Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Polaris Rising, by Jessie Mihalik

Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062802385, February 2019

It's the far future, and the Royal Consortium rules the universe. Okay, that's a bit over the top even for space opera, but bear with me. The three High Councilors, the heads of the Houses of von Hasenberg, Rockhurst, and Yamado are the ultimate powers. Ada von Hasenberg, as the fifth of six children of High Councilor Albrecht von Hasenberg, has no authority, and no real value except to be married for the advantage of her house.

Unfortunately for Albrecht, he raised his children to be smart, tough, resourceful, and strong, Ada has refused to marry Richard Rockhurst, and made careful, effective plans before leaving before Richard even officially proposed, and has been on the run under a variety of false names for two years.

When she finally gets captured by a mercenary determined to collect the bounty on her, she doesn't stop plotting. And when the mercs stash her in their only cell, along with their other high-bounty prize, Marcus Loch--well, it takes a while for them to get to not-quite-trusting each other enough to at least escape. We quickly learn that they are both genuinely smart, tough people with their own high standards of behavior that don't necessarily align with the standards they were taught.

That this Consortium is said to rule the universe, rather than the more normal overreach of merely ruling the galaxy did make me cautious at first. What I found when I persisted was a really solid, rollicking space opera where the heroes are complex and interesting, and the villains are smart and complex enough to pose a decent challenge. Ada and Marcus find events have been moving forward around them while they were separately on the run, and that there is conspiracy and treachery more than they already knew to expect. Along the way, they acquire more friends and enemies, and some nifty new toys that are part of why they have some of the new enemies.

First of a series, but this installment comes to a satisfying interim conclusion. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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