by Ariele Sieling
Series: Rove City #1
Publication Date: November 16, 2019
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
Source: Book Sirens
I received an advance review copy of this book from Book Sirens. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
In El's fantasies, she pilots a fighter jet for the intergalactic fleet. In reality, she's a mechanic whose social grid ranking guarantees she'll never advance beyond the lowest grunt work, and a slave in all but name to her cruel and self-centered stepmother and stepsisters. The most she can hope for is a few stolen moments of happiness practicing on her sisters' flight simulators, or talking to the mysterious stranger she met on an illicit night of stargazing.
When the queen announces a competition to find new pilots for the fleet, El knows this is her chance to escape. But her stepmother will never let her compete—and then she learns that her new friend, the one person she thought she could trust, was hiding a secret that changes everything between them.
It's a good thing she has a lot more friends than she thinks she does.
Exciting, fast-paced, and hopeful, this science fiction retelling of Cinderella is the first in the Rove City series.
I love fairy tale retellings, I love scifi romance, so of course I jumped on this as soon as I saw it. It’s Cinderella, but instead of a ball, there’s a fighter pilot competition!
Since the death of her father, El’s lived with stepfamily as their unpaid servant. Due to the housing shortage on their starship, the only way to get away from her family would be to marry or find a group of friends to live with, unlikely due to her low social ranking. Her only escape from drudgery is sneaking on to play fighter pilot simulations at night or stargazing in the ship’s greenhouse. When the Queen announces a competition to recruit a new group of fighter pilots, it sounds almost too good to be true – at least for someone like El.
“Everything El ever said was a lie. She lied about what she wanted. She lied about what she was doing. She lied about her motivations. She lied about who she was.”
For the most part, El was a determined young women, frustrated with her life but struggling to figure out how to change it and rebelling in small ways. Besides the stereotypical housework (mending clothes, mopping floors, cooking), she also works part-time at a machine shop doing repairs, including fighter jets. By this point in her life, she’s learned that complaining only gets more work piled on her, so she just buckles down and does it. For the most part, that jived well with the original fairy tale for me, though there were a few sections, after particularly bad setbacks, where El seriously contemplated whether she was better off dead. Certainly understandable given her nearly hopeless situation and the abuse heaped on her by her stepfamily, but it added a pretty dark tone to an otherwise light read for me.
While I thought reimagining the ball as a fighter pilot competition was an amazing idea (and exciting in execution), in comparison, some of the other parts of the book felt outdated. It was weird that on a giant spaceship, it was still a person doing all that basic housework. Where’s my space Roomba? Also, nobody seemed to care that El never attended school or that her stepsisters trashed her social ranking through bad reviews. After finishing the book, I’m honestly still not exactly sure what a social ranking was or what it did, other than keep El trapped with her stepfamily. As for them, the stepmother was pretty much a one-note villain, with the stepsisters not being much better.
I loved the fighter pilot scenes, and wished there would’ve been more of them, or at least more detail. I also wished more time could’ve been spent on her friends (who eventually serve as her fairy godmother) so that we had more of an idea of why they helped her out, as well as more interaction with Ri, as the romance was pretty light (and the only thing close to sexual contact was a kiss). I did love that while Ri lends a helping hand to El, it’s her hard work and tenacity that saves her, not him.
Overall, this was a quick and enjoyable read, though I do wish that more of the fairy tale would’ve been updated, and I’ll definitely be checking out the other Rove City retellings.