Mindee Arnett’s Avalon is YA Sci-Fi Done Right
All right, Nerdophiles! We’ve got a great book here to review for you and I do not say that lightly. Avalon is already a contender for my top book for 2014 and we aren’t even through with January yet! I am super excited to be a part of Rockstar Book Tours’ promotional tour because, yeah, you need to know about this one.
As part of this awesome book tour the folks at Rockstar Book Tours are hosting a giveaway for two signed, hardback copies of Avalon. The giveaway is open internationally so anyone can enter! There are tons of ways to get in on it so check out the giveaway link below.
A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.
Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.
Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they’re damn good at it. Jeth doesn’t care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents’ ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he’ll go to get the freedom he’s wanted for so long.
Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon’s cult hit show Firefly.
The first time I really remember getting into anything fanatically was in the third grade when I first discovered Star Wars. From that moment on I was hooked on science fiction. Star Wars was like a gateway drug into Star Trek, Babylon 5, V: The Original Miniseries, Alien Nation, and any and every other 80s or 90s sci-fi movie or show you can remember. It’s a love that has obviously stuck with me. But while I’m all about post-apocalyptic and dystopian science fiction as subgenre that’s pretty much all YA science fiction has become these days.
Until now, with the exception of Beth Revis’s Across the Universe and a few others, we’ve been missing a real sense of ‘high science fiction’ among the the young adult crowd these days. Mindee Arnett seems to have seen that and moved forward to fill that hole spectacularly with Avalon.
Reading almost like a teenage version of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, Avalon follows a team of teenage criminals led seventeen year old Jeth Seagrave in a universe where the all power Confederation reigns supreme and massive criminal empires have popped up around the galaxy. Brought together by a dangerous criminal kingpin named Hammer, Jeth and his crew do jobs at his direction and live under his watchful eye. But Jeth has big plans. He hopes to get his little sister and his crew out of there for good by doing enough work to buy back his parents’ ship. After they died in a particularly hairy and unknown part of space it’s all he and his sister have left of them and he’ll do anything to get it back.
Hammer’s most recent job seems like it might be enough to win back the ship. All they have to do is go to that same dangerous part of the galaxy where his parents disappeared and recover a lost ship. Then Hammer will sign over the papers to the ship to Jeth. Simple as that. But things are never as simple as that. Jeth and his crew find more than just a weapon or salvageable tech on board this strange, ghost ship and nothing could prepare Jeth for the things he is about to learn or the precarious position he’s about to find himself between Hammer, the corrupt government, and his past.
What I liked the most about this book – besides the fact that’s a real, hard sci-fi adventure for YA readers – is that at no point did I ever question whether or not what anyone was doing was something that those characters would and should be doing. So often I find that characters will do things that serve the plot but don’t necessarily serve the character they are. Jeth, in particular, at no point acts in any way out of character. He’s solid, flawed, and determined. Now, I’ve read a few other reviews where people criticize Jeth for being selfish, single-minded, impulsive, gullible, and any number of other negative traits.
And that’s what I loved about this book.
Jeth Seagrave is seventeen and he acts like he’s seventeen. No matter how street smart a person is they aren’t going to be the perfect criminal. Not at seventeen. He’s good but he’s not perfect and he doesn’t bother to see the big picture because he grew up living a life where all that mattered was the next job and maybe saving up enough money to eventually buy back Avalon. Too often YA characters know all the right things to say or all the right things to do. Even if they agonize over things and say they don’t know what to do or say it some how always works out in the end. For Jeth, though? Until the very end we don’t really know that. We don’t really know what’s going to happen.
That’s probably Avalon’s greatest strength. There are plot twists, action packed moments, and a slew of secondary characters with their own little quirks, backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses. It reads like a teenage space opera or – if not at that level just yet – a bit more actual world building could bring it there. See, that’s the books greatest weakness. There isn’t a whole lot of world building. Usually that’s one of my bigger issues with YA books. That and the unrealistic portrayals of love and romance. (Yes, there is a bit of the rushed YA romance aspect but it doesn’t distract from the book as a whole which really is great.) My problem with Avalon is that I can’t really visualize the galaxy in which the story takes place. A lot of effort was put into explaining how the tech that allows people to travel through space works even though it really didn’t seem like the most important part of the story. It’s important, sure. But a bit more information about how things operate in the grander scheme with the government, the independent planets, etc. would have been nice.
But I suspect we’ll get that in Meridian – the second novel in the series and surprisingly the concluding chapter. Duologies aren’t very common in a world of YA trilogies but I can dig it. I end pretty much every book review I do with a lamentation that we never see single books any more but I like the idea of a duology for Avalon and, heck, I could see a whole series. This is not a book that I would mind stretching over two or three or four more books because I think the potential is there and Mindie Arnett is so great at writing it.
This one’s a real winner, folks. You don’t want to miss it.
Avalon is perfect for readers of pretty much all ages and especially well suited for sci-fi fans. I thought it was great and it has set the bar for my reading adventures for the rest of 2014 that’s for sure. It is a genre specific book. Non-science fiction fans probably won’t like it so don’t be disappointed if your friends aren’t as into it and maybe don’t recommend it to your cousin who likes the Hunger Games but thinks the new Star Trek – even with the benefit of hottie Chris Pine – is boring and lame. But for those who would enjoy it this definitely a must-read for this year.
About the Author
Mindee Arnett lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space. She has far more dreams than nightmares.