By Cynthia Ayala
Stripped of her titles, disgraced, Rho is ready to set her sights on working quietly at the Cancrian refugee camp on House Capricorn. Unfortunately, Ochus has other plans for her. Ochus gives her insight into the Marad, a terrorist group of unbalanced persons, those constantly shifting between houses, and their plans. Now Rho must decide whether to trust the man who destroyed her home and name, of face a threat much larger than Ochus.
A riveting continuation to the Zodiac series that continues to explore the individuality and unity brought on by the cosmos that make the Zodiac. Russell continues to tap into the human nature of individuality and unity at the same time with her story telling and the way it functions in the world that she had built here. It’s almost funny how the conformity of the 12 societies based on the zodiac also function to bring out individuality. But is individuality progressive when it’s based on a conformed based on society? It’s a question Russell subtly asks as she challenges the characters, their ideals, and the society they all live in. Rho is so trapped in her culture that she can’t see beyond it. Now that doesn’t make her a bad character, in fact, it makes her more relatable, more human. She loves with all her heart, but her heart is torn, and it makes her so much more interesting, and it’s what differentiates her and her predicament from the clichéd trope of a love triangle. It makes her more engaging on behalf of the reader.
What’s more is the fact that as a character, through all her trials she has grown. She had felt defeat and has wallowed in it, finding solace in what she can, but when push comes to shove, she rises to the challenge, even through heartbreaking moments. It’s such a joy to follow her, to feel for her. Rho is an amazingly structured character, and the characters around her balance her out very well. Each character challenges her making the tension within the characters more powerful. They stand by her, but the challenge her by making her question her heart and her head, like real friends do.
As a thoughtful and more humanistic approach to science fiction, Russell worked out to make the characters very engaging, and together, the premise and evolution of the premise, also works to make the story more engaging. The evolution of the society is somewhat questionable thought. There needs to be a little more explanation on the evolution of these characters because the shifting, the science and evolution of it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s unique and interesting to read, but compared to everything else that comes off as more believable, it definitely stands out and doesn’t quite fit. (★★★★☆ | A)