Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre
Published by: Katherine Tegen
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell.
Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers.
Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.
The best word I can think of to describe this book is: forgettable.
I came very close to DNF’ing this, but I didn’t and I should probably get that out of the way first: I liked Nadim, the sentient ship. I liked the premise of a sentient ship, I liked the mystery, I liked the aliens, and I wanted this book to be good. But unfortunately, it really wasn’t.
First of all, the book opens by reminding us over and over that Zara is an Angry Girl with a Past and a Criminal History, jumps right into an action scene that was mostly just confusing and ends with Zara having to go on the run. I think that was meant to be sad, but since we had only just met her and her supposed boyfriend, I felt nothing beyond confusion. And then we spend even longer with her in a rehab centre of some kind, which she somehow manages to get herself taken to in order to escape the mobster who is after her. Yeah, I know–it’s already all over the place.
Now I am going to take a moment to mention that Zara is black. This would normally just have me very glad that she is a WOC in a scifi novel, but unfortunately she was written rather badly. First of all, we get reminded that she’s black at every moment, which was just kind of annoying, writing-wise. Second, she lives in (a) “the bad part” of New Detroit, (b) has a criminal past and present, (c) is in and out of rehab, and (d) has a terrible relationship with her abusive father. If the authors weren’t white it might not have bothered me so much, but come on. This was such a stereotype.
When Zara finally gets to space, to live in the sentient spaceship Nadim, we finally meet her co-pilot, Beatriz. Now this is when I was very close to DNF-ing and what made me keep going despite all the flaws: Beatriz, it turns out, is Brazilian. I think I was just excited that there was a Brazilian person in an American YA book (which I’ve never seen ever–I’ve seen it more in manga) that I just had to keep going. But then Beatriz is written pretty stereotypically as well–sure, she has anxiety which was an interesting characteristic to add, but she’s also from Rio (which is apparently where every fictional Brazilian is from) and at one point, she eats feijoada (which is apparently the only food fictional Brazilians eat, even though IRL you need rice and a few other dishes to go with it, you don’t just eat plain feijoada. It’s like eating the tomato sauce without the pasta).
Anyway, the mystery also kept me interested. There were a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of things that hinted at a much larger world than we are given in the first half of the book, but of course we don’t get most of those answers in the first book–although we get enough of them to satisfy me, since I will not be picking up the next books.
Now, the next thing–there was a lot of weird sexual tension between Zara and Nadim. I remind you here that Nadim is the sentient ship…that Zara lives inside of. This kind of weird crap would be less weird to me if this wasn’t a commercial YA book and was maybe a more literary sci-fi novel or short story that I was reading for class, but it just did not fly in this context. It was weird. Plain and simple. I loved that they were all friends and had a deep weird alien connection but please stop getting gross and masturbate-y with the ship you live inside of.
So yeah, 1.5 stars. I didn’t drop it even though I should have since it had some merits, and at least it had representation unlike some books (*cough* Zenith *cough*). But if you’re into weird alien stuff, please look up the Lilith’s Brood series by Octavia Butler! A WOC writing about WOC and also strange alien relationships. It really seems like they were trying to channel Butler with this and turn it into YA, but failed rather hard.
Have you read this? Any thoughts?
Let me know!