Shadow Run, by AdriAnne Strickland & Michael Miller
Series: The Kaitan Chronicles, Book 1
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release Date: March 21, 2017
“Firefly” meets DUNE in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.
Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.
As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.
But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.
Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power—and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.
Genderfluid and Gay Secondary Characters
POC/Person of Color
Content Warnings for:
Trigger warning for racism.
The main reason why I was so engaged in the first half of the book is that I really generally like the two protagonists. The story is written in alternating first person point of views, so we get to know them really well. They are distinct, well flashed out, and interesting. Qole is a really cool female character, burdened yet strong, and Nev, while utterly ignorant in parts and infuriating, has his heart in the right place, wants to do good, and believes in a better future. I really like them and their blooming romance, and although there is some insta-connection here, they get to know each other better, they talk, and they start to trust each other. This was just really fun and I flew through the pages.
Although having a good time, I still noticed that the plot is very predictable and that most of the secondary characters are hugely stereotypical. I foresaw what would be happening with Nev’s family, and from Qole’s guard Eton to Nev’s whole family, these characters all seem like card board characters that, um, are mainly there to annoy and be antagonistic. There is, however, a genderfluid secondary character in Qole’s crew, whom I found to be very interesting, because he/she has real agency and a mysterious part to play that I am curious about.
But let’s have a look at Qole and Nev again and come to the reason why ultimately this book didn’t work for me.
Qole comes from a planet that was exploited by Nev’s ancestors and her people are really, really poor and also dying, and they are black, and Qole is female, to state the obvious here, too. Nev is a filthy rich prince whose skin is white and, yeah, he is a guy, and he has come to the rescue and bring a better future to the poor savages (and get more filthy rich and secure his family’s reign in the galaxy.)
The whole premise of the WHITE MAN bringing salvation to the BLACK WOMAN just totally rubs me the wrong way, to say the least. Why not switch the roles for once? While Qole starts out to be a wonderful female lead, this dynamic ruins that for me! Not to mention that she’s meek and weak once she gets to Nev’s planet. (“I desperately wanted [Nev] to take my hand again, to guide me through this without letting go, without letting me lose myself.”)
On Nev’s home planet, Qole is confronted with racism from the royal family. She’s verbally and physically degraded and humiliated. Some quotes here from the scene in which Qole is groomed for a ball, to give you an idea:
The head lady’s maid, Ollava, leaned over my head and sniffed me, of all things. She eyed the dozen or so perfume bottles sitting by the side of the tub. “More spice, less floral. We need something sturdier to counteract the fur and leather still clinging to her.”
To them, I was being a savage, rustic idiot, but I was really only trying to maintain a fingergrip of control over the situation … and myself. And not just over my appearance. My anger was spiking, my shame deepening, and nothing I said or did—or tried to do—had any effect.
Now, that’s just something you should be aware of if you’re considering reading this book, because I wasn’t expecting it judging from the blurb. Moreover, there are comments and scenes that show Nev’s internalised racism, even later on in the book, which makes it very hard for me to root for him. While racism is generally opposed in this book, there are also things that look inherently racist and misogynistic to me, like the whole set-up of white male supremacy that I described above. While this made me very uncomfortable reading the book, the plot in the second half does not develop in a direction that I like, which gave me another reason to quit.
Regardless that I enjoyed the first half of the book because of Qole and Nev, this book is predictable, full of stereotypes, and I am questioning the choices that were taken regarding race and gender. To be honest, the second half of the book was very upsetting to me and I regret having read this.
Michael Miller is the author of several books, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Drums, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Singing, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Composition. He has been using Cubase for a number of years. He used Cubase SX to record the audio CD included with the second edition of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Drums.
AdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, her pug, and her piles and piles of books. While writing occupies most of her time, she commercial fishes every summer in Bristol Bay, because she can’t seem to stop. SHADOW RUN, her YA space opera coauthored with Michael Miller, is out with Delacorte/Penguin Random House in March 2017.
You can purchase Shadow Run from:
Penguin Random House
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.