Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik
Published by Harper Voyager on February 5, 2019. Oversized paperback of 438 pages at $16.99.
The cover: A woman’s back is to the reader. She’s wearing what appears to be one piece flight suit that ends just past the elbows. She has long brown hair that’s tucked into her collar. A futuristic gun is held up in her left hand and she has on flight gloves. She’s looking at a large planet that has one ring and a ship is flying in the upper right corner. Sparks from a fire are coming out of the bottom left and traveling toward the ship. A quote from Ilona Andrews is at the top, with one from Kit Rocha at the bottom. At the midpoint of the cover, is the title in transparent orange with the author’s name in transparent blue below it. The cover was designed by Lex Maudlin and the illustration is by Tony Mauro. This is a decent cover that teases the title character and the science fiction genre. I would have preferred to see Ada’s face and Marcus, but this is fine. Overall grade: B
The premise: From the back cover, “In the very 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 has 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, Lock is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head. When the ship returning to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé 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 many lose more than you bargained for…” This is the perfect summary that spoils nothing of this book. In fact, it stops at Page 3 of the book. My hat’s off to whoever made this decision. I’m all for strong female characters and dangerous allies. Overall grade: A
The characters: Ada von Hasenberg has got moxie. She wants to live her own life, can’t due to her birth, and has gone on the run. She’s had every sort of job she can have to keep her head down, but after being caught the running is over. She can fight well, she can run better, and she still has access to a ready supply of credits thanks to help from her sisters. I didn’t like that she became less strong once Marcus entered the picture. I thought that Ada would be able to get out of trouble on her own, but Marcus bails her out several times. What can’t Marcus do? His ability to solve any obstacle with his strength or fighting ability was akin to Superman saving the day everytime. He’s not invulnerable, but he’s pretty darn close. There’s a twist with his character in the final quarter of the book that wasn’t a surprise. Their love/hate will they/won’t they relationship grew tiresome. When they finally do consummate their relationship it’s pretty explicit. And it’s explicit the second time. And the third time. Even the sex got repetitive. Veronica is the first major supporting character to enter the book, but she serves no purpose after her initial entrance but to add two more levels of stress to Ada. Rhys Sebastian was an okay character, but all I could picture was Lando Calrissian. He can get anyone whatever they want, as long as they can pay. He provides some interesting conflict and backstory with Marcus, but he flits out of the book eventually. There are several antagonists in the book, including Ada’s father who wants her back, but Richard Rockhurst would have to be the big bad, since he wants to marry Ada and she wants no part of him. He’s your standard evil-prince-with-an-army villain. There’s a late addition to his story that ties him to Marcus, but it was fairly far-fetched. As things go, the characters are fine, but if you’ve read any science fiction or seen any sci fi films you’ve encountered these types of characters before. I was disappointed that Ada needed Marcus so often. Overall grade: C
The settings: There’s quite a bit of travel by ship as well as running about in several of them and I was impressed with these vehicles’ descriptions, with Mihalik creating descriptions that easily tell the reader what ship is top of the line and which is lucky to be flying. The worlds encountered are essentially an abandoned world with a dwindling city, an urban world, and Ada’s homeworld that includes her family’s castle/home. They’re fine and don’t overshadow the characters or their actions. I really have to commend Mihalik for the ships. Overall grade: A-
The action: This started out strongly, but by the first hundred pages became a pattern: run, someone gets caught, they get rescued, run, repeat. It’s Doctor Who 101. After the second time someone got caught the tension was gone because I knew the others would break them out. There’s some slight tension with the schemes that are revealed of the Rockhursts, but it’s introduced too late in the book and is left dangling for a sequel. Overall grade: C
The conclusion: It ends with a rescue and legal paperwork to protect characters’ status. This was a letdown. It’s essentially a happy ending, but I wanted more. Overall grade: C+
NOTE: The font used for words in italics is unlike anything I have ever encountered in any novel. It was utterly annoying. It took me out of the book every time it appeared, and it appears often. A visual distractor in a book is a deadly mistake.
The final line: There are elements of this novel that are good, but there are many more that have been done before. The lead was not as strong as I expected and the action didn’t excite. I was impressed with the descriptions of the ships and their contents. Too much of this is predictable, creating a tedious read at times. I would give a second installment, if there is one, a read, but my expectations would be very low. Overall grade: C+
To order a print copy go to https://www.harpervoyagerbooks.com/book/9780062802385/polaris-rising-2/
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