by Jessie Mihalik
Series: Consortium Rebellion #2
Also in this series: Polaris Rising, Chaos Reigning
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: October 1, 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:
Bianca von Hasenberg did her duty for High House von Hasenberg and ended up trapped in a terrible marriage. When her husband dies unexpectedly and leaves her a happy widow, she vows never to marry again. Instead, she uses her connections to save other young women. Information is power and Bianca has a network that would be the envy of the ’verse—if anyone knew about it.
After an attack, Bianca’s oldest brother, the House von Hasenberg heir, disappears from Earth without a trace. Determined to find him, Bianca leaves against orders. When she refuses to return, her father sends Ian Bishop, the director of House von Hasenberg security, to haul her home like a recalcitrant child.
Bianca leads Ian on a merry chase across the universe, but when their paths finally collide, she persuades him that they would be far more successful at finding her brother if they worked together. She will do anything to save her sibling, even if it means spending time alone on a small ship with the handsome, infuriating man who once broke her heart.
As clues lead them deep into rival House Rockhurst territory, Bianca must decide if she can trust Ian with the one piece of information that could destroy her completely. . .
I am pretty much ride-or-die for kickass space princesses. Give me a broken relearning-how-to-be-kickass space princess, plus the whole princess/bodyguard dynamic? My love knows no bounds. This was pretty much one of my most anticipated reads for 2019 and I am so happy that it did not disappoint! While this is the second in a series, you could conceivably read this as a standalone, though you’ll miss some background about the previous couple.
After the death of her husband, Bianca has spent the past year recovering – mentally, physically and emotionally – from the damage he caused, and trying to deal with the new secret abilities she’s gained via his experimentation. She’s broken but not beaten down, even if the only way she’s able to show it is by rescuing other young women from bad marriages and verbally fencing with the House security director, Ian. When her brother disappears, Bianca knows her abilities are the only way to find him before the worst happens. Her father, of course, doesn’t understand, so Ian is sent to retrieve her. As events unfold, though, it becomes clear that they’ll need each other if they want to bring her brother home alive.
Having reread Polaris Rising immediately before reading this book, there are lots of similarities and some substantial differences. Ada and Bianca are very different women, but they are both strong, competent, and used to getting things done – not to mention ride or die for their siblings and found families. With PR, the action and romance arcs were entwined and progressed at roughly the same pace. This book starts with a bang, then slows down so we can get more into Bianca’s headspace before the action and romance pick up steam at around the halfway point. In PR, Ada and Loch are thrown together (pretty much literally) at the start of the book, and then continue to interact throughout it. In this book, a chunk of it is spent with Bianca on the run from Ian, so there’s a break in their interactions. While I thought this affected the romance arc – it felt a bit too end-loaded for me – I thought it was perfect for giving me, and Bianca herself, a sense of who Bianca is on her own, her strengths and capabilities.
I do wish we’d gotten to see more of Bianca and Ian’s relationship. While they’ve known each other for years, it would be an extreme stretch to call them friends, and since Bianca was instrumental in hiding Ada from Ian, they’d probably be better described as adversaries. The majority of the romance arc is very slow burn, and part of it is Bianca’s obliviousness. There’s some backstory there as to why Bianca would think that Ian would never in a million years be interested in her, but suffice it to say that that, plus her added loss of confidence from her marriage, blinds her to Ian’s true feelings. While I sometimes find characters missing the point to be annoying, I actually had a lot of fun with it this time. Once they realize that they have *feelings*, their relationship progresses rapidly from “this will never work” to exclamations of how perfect they are for each other. What did end up selling the relationship for me is that there’s no magic penis here – it’s Bianca who needs to figure out her abilities, not Ian, and Ian’s place is mainly to support her and, at points, get out of her kickass way! So while I definitely had some raised eyebrows about the speed of their HEA, I do agree that they’re perfect for each other.
Alright, now that that’s off my chest, I loved the heck out of the scifi action arc of the novel. Bianca and Ian are both pretty kickass on their own, and together they’re pretty unstoppable. The world building continued to be excellent, and I loved the hacking, especially the VR aspects. One of the author’s strong points is that she takes some pretty common tropes, from both the romance and scifi sides, and gleefully leans in to them. This leads to some spectacular tension – similar to how when you see Captain America get into an elevator with a bunch of goons, you know what’s going to happen next. It’s a little bit campy but incredibly fun, and I had a smile on my face for a lot of the book.
If you hadn’t guessed, I think Bianca is an incredible heroine, and honestly I would have a hard time picking whether I like her or Ada more. She’s been through a lot, but rather than turning bitter, she relies on her inner strength and the love of her family to keep her going while she rebuilds herself. That’s complete heroine catnip for me. Ian was a bit of a harder sell, initially, as his overprotectiveness was annoying (how DARE you doubt my precious heroine’s kickassedness?!?!) but once Bianca calls him on it, he reigns it in. I suspected much of Ian’s backstory, but I felt like there should’ve been more to it. View Spoiler »According to Loch in the last book, all the squads except his perished. So shouldn’t he have recognized Ian? Ian seemed to recognize what/who Loch was back in Polaris Rising, but neither Loch nor Rhys (who was part of the Fornax team) recognized him. I’m not sure if I missed the explanation in the book, but I’ve read through it twice and didn’t see it. « Hide Spoiler It’s a little thing, but I’m hoping that whole business is cleared up more in the next book.
Overall, I adored this book, and the last book in the trilogy is already one of my most anticipated books of next year. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves scifi romance or strong, capable heroines!