Review: Chaos Reigning – Jessie Mihalik

Review: Chaos Reigning – Jessie MihalikChaos Reigning
by Jessie Mihalik
Series: Consortium Rebellion #3
Also in this series: Polaris Rising, Aurora Blazing
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Edelweiss

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: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Interplanetary intrigue and romance combine in this electrifying finale to the Consortium Rebellion series.

As the youngest member of her High House, Catarina von Hasenberg is used to being underestimated, but her youth and flighty, bubbly personality mask a clever mind and stubborn determination. Her enemies, blind to her true strength, do not suspect that Cat is a spy—which makes her the perfect candidate to go undercover at a rival House’s summer retreat to gather intelligence on their recent treachery.

Cat’s overprotective older sister reluctantly agrees, but on one condition: Cat cannot go alone. Alexander Sterling, a quiet, gorgeous bodyguard, will accompany her, posing as her lover. After Cat tries, and fails, to ditch Alex, she grudgingly agrees, confident in her ability to manage him. After all, she’s never found a person she can’t manipulate.

But Alex proves more difficult—and more desirable—than Cat anticipated. When she’s attacked and nearly killed, she and Alex are forced to work together to figure out how deep the treason goes. With rumors of widespread assaults on Serenity raging, communications down, and the rest of her family trapped off-planet, Catarina must persuade Alex to return to Earth to expose the truth and finish this deadly battle once and for all.

But Cat can’t explain why she’s the perfect person to infiltrate hostile territory without revealing secrets she’d rather keep buried. . . .

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I’ve been a huge fan of Jessie Mihalik ever since Ilona Andrews posted about her first serial novella, and I was hooked. I’ve been absolutely blown away by each of the Consortium Rebellion books, from their gorgeous covers to their heroines to their tropes, and I’m honestly sad that this is last book in the series.

“I wished I had Ada’s confidence or Bianca’s intelligence. I would even take Benedict’s boisterous arrogance.
But all I had was me.
It wasn’t enough, but I was still a von Hasenberg—I wouldn’t go down without a fight.”

After I read Polaris Rising, I thought I couldn’t love another heroine more than Ada. Then along came Bianca in Aurora Blazing and stole my heart. And now (can you see where this is going?), we’ve got Cat in Chaos Reigning and, honestly, I would stab people with a rusty spoon for her. It also doesn’t hurt that the tropes are fantastic – a bodyguard and a space princess have to pretend to be in a relationship at a house party (where, naturally, there’s only one bed) in order to figure out how badly the hosts have betrayed them.

“Did you volunteer or were you the most expendable?” she asked quietly.
I laughed. “I volunteered because I’m the most expendable.”

All the von Hasenberg sisters know that dresses and makeup are just another form of armor, but Cat has elevated it to an art form. As the youngest of the siblings, she’s treated like a child, there to be protected and coddled and not really trusted with anything important – unless it involves shopping or social calls. For reasons of her own, Cat has carefully cultivated her image as a ditzy socialite, but it hurts that not even her own family seems able to see past it – and makes her question her own abilities. The house party/spy mission is the first big thing her family has trusted her with, and even then, Bianca insists on sending special bodyguards with her. Readers will be familiar with Alex from Bianca’s book and know exactly why she’s insisting he and his partner Aoife go with Cat – hello, super soldiers! – but for Cat, it’s just more evidence that her siblings don’t think she’s capable of handling what should be a simple mission. Cat’s doubts – that she’s the least of her siblings, that they all have their particular skills and strengths while she has none, that they think she’s useless – are, I think, infinitely relatable to a lot of people, and watching her realize exactly what she’s capable of, with Alex’s help, was extremely satisfying.

“You can hide all you want, but I’ve seen you, and you’re amazing.”
Trust Alex to drop perhaps the single nicest thing anyone had ever said about me into our conversation like it was no big deal.”

Alex definitely plays second fiddle to Cat, and with everything else going on in the book (so. much. action.) his character development takes a back seat. I never really got a good sense of him as a person except for how he reacts around Cat and Aoife, and he doesn’t even get as much of a back story as Ian did in Aurora Blazing. Overall, the romantic plot was definitely secondary to everything else going on, especially in how it intersects with Cat’s internal struggle with her own worth. It does feel like the series has moved from scifi romance to scifi with strong romantic element as the series progressed. In terms of their relationship, the big hurdle is that Alex is there because Bianca hired him to look after Cat, and she believes any kindness is obviously not because of how he feels about her as a person but because he’s good at his job. What we do see, however, is that, after a few initial hiccups, he never underestimates Cat’s ability to get things done and he constantly supports her. So while he’s certainly good on paper, I wasn’t blown away by their romance.

“Taking risks is what I do. It’s what I was designed for.”
“No, it’s what you decided on. And you can decide on something different.”

What did have me on the edge of my seat was the action. All of the books have been action-packed, but this one really ups the stakes. It’s hard to discuss how this book goes from 0-60 without going into spoilers, but the first section is all the high society house party shenanigans you could expect (racing! sneaking around at night!) which then leads directly into an almost frenetically paced end of the book. While the first part is slower action-wise, it’s chockfull of character development for Cat and Alex, and it provides the necessary tension for the rest of the book. It also helps highlight the spectacular worldbuilding that I’ve loved throughout the series.

“You’re my sister; I’d love you even if you sprouted horns and a tail.”

One of the other things that I’ve really loved about the series is the strong bond the von Hasenberg siblings have with each other. They always have each others’ backs against the world and, more importantly, their own parents. Yet despite that, they’ve still been affected by their upbringing and each is keeping secrets from the others, whether it’s Ferdinand’s relationship with the daughter of a rival house or Bianca’s ability or Cat’s…. well, I’m not gonna spoil it! The secrecy is finally addressed in this book, and honestly, one of the scenes made me a little teary. I also loved Cat’s friendship with Ying, one of the heirs for House Yamado. One of Cat’s strengths is her ability to make friends and allies for her house, and I think that friendship perfectly expressed it.

Overall, this was an immensely action-packed and satisfying end to the series, though I definitely hope the author will revisit it one day as there’s still unattached von Hasenberg siblings left!

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