Review: Off Balance – Aileen Erin

Review: Off Balance – Aileen ErinOff Balance
by Aileen Erin
Series: Aunare Chronicles #2
Also in this series: Off Planet, In Command, On Mission
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Pages: 516
Source: Library

My rating: One StarOne StarOne Star

Broken, beaten-down, and plagued by nightmares, Amihanna di Aetes is surrounded by the Aunare race that makes up the other half of her heritage, but she feels alien amongst them. She’s not sure which is worse: SpaceTech’s overt hatred of Aunare or the Aunare’s covert hatred of halfers. She hears their whispers whenever she enters a room and sees her death reflected in their eyes. Amihanna doesn’t know who to trust anymore, but she hasn’t survived this long by ignoring the warning signs all around her, especially when her instincts are screaming that a familiar choice is coming: flee or fight.

Her parents assure her everything is okay—that there won’t be any reason for her to fight, let alone flee—but with Amihanna’s sudden return, questions arise among the Aunare: who should be blamed for the start of a full-scale war with SpaceTech, how much danger will the war bring, and is Amihanna truly fit to be the next high queen?

Honestly, Amihanna wants to forget all the politics, her betrothal to Lorne, and the possibility of being queen. Her needs are much more basic. All she wants is a solid night’s sleep where she doesn’t wake up screaming with the phantom pain of her skin burning. All she needs is to live without fear of a mob tearing her away from her family. All she hopes for is a chance to dream of a future instead of constantly fighting for her right to live.

And yet, somehow, everything she does leads her back to Lorne. He always seems to know when she’s about to break under the pressures of her new life. His quiet patience is wearing Amihanna’s protective walls down, and she’s terrified of what will happen if they fall.

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3 stars icon aliens m/f romance icon scifi icon young adult

Content notes: View Spoiler »

“Off balance” is definitely an apt description of how Amihanna is feeling as she’s trying to adjust to life on Sel’Ani. This book picks up directly where Off Planet left off, so this review will contain spoilers for that book.

Amihanna is safely on Sel’Ani, but that doesn’t mean things are getting any easier for her. The trauma of the past few months is catching up with her and she’s not quite sure what’s expected of her as Lorne’s betrothed. Amihanna’s more used to staying unnoticed in order to survive, so the intense attention is unnerving and new – though the hate directed at her isn’t. There’s a sizable portion of the Aunare population that doesn’t want a halfer queen and view her as nothing more than a warmongering alien. Amihanna isn’t sure what’s worse – dealing with the inevitable build-up to a war with SpaceTech, or trying to figure out her feelings for Lorne.

“I was lying to everyone. I told them that I was fine, and I thought that if I kept pushing forward, then eventually, I’d get to a place where maybe that would become true. But it wasn’t true yet.”

Unlike the first book, this one is from both Amihanna and Lorne’s POVs, which didn’t work as well for me. There’s no arguing now that Amihanna firmly falls under “super special magical girl!!” trope. While a lot of the book is more focused on her emotional state, there’s some pretty spectacular fight scenes that were even better than the first book. And it’s true that she’s super fast and has amazing secret powers and everything, but in her heart she’s still the kid who grew up poor and hunted. Her struggles with finding her place, though, are what keep drawing me back to the book. She simultaneously wants to be treated with respect but doesn’t want to do anything to earn that respect (because, you know, she’s still recovering from massive trauma) and it’s a bit childish, but I felt deeply for her.

“I thought I would know what to do for her and how to help her. I truly thought our relationship would be easy and natural once she was here, but I was wrong.
The only thing I knew was that I loved her.”

Lorne’s POV was interesting as it included more on the Aunare politics and as an outsider’s view of what Amihanna was going through. Unfortunately, most of it was him mooning over Amihanna. It was a bit ridiculous and a case in point for why I don’t care for insta-love. For one thing, Lorne is obsessed with her marrying him. Obsessed. He’s trying to give her space (because trauma? remember that trauma?) but that just means Declan swoops in and hounds her about going back to earth to fight, when anyone with half a brain should realize pressuring Amihanna is not going to get you anywhere. If you’ve read Sarah J. Maas, you know how she turns a love interest in one book into a complete jerk in a later book? Yeah, Declan goes from being somewhat understandably careful about keeping Amihanna safe (and failing) in the first book to a complete and utter jerk in this book.

“Please try to remember that the past isn’t important. You can’t change it, and you’re in a good spot now. You’re alive, safe, and free. Focus on the present.”

The plot takes more of a backstage to the romance between Lorne and Amihanna. There is a lot more explanation on why Amihanna and her mother were left on Earth during Liberation Week, and why the Aunare up to that point have done nothing to stop the wholesale slaughter of their citizens. The political aspects – how awful his father was – was completely over the top. The secondary characters, besides Roan, weren’t as interesting, either. Honestly, I wanted less Lorne and a lot more of her working on her relationships with her parents. She’s got a father who she doesn’t remember who only seems capable of criticizing her and a mother who’s seemingly slide back into her old life effortlessly. Instead, she’s stuck on her feelings for Lorne.

Besides the insta-love, the decade-plus age gap between Lorne and Amihanna was a bit unsettling for me. It was weird that he’d basically known her since she was a baby and they’d been betrothed nearly as long based on their fao’ana. When Aunare feel strong emotions, their skin glows, and glyphs called fao’ana appear. The fao’ana on a person’s arms details their strengths, while those on their backs show possible life outcomes. It’s not an exact reading of their future, but rather what may happen based on their decisions. The matching ones on Lorne’s and Amihanna’s backs had the possibility that they’d be lovers, but they also could’ve just been close friends who work together to save the Aunare.  What Lorne felt for her as a child was just close friendship, but as soon as he sees her in person again, it’s insta-love. And the same is pretty much true for Amihanna, though she doesn’t recognize it immediately – or more like she refuses to recognize it. I’m not a big fan of insta-love, if you couldn’t tell, so I found their relationship a bit too sweet and overencompassing for my liking.

Overall, I’m hopeful we can move on on the next book to the actual, you know, galaxy spanning war.


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