Review: Polaris Rising – Jessie Mihalik
by Jessie Mihalik
Series: Consortium Rebellion #1
Also in this series: Aurora Blazing, Chaos Reigning
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
I received an advance review copy of this book from Edelweiss. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
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 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 may lose more than you bargained for . . .
TL:DR – OMG THIS IS SO GOOD! GO BUY IT NOW! I’ve mentioned before that I love scifi romance, and this is exactly everything about that genre that I adore – a tropetastic scifi wonderland. Hi-tech hi jinx, space travel, multiple planets, galaxy-wide suspense… plus a kickass heroine and a hero who loves her for that. I first heard of Jessie Mihalik through Ilona Andrews’ blog, and became a fan of her writing from reading a serial she posted on her blog, and seriously could not contain my excitement when I got an ARC of this book. I’ve now read it three times (!!!) and honestly, it’s still as good on the third read as it was on the first.
“Marcus Loch was a deserter, a killer, and a traitor to the Consortium. And he was just the man I needed.”
Ada von Hasenburg has been on the run from her father for two years. As the fifth of the six children from one of the prominent Consortium families, she was expected to marry the son of one of their rivals (all the better to spy on them, of course). Captured by a small-time mercenary crew, she ends up in a cell with Marcus Loch, a notorious criminal wanted for slaughtering his military squad. Left with few options, she bargains with him to escape – but of course nothing goes according to plan, least of all their attraction to each other.
“Picking my battles was a skill I’d learned the hard way while growing up, but one that I had eventually learned.
It took until my early teens for me to realize that banging my head against Father’s will got me nowhere. Feigning compliance while ultimately working toward my own goals worked much better. All of my siblings had learned to be crafty in their own way because the other option was to become a slave to Father’s will, and we were all too stubborn to let that happen.”
A lot of my enjoyment of the book comes from how much I loved Ada. I loved her voice and her practical worldview. While you’d think her upbringing would have made her more cynical, she’s instead quite warm and cares deeply about others, to the point of constantly trying to pay off Marcus in order to get him out of her (possibly dangerous) orbit. In her travels, she picks up a ragtag band of friends, new and old, all of whom Ada wants to protect, even at the cost of her own life. Despite her estrangement with her father, she still cares about (and keeps in touch with) her brothers and sisters, and when war threatens, she views it as her duty to go home and help the House fight. Luckily her family and her friends are there for her when she gets in too far over her head, though she’s certainly not one of those TSTL heroines – she knows her limits and is usually willing to make use of her friends’ expertise.
Loch is a bit more of a cypher, due in part to the story being told solely from Ada’s first-person POV. While I thought it worked exceptionally well, there were times I really wished I could’ve known what Loch was thinking. He’s almost the perfect sort of alpha male archetype, with the added bonus that he fully recognizes Ada’s competence and lets her take the lead when needed, though he does tend towards the alpha male overprotectiveness. While this can be off-putting for me, in this case, Ms. Mihalik seemed to strike a good balance between using the protectiveness to show his growing feelings for Ada while still allowing her agency. I think this was my favorite part of the relationship – that they did seem to have some sort of innate trust that let them depend on the other and understood that it didn’t make either of them lesser. A lot of the bumps in their relationship happen due to Ada’s inexperience with relationships and her desire to keep any harm from coming to Loch, while Loch is too ready to believe that he’s not “enough” for her.
The plot was action-packed, with crash landings, hijacked ships, and enough intrigue to satisfy me. There were a few lulls in the action, but for the most part, it skips along at a brisk pace. The side characters are lovely and well-formed, and I loved watching Ada’s interactions with them. There’s also a sort of winking-eye fan service in the book, as well. Loch’s a well-built specimen of a man, and neither Ada (nor Ms. Mihalik) hesitate to let the reader know exactly how hot he is, or to bypass an opportunity to describe him without his shirt off. I think some of this could’ve come off as weird or tedious, but instead I found it unbelievably delightful and charming. Nothing like giving the reader exactly what they want, right?
“Ian stared at me for a few more seconds as if judging my seriousness, then he smiled. Bianca’s eyes widened before she regained her icy control. She had it bad, but he was incredibly gorgeous when he smiled. I wondered what would happen if I accidentally locked them in a closet together.”
I’m very much looking forward to reading about Ada’s sister, Bianca, and the mysterious Ian, the couple of the next book, which is due out this fall. I guarantee I’m counting down the days until I can beg for an ARC!
Overall, if you like scifi romance, smart and tough heroines, and alpha male heroes, just go buy this book already!