by Grace Goodwin
Series: Starfighter Training Academy #2
Also in this series: The First Starfighter, Elite Starfighter
Publication Date: June 11, 2021
I'm obsessed with the game.
I spend so many hours playing that I dream about dangerous missions on other worlds...and my gorgeous, in-game training partner, Kassius. That is, until I win. I beat the Starfighter Training Academy.
But is it a game? Or alien software designed to recruit new, unsuspecting soldiers for a war in another star system? Because when my hot as heck alien shows up at my workplace demanding I leave Earth and travel to the Vega system? What? When he informs me it's my duty to fight Queen Raya and the Dark Fleet? Claims he wants me as much as I've craved him? Let's just say things get crazy.
Facing the truth is never easy, but when I arrive at the Elite Starfighter base I learn that Kassius cheated the system, hacked into the game, and lied to everyone on two worlds to make me his.
Now who's obsessed?
Yes, I read another one of these books. Look, I’m just saying, if Garrus Vakarian knocked on my door and said he desperately needed my help to go fight the Reapers? I’d consider it! After listening to me summarize the entire plot of the last book in like two sentences, my friend picked up this one for me as well after she stopped laughing. And yes, it’s more of the same, though with hackers instead of fighter pilots. This book picks up directly after the events of the first, so they should be read in order.
Ever since her friend Jamie disappeared a few weeks ago after finishing the Starfighter Training Academy game, Mia’s been trying (and failing) to find her. And that’s saying something, considering her day job is working in cyberintelligence for a government agency in Germany. But when she finishes the game and an alien that looks exactly like her in-game partner shows up, claiming it’s time to go fight some bad guys with her friend Jamie, well, what can she do but go with him? Kassius, a former shuttle pilot and now Mia’s bondpartner, isn’t quite telling her everything. He was so sure he was underutilized in his old job that he hacked into the Starfighter Training program to submit his name as a possible match, as his commanding officer refused to approve him. That captain, however, refuses to let it go, even threatening to break up their partnership. With new threats from the enemy and within their own ranks, it will take all of Mia and Kassius’s skills to stay together – and alive.
“Believing aliens were real was no stretch for me. Accepting that Kassius had traveled here from another solar system to find me? Me? Well, that was the crazy bit.”
Unlike Jamie and Alex, Mia’s a Mission Control Specialist – basically, a hacker. And also unlike Jamie, she and Kassius are the only MCS pair the Velerions have, which means they’re desperately needed to find the source of the interplanetary bombs from the last book. Despite completing the game, Mia’s worried about her qualifications. At her previous job, bad information she got from an informant led to the deaths of two agents, and she’s afraid of making the same mistakes again. After all, now she’s got a whole planet relying on her. Mia’s pretty quick on her feet, though, and her confidence grows with each successful mission. Plus, she’s smart enough, at least, to text their remaining friend on Earth, Lily, to let her know the game is real and that her alien partner will be coming to pick her up once she beats it. But Kassius’s past actions catch up to them before long and throw Mia for a loop. Is her judgement as bad as she feared?
“I’d been with her on mission after mission, watched as she’d failed. As she’d succeeded. Learned. Grew. Because she’d done all that, I’d been able to enhance my flying skills, tie in my own computer abilities to hers. Every simulation and training session we each completed had to relived and completed by the other.”
Kassius describes himself as arrogant, defiant and disobedient, and I’m certainly not going to argue with him. In his defense, he does ‘fess up to having hacked himself into the program pretty much immediately, which is honestly something Mia admires. Other than that – and the insta-lust – he’s pretty much a one-note character, like the hero of the last book. There isn’t much more to the plot, either. What do the bad guys want? Why are they trying to blow up planets with bombs? Nobody knows. And also much like the last book, there’s another traitor in the ranks who they have to ferret out. The characters literally wonder out loud why that person turned traitor, and Mia’s brilliant answer? “Sometimes people don’t make sense.” Girl, sometimes the whole dang plot doesn’t make sense.
The consent is better in some ways in this book, though when Mia and Kassius first meet, she asks him to stop touching her and he doesn’t. (Also, bonking in a work conference room? Ew.) He does explain the whole cipher implant injection before randomly knocking her out, so point for him over Alexius in that, at least. There’s also a lot more emphasis on how they’ve technically known each other for months. While the training missions weren’t in real time, they were recorded, with Kassius having to replay his role after Mia had already won. It still feels a bit weird as Mia didn’t know he was a real person.
So while this book is utterly ridiculous, I still got a humongous kick out of it, and I’ll definitely be reading the next one.