by Grace Goodwin
Series: Starfighter Training Academy #1
Also in this series: Elite Starfighter
Publication Date: April 22, 2021
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
Starfighter Training Academy. It was just a game. The newest, hottest video game release of the year. Choose a role. Build the perfect hero who joins you on missions to save the Vega star system from the evil Queen Raya and her merciless Dark Fleet.
Play for hours? Check.
Obsess over the in-game romance between your avatar and the sexiest alien you've ever seen? Check.
Win? Beat the heck out of the game? Check and check.
Open your door at 3:00 in the morning to find that smoking hot alien you thought you made up in your head standing there? Um... okay.
Wake up on the other side of the galaxy with that same alien insisting you're his... and that you haven't been playing a video game, but completed the training program to become the first Starfighter from Earth?
Content notes: View Spoiler »
My love of scifi romance is well established, so it’s no surprise that my friend picked up something with the most ridiculous premise they could find (“It’s like Ender’s Game but not as genocide-y!”) as a pick-me-up. And while I can’t honestly say it’s a great book, it’s definitely served its purpose for cheering me up.
“To you, it was a game. To Velerion, a tool to identify and recruit the best Starfighters we can find.”
If the only thing Jamie has going for her is looking forward to playing Starfighter Training Academy, well, that’s at least something. Though now that she’s close to beating the game, she’s a bit sad to be leaving behind her custom-created video game sidekick, Alexius, and having to start over. That is, until she wins and the real Alexius shows up on her doorstep, insisting that she’s his bondmate and that she needs to go back with him to Velerion.
And as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, Alexius has problems more pressing than his new bondmate. Just over a year ago, someone leaked info to the evil Dark Fleet that led to the destruction of nearly all of the Velerion fighting forces, including Alexius’s brother. Left with no choice, the Velerions developed the training academy and launched it on several worlds, including Earth. Jamie is the first (hopefully of many) to graduate, and while he regrets being pulled from his top secret mission pretending to be a double agent in the Dark Fleet, he’s eager to finally meet the woman whose training missions he’s watched.
“There have to be better places to get fighters. I mean, seriously, look at me! I am not a soldier. I’m overweight, I’ve never held a gun, I deliver boxes for a living, and I’ve never even been to another country, let alone the other side of the galaxy.”
Look, this book is ridiculous on several levels, but the thought of a romance loosely based on The Last Starfighter absolutely tickles me. I mean, who wouldn’t want to pretend that all my hours spent playing split-screen Halo were actually, um, useful? Jamie’s a fun heroine, if a bit prone to putting herself down, but I loved how her confidence was rock solid once she was in her starfighter. Even all the other aliens are bowled over by how good of a fighter pilot she is, which is, ok, yes, ridiculous, but I got a kick out of it. Alexius doesn’t have much characterization beyond his insta-lust for Jamie (something that she also has an issue with) and his need to be all alpha protective of her, so that was a bit of a bummer. As for their relationship? It’s completely insta-lust on both sides, complete with getting derailed by inappropriate thoughts and boners at really inconvenient times. Oh, going to go blow up an enemy station? Cool, cool, gonna think about how hot my bondmate is instead of concentrating on my actual job. There’s a tiny bit of relationship development, courtesy of Alexius’s spy work, but for the most part, it goes straight from insta-lust to insta-love. The plot’s also… thin… to say it kindly. Why does Queen Raya want to conquer Velerion? Who knows? But she dresses like a Disney villain (there heroine literally says that), so she must be evil! Look, Dark Fleet=bad, Velerion=good, got it, I just want to read more about Jamie blowing stuff.
There’s some attempt to be non-heteronormative, as there’s mentions of being able to pick male, female or nonbinary partners, and the only other Elite Starfighter pair in the book are two men, which I suppose is better than most fated mates/insta-love type stories, though still a bit lacking. There’s also attempts to address the inherent consent issues with unknown military recruiting via video game (yes, Alexius had a chance to turn down the pairing; yes, Jamie had to agree to go to Velerion with him; no, Jamie didn’t agree to getting alien tech injected into her neck, what the heck, dude).
Overall, this is a quick and fun read, if you can overlook the lack of anything substantial in the relationship development or plot.