As the seventh of nine children, Ada von Hasenberg knows that her only value to House von Hasenberg is as a political pawn in an arranged marriage. But after watching two of her older sisters get auctioned off to horrible men, Ada refuses to play her part. She flees off-planet and disappears for two years.
Ada’s father, fed up with her rebellion, offers a bounty for her safe return. The universe is a big place, but mercs are everywhere, and Ada is caught. With the merc ship full, she’s forced to share a cell with Marcus Loch, the Devil of Fornax Zero. Rumor has it he murdered every commanding officer who issued orders during the Fornax Rebellion. All anyone knows for sure is that the Royal Consortium wants his head.
Ada has no trouble believing the muscled man chained in the back of her cell is a killer. But when their ship is attacked by forces from rival House Rockhurst, Ada must decide whether to trust him—because once you release the devil, you can’t put him back. And when the attack heralds the opening salvo of a much bigger war, Ada must determine where her loyalties truly lie.
Wow. That was my first thought upon finishing this book – which I devoured; I couldn’t stop reading. This was the absolute best way to start 2019. There’s so much I want to talk about, where do I start??
Okay. World-building. Damn. This is everything I’m ever looking for in sci-fi. I’ve never been one of those readers that loved all the technical and/or military overtones that some sci-fi has. I don’t want to be drowned in techy words, detailed descriptions of said technological marvels, and pages upon pages of the minutiae of war. I do like my world to be detailed, thorough, solid, and feel real. And this one does. I can picture myself walking around the ships, even digging into some of the details about how they run. When we step on a planet, I feel the gravity, the sun blazing, the weight of the history of that particular place.
World-building is more than just places, it’s also the history of the people that built and inhabit those places. Polaris Rising excels there as well. A good eighty percent of this book takes place away from the center of that history, but it’s still deftly woven into the fabric of this book. We learn from Ada as she moves through the story, so that when we do encounter the core of these worlds, I was fully invested and clamoring for more. Jessie Mihalik delivered.
Ada, oh Ada. I love you. I’ve rarely felt such an instant connection and love for a character. In fact, only one other comes to mind. She’s smart, honorable, strong, and kick-ass. Her morals and values are hers regardless of what is expected of her as a House member. The dichotomy of her privilege and her chains is fascinating and something that I really enjoyed exploring. Ada is everything I ever hope for from a heroine. And more than a match for Loch.
I don’t want to say too much about Loch, because his secrets are his to tell, but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that I always felt how trustworthy he was. Never mind that our first glimpse of him is when he’s chained to a wall. Peeling back the layers on his history is fascinating. If I thought him a little too alpha at times, well, it never crossed over the line to unacceptable. He has a core of respect and never steps over Ada’s boundaries, regardless of what he wants.
Their romance feels slightly rushed, but I think that’s more me than the book. I’ve been primarily reading Urban Fantasy and Fantasy for the last year or so. Relationships develop much more slowly there. Still, Ada and Loch progressed their relationship at a believable pace for all that was happening around them. They were forced to find out if they could trust each other, and intense situations always bring out intense feelings. I thought I would complain about the “misunderstanding” in the book when it came up. And, honestly, I did roll my eyes when I saw it. So often I want to shake the characters and demand they talk. But you know what these guys did? They TALKED. AND each took responsibility for their part in the argument. Love. Love, love, love.
Ada was also driven by much more than just her feelings and hormones for a love-interest. She felt responsible for millions of people, and moved forward on things because she knew them to be right, sometimes in direct contradiction to Loch’s desires and needs. And there were times when he did the same. I think one of the things I loved the most is seeing how these two came to terms with each other’s independence and compromising on how to deal with the things the other couldn’t or wouldn’t change about themselves. Their acceptance of each other and how they got there was amazing.
I am absolutely dying for the next book, and many more, in this series. I’ve already marked it on my calendar and am counting down the days.