Blending sexually charged romance with action, space travel, fashion and politics, ‘Polaris Rising’ is focused on the audience at the centre of a very specific Venn-diagram. While one of the interesting things about writing reviews for this site is being exposed to books that I wouldn’t normally read, I’m pretty certain that I’m not the audience this book is aimed at.
Our narrator, Ada von Hasenberg, is on the run from her noble family (giving the book some of the good bits from ‘Dune’, only with more focus on who’s wearing what) and is forced to team-up with hunky space-criminal Marcus Locke. They have adventures, arguments and lots of sex, all while a background war threatens to become interesting.
I assume this book is aimed at women looking for a Science Fiction themed romance, because you’ll be reading about spaceship design or galactic politics and suddenly it’s all rippling muscles, great abs and manly men with devastating stares. This doesn’t make the book inherently good or bad, it just means that its laser focused on a specific audience and, while this may not be for me, I applaud the author for presumably delivering exactly what her readers want.
However, I do have two criticisms. First, while I wouldn’t normally talk about a book’s cover, I was surprised at how much ‘Polaris Rising’s presentation seems to be wilfully trying to lose it sales. Admittedly, I’m not a book publisher, but I can’t see how the bland title ‘Polaris Rising’, which beyond a ship’s name doesn’t really mean anything, unless Polaris is also what Marcus calls his penis or the cover image of a woman in a laser-tag vest holding a toy gun are going to help its chances.
But that’s the publisher’s fault. Something I can level at the author is that even for a story focused on will-they-won’t-they, the plot gets pretty repetitive. One of the characters gets captured and the other frees them. They land on a planet and the other character gets captured and needs to be freed.
Then they visit an enemy facility and the first character gets captured again so the other frees them again. Finally, the climax of the book is one of them getting captured and the other freeing them. I’m not joking or exaggerating, with the second and final book in this series, author Jessie Mihalik desperately needs to use a more varied plot.
Despite all this, I found myself enjoying ‘Polaris Rising’. The characters are likeable and the prose is extremely fast-flowing, making it as smooth as Locke’s oiled torso to read. It also helps that Ada is a smart, capable character who it’s easy to root for. However, if you don’t want any of the romance/sex then you may find that the science and politics are skimmed over too lightly to be satisfying. Every faction and situation is very much about keeping the two main characters apart and I never found the stakes to be as dramatic as they were perhaps intended.
Basically, you have to decide if you’re looking for a book where all the men are huge, gorgeous hunks of space-beef and the women equally as beautiful, with imperious looks that get them anything they want with a raised eyebrow. It’s light, sexy, extremely readable fun. Go into it with the right mindset and you’ll love it.
(pub: Harper Voyager-USA, 2019. 432 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $16.99 (US), $21.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-06-280238-5)