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Thursday, February 25, 2016

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: Beyond the Red
Release date:  March 1st, 2016
Author: Ava Jae
Sky Pony Press

About the book:

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

My thoughts:

3.5 "Aliens and sexy half-bloods" STARS

ARC via Edelweiss

THANK YOU, Sky Pony Press!

Ava Jae's debut took us to a sandy new planet inhabited by humanoid aliens -- the Sepharon, and I have to say it was a fun ride.

Told from dual POV, this was the story of Eros and Kora, but while Kora was a Sepharon Queen, Eros was a nobody.

We're first introduced to Eros, a half-blood (a human female & alien male did the nasty and had a baby) who escaped death right after he was born (a destiny reserved to all half-bloods), and was raised by a nice human family. 

In Ava Jae's vivid world, humans are treated just like Hollywood taught us aliens would if they ever came to Earth: a threat that needs to be exterminated. That means humans are either slaves or walking around the desert setting camps and living off little to nothing -- until the aliens find them and kill them all. Not so nice when the the roles are reversed, huh?

As far as Eros is concerned, since he's half-blood, he's forced to live this life while enduring the hatred of the humans around him, who basically believe him to be a freak who doesn't deserve to live. I guess the aliens and human have that in common. 

Anyway, after the aliens kill Eros family, he's taken by the Queen, Kora to her castle to work as a slave. Shit hits the fan, he gets into trouble because everyone basically wants him dead, except Kora, so he's assigned to work as her private slave.

In reality, Kora decides to have Eros close to her because her twin brother wants the throne at all costs, and she believes he'll stop at nothing to take her place. She's right. Dude is totally nuts. So a trained soldier like Eros - he was trained by the human "army" - sounds like the right choice to protect her from her crazy brother.

This allows Eros and Kora to form a bond, and I'm all for that. Romance in sight? Count me in.

But... The moment Eros and Kora start working together I start having a problem with the story.

See.... Kora is the Queen and she knows her brother is dying to take the throne. What does she do to make sure that doesn't happen besides making Eros her personal assistant (a.k.a her personal slave, because he's still her slave)?


Does she become a more active leader? Not really. Eros describes her daily routine and what does she do? Sit around and read books. Dude?!? Why?!? Go do something queen-like. To be fair, she does visit town once (disguised as a commoner) and goes on about implementing changes because the place isn't doing so well (go figure), but we don't really get to see those changes. So I was a little disappointed.

Her brother is a snake and she knows that, but she doesn't act smart around him. She lets him in on a secret involving Eros when she clearly shouldn't. She doesn't take precautions to make sure he doesn't get more power than he already has. She sure doesn't see the signs that he's up to something when he's practically laughing in her face, and when people point out what he did, she still doubts them. Don't get me wrong. I have a brother and I love him, so it'd be devastating if he betrayed me. But she already knew her brother wanted to be king before she was even crowned queen, so it sounds absurdly naive of her not to be extra careful around him. 

So maybe my problem was Kora?

I did like Eros. He was a good, strong character. He was sexy. *fans self* And I wanted to love the romance -- the book is heavy on that front, but I didn't feel the chemistry outside of the kissing scenes. When they were going at it, it was hot. *fans self again* But I wanted to feel more when they were talking or just looking at each other, something they did often.

It didn't really help things when we were introduced to another likable character who was also interested in Kora -- a character that was nerdy, good-hearted and wanted to make the world a better place. So... Yeah... How can you be 100% team Kora-Eros after that?

Even though I have a few complaints, this was a fun read. After all, I finished it in one sitting. The writing is  good (though not sure why she chose to add words like "mo", "kinduv" and etc -- didn't make sense to me) and the world building was excellent (something that helped take the "sci-finess" to another level). A good debut that leaves the story wide open for a sequel.

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