pacing, especially towards the end. The ending felt abrupt. I didn't worry much about it at first until I noticed that the next book will be following a new couple instead of sticking with Ada and Loch as I had first thought. As much as I want the next couple's story, I'm not ready to leave Ada and Loch yet. Their relationship felt so unfinished. I hope we get more of them in the next installment though. 

G: I can see that. I actually felt like the book was about to end at one point, but then they went to a new location and it kept going.

Final thoughts:
RR: This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I've been debating about whether to give it a 3.5 or 4 stars rating. I'm leaning towards the 4 stars. There are plenty of things to like about this book and overall I really enjoyed it, but there are some things that I just wasn't feeling at all. Despite my mixed feelings, I'm excited for the second book and to see what else this author does with this universe.

G: I really enjoyed Polaris Rising - I gave it 4.5 stars. It's my favorite of the SciFi Romances I've read so far. And I'm so excited that SF Romance seems to be a trend right now.

The thing with this book though, is that it's not from a romance publisher so they really aren't emphasizing the fact that it's a romance. I'm not sure if it's deliberately being downplayed or if it's just that they're used to focusing on the SF elements. I wonder if that might have changed your expectations? When I read the blurb, I was kind of kind of scratching my head and going, "that sounds like a romance novel" so I was looking for it.

RR: I actually didn't know it was supposed to be a sci-fi romance series until after I finished it. And I'm pretty sure that did effect my expectations of the book.

4 / 5 Stars

Have you read Polaris Rising yet?
Tell us what you thought.

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