Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Most know her as the Bloody Baroness, the captain of a fearsome glass starship called The Marauder. Androma and her crew strike terror in the hearts of those who cross them amongst the many corners of the Mirabel Galaxy.

When a routine mission goes rogue, the all-female crew is captured by a bounty hunter from Andi’s past and forced into a job that could, quite literally, start a war that will devour worlds.

Meanwhile, on the far side of the galaxy, the ruthless ruler Nor waits in the shadows of the planet Xen Ptera, biding her time. The final pieces are about to fall into place, liberating a plan that will tear Mirabel in two.

As the Marauder hurtles toward the unknown, there is one lesson that proves to be true: No one can be trusted in a galaxy that runs on lies and illusion.

From internet sensation Sasha Alsberg and multi-genre author Lindsay Cummings comes a new serialized space opera, full of action, intrigue, and steamy star-crossed romance.

ZENITH: THE ANDROMA SAGA will be released in small sections at a time.

Rating: 1,5/stars

"She remembered every inch of the white angular markings twisting their way across his honeyed skin,"

Nothing like a bit of racism to start the day!

I’m a huge fan of Sci-Fi, and especially when it’s combined with YA, however I have had bad luck when it comes to this genre lately which had kept me away from looking at books like Zenith. However, the cover was pretty and the description sounded great! A bloody Baroness of space, missions, war and romance? Plus It wasn’t a super long book that could keep me hooked while I had work to do (again, college is to blame, damn you). So I decided to reward myself a little and bought it, and… well, it wasn’t as satisfactory as I would have hoped.

Andomera, or Andi, is a runaway and outlaw. Plagued by nightmares of the first person she killed keeps her awake at night, and it was during one of those nights that she discovered her and her crew had ships following them. Someone from her past was chasing her, and with an unlikely offer that could set her free, or end up killing her.

Before I started the book I had no idea that it was a collaboration between a booktuber (Sasha Alsberg from abookutopia) and an author (Lindsay Cummins from “The Murder Complex” series). I don’t follow Booktube but I thought the idea of a reviewer and author coming together to write a book was pretty cool nonetheless. Although I wasn’t a super fan of Zenith.

First, I was disappointed with the length. Yes, the description said 62 pages and I was fine with that because I had college and homework to do, so I wasn’t looking for a long read, however when I bought it my Epub said 56 pges, not 62 (I don’t know if this happened to anybody else?) and taking away the cover, acknowledgment section and all of that I was left with 46 pages. Now, I wouldn’t normally be discouraged by this, but hardly anything happens in this novel! We get a simple introduction, an action scene and the beginning of the plot. There are short stories that end on a cliff-hanger that make you rage because you want to know MORE, with Zenith you end up frustrated because you know virtually NOTHING.

The plot:

Zenith was, in many ways, incredibly similar to Throne of Glass:

-Gorgeous criminal girl with white-blond hair and eyes of a “unusual” color.
-Is running away from her past.
-Ran away from her master.
-Is offered a job by the King in exchange for her freedom.
-Killed the King’s child and is punished for it (this is more along the lines of Poison Study but Throne of Glass is similar to that).
The similarities were there, but I still enjoyed what little story I saw and the relationship between Andi and Dex.

The writing:

I found it to be a bit repetitive and unpolished. What surprised me was that, Lindsay Cummings is a published author so she already has experience unlike Sasha, and yet the entire book was plagued by inconsistencies and awkward sentences. I know that this is the first book written by Sasha, but the mistakes that were here could have easily been avoided if an editor/beta reader had gone through the book and picked out those things for them.

Breck shrugged. ‘Any money is good money, if it brings us more food stores.’
‘And ammo,’ Gilly said, cracking her knuckles like the soldier she was.
Andi inclined her head at Lira.
‘We will see where the stars lead us,’ Lira answered.
Andi nodded.”

Imagine this, but in all 46 pages. This is the sort of dialogue you write during your first draft, full of repetitions and inconsequential actions, not the one you put on a published novel.
I found the level quite poor, and didn’t help in making me engaged with the narration or enjoy it more.

World building:

“After years of work, the Arcadian fleet had finally been rebuilt following the war against Xen Ptera.”

The story happens in space and there are several different species and worlds all living in relative harmony… at least, that’s what I think? Because I mean, it was never explained.

The story showed aliens, such as Lira, who have blue skin, and I think there was another one (Dex?) who had green blood? Oh, and that war is mentioned, but not what happened, who started it or why, who were involved… nothing, yet this apparently will be one of the major plots of the book?
Hardly anything in the story was ever explained. You could see that the writers had thought things through and created a world (at least I… hope so? They wouldn’t just be making words and names up as they go right?) but when it came to explain that to the readers, the writing failed.
If this is the introduction to your story, and it has new worlds, social system, races species and all that Jazz coexisting together and being an active part of your narration, you need to explain to your reader how it works. We can’t just figure things out on our own.

“Do we know who they are? Black Market, Olenian, Mirabel Patrol?”

NO, WE DON’T! Because it’s never explained what these names mean or why the reader should know/care about them. At this point it would be good to add something like “If it were Black Market, the Marauder could easily escape them. Their ships were slower, and Andi had experience dodging their maneuvers from the times she had had to escape from nasty costumers. Olenian wouldn’t be a problem either, but Mirabel were. Their ships were newer and faster, and if the authorities had finally gotten to her, they were in big trouble.”

I just made that stuff up, but that’s because nothing of it was explained in the novel! You had new names and expressions being thrown at you with no clue of what they were.

“Marauder and her crew could lose a tail as fast as a Xen Pterran Darowak could fly.”

I’m guessing her ship is fast then? Since I have no idea what a Xen Pterran Darowak even is.

“Andi grimaced as Lira removed a black hunk of Moon Chew and popped it into her mouth.
‘That stuff can kill you, you know.’”

Why? What is that?? What does it do???

The entire book was like that. You’ll see strange names or have hints at past stories and memories but no further explanation. I get that they wouldn’t want to explain all in one go, otherwise the info-dump would get too boring, but you’ve got to explain something and in Zenith there were moments where the reader got too much information in one go, yet we still knew nothing about the story.


“So close she could see the pores in his caramel skin, the deep brown of his eyes, and the raised scar that rested near his temple.”

In case the beginning of this review didn’t clue you in, diversity and representation in Zenith is thoroughly lacking. Not just that, it’s offensive.

I know that there are many people who love Sasha and her book, but I for one cannot understand how a reviewer who has been doing this for so long (I take it it’s been years?) could write a story with this. Doesn’t she care that describing skin as food is horribly fetishizing? Same goes for Cummings.
Whenever authors do that I would like to ask them what was going on through their minds that, when it came to describing the ONLY character of color (so far) in the story, they thought that saying his skin was like honey/caramel was the best freaking idea.

In the end, Zenith had some fun and interesting aspects readers can enjoy, but the lack of explanation regarding the world building, diversity issues and writing made of Zenith a less than stellar debut for me, but still fun to read.

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