If you ever tell me that Spooner and Kaufman are writing a book, you can bet your last dollar I will buy/read it. These two wrote the Starbound trilogy after all and I adored that series. I was super excited to get an ARC of this immediately started reading. It took me far longer to finish than it should have and I’ll explain why. This was an entertaining story but that was as far as it went for me.
This was pitched as Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft IN SPACE. Everyone lived in a time when aliens had made contact 50 years previous and invited people of Earth to visit their planet for treasures and knowledge. Nobody could resist that but it would not come without a cost. Mia was a smuggler on a mission to save her younger sister from a horrible life. Jules is the brilliant prodigy that was a linguist and the son of a famous scientist that swore that traveling to that planet would be a trap. Nobody listened so Jules was hellbent on restoring his father’s reputation. Together these two unlikely friends trudge forward to uncover untold secrets and mystery.
The first thing that stood out to me while reading this story was the overall plot. It is an entertaining concept but it was not delivered well. The “traps and tasks” sprinkled throughout this story are super weaksauce. They were supposed to be a bit part of the story but we were only given really small glances at what they were. Then, shortly after they were “discovered”, BOOM they were solved. magic… As the story progressed, the characters continued to solve these riddles but we were not ever told what they were. We read about it as the character said something like, “The day wore on and we solved several more puzzles, most were like the previous ones and easy to figure out.” UH, how about you let the reader know what they were like? Bring us along for the adventure, don’t just tell us that they were there. It made me feel disconnected from the story.
Let’s not overlook the characters and their involvement in this story. Mia and Jules were just okay characters. Neither one completely blew me away but they played their parts. One thing that really wore on me was the constant inner monologue these two characters had. They were constantly rehashing everything over and over and over throughout the entire book, as if reminding the reader of what took place just pages before. I get that Mia was worried about her sister but how can she progress as a character if all she does is repeat the same thoughts about her sister? The same goes with Jules. He tried to keep his identity a secret but you can’t expect me to believe a 17 year old boy is the master of nearly every language in the Universe and people won’t figure out who he really is? Talk about being convenient. Things for these two character just felt too convenient. They are stuck in a chamber and have no way out? BOOM. Mia can suddenly pick up on Latin and read tiles to figure a way out. They need to fill pipes with water so they can cross a dangerous bridge? BOOM. Mia just happened to have done this when she was younger and knows exactly what to do. I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes when that happened because it did not feel believable in this story.
Let us not overlook the romance we knew was going to bud in this story. It’s a trope that could not be ignored. Did I buy the developing romance? Not really. I didn’t feel the chemistry or connection between these two. The banter was just alright but would would have liked more. At the best of times it felt forced and awkward, like two teens meeting for the first time trying to be cool. It didn’t work for me.
This is a very short book yet it took me nearly a week to finish. Why? I never connected to what was happening. I wanted so much more from this story given Spooner and Kaufman’s track record with character development and engaging stories. Also, do not be fooled into thinking LaRoux doesn’t make an appearance in this story. Tie in, perhaps? Maybe we will see the ever lovely Lilac and my book boyfriend Tarver? Gosh, I hope so. That would be a story I would devour in a day. As it stands, I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series even though the ending was somewhat of a surprise.