I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Avalon #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 21st 2014
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.
Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.
Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.
Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.
Oh Avalon, Avalon, where did you go wrong? I was so excited for this book, it sounded like (and in many ways is) a mashup of some of my favorite things (Star Wars, Firefly, Mass Effect) laid out in literary form. I should have loved it. Alas, I didn’t.
I wish I weren’t giving this book 2 stars and in someone else’s hands it could easily be a 4 star read. Unfortunately for Avalon, this is my review and I did not engage in the slightest. Let me put it this way, I put down this book to clean my kitchen. I HATE cleaning my kitchen.
To understand my problems, you should know that I am an incredibly character driven reader. I get into a story by latching on to a character (preferably the MC, but not always) and living the story through them. It gives me a reason to feel things, to get excited, to give any kind of a shit about how it all turns out. Avalon lacked such a character for me and as such, the story was missing it’s heart.
(Me, the whole time)
It’s not that Jeth or any of the crew were bad characters, they just weren’t developed in a way that let me feel like I ever really knew them. Jeth felt more like a porthole than a person, I would see the story through him, but felt distant and removed. It didn’t help that I never had a complete grasp on who he was. You know there’s a problem with character development when in the final chapters, the MC is still doing things that seem inconsistent or surprising given what you thought you knew about him. (Seriously, is he a scoundrel? A softie? A badass? A kid? All of the above? I still don’t know, it’s like he put on whichever hat was best for the scene and none of them stuck or felt right.)
The romance was blah as all hell. It seems like it was tacked on because if you write a YA book without some kind of love interest, the world will end. It was fairly predictable (if a boy meets a girl and immediately appreciates her ‘feistiness’ and the way her ponytail swishes, you can pretty much guarantee they are going to end up making out) and did nothing for me.
I will give Mindee Arnett credit for putting together some fantastic scifi. Her world building, while not necessarily the most overwhelming in terms of scope, is solid and interesting and leaves a lot of room for further exploration as the series goes on. I really like her space travel tech concepts, it got my nerd up and marked the first part of the book where I felt genuinely interested, so bonus points for that.
Plotwise, Avalon starts off a little slow. Without the aforementioned character development, it’s just a bunch of kids (seriously, what crime lord hires a pack of teenagers? I know Arnett explains it but really?) floating around in space for pretty much the entire first half of the book. The action (finally) picked up right around the halfway point giving way to a crapload of betrayal.
(Did I theme my entire review around this gif? Maaaaaaybe.)
Tons and tons of betrayal. Betrayal to the point where I started laughing out loud when something backfired because, duh, you guys haven’t picked up on that being how it goes? (Despite my not feeling like any of these people were real, I still talk to them. Don’t read too much into it, I was yelling at my doorknob the other day.)
This book honestly made me question whether or not I was some kind for robot. There was some seriously nerve wracking stuff going down: torture, the aforementioned betrayal, life changing truth bombs, and I felt not a single feel. I found myself wondering ‘What is wrong with me? How am I not moved by this human suffering?’ I mean, it’s not like I enjoyed those parts, but I was uncomfortable in an ‘oh, I find this generally distasteful’ kind of way as opposed to a ‘oh, the pain, the agony’ kind of way.
Avalon really could’ve been a good book and probably will be to someone else, but the stakes are dependent on the reader caring about the characters and if the reader doesn’t care, it’s mildly engaging but mostly just long.
Final verdict, if you aren’t as hung up on characters as I am and enjoy scifi, check it out, you may really like it. However, if you’re like me, well, eh.