I really don’t know what to expect in a book that is recommended to the fans of Joss Whedon’s cult hit show Firefly. Yes, I know Joss Whedon’s the celebrated director of the box office hit The Avengers but Firefly? Nope. Nonetheless, I picked this up because it’s sci-fi and the premise is appealing.
I must admit, however, that when I went into Avalon, I had some doubts that it might not live up to its stellar GR rating or to its interesting synopsis. Let’s face it, sci-fi is an overdone genre and almost everything about it has already been explored by a lot of authors. But pals, Avalon turned out to be everything that I want in a sci-fi book. It’s stimulating, mysterious and full of adrenaline.
The first book in a series, Avalon is a story of teenage mercenaries who are tasked to pull off a heist on one of the forbidden planets in the intergalactic system, the Belgrave (it’s the outer space version of the Bermuda Triangle). While the mission is clearly doomed from the start, Jeth Seagrave and his crew still pursued it in the hopes of finally getting their freedom and Avalon (the spaceship previously owned by Jeth’s parents) from their master, Hammer.
Avalon’s beginning immediately drew me in. It was strong and immediately showed us how Jeth and his crew worked as a group of teenage thieves outwitting planetary officials. Factor in that the story was told from Jeth’s (a male MC) POV—a bit rare in YA books these days—I found it hard to put the book down. Jeth and his thieving crew were a bunch of adorable characters and there was never a moment that I got confused about who’s who.
I must warn you though that Jeth is not someone who could easily be loved by everyone. On one hand, he’s a very family oriented person who is always looking after the welfare of his sister and crew members. Not to mention that he’s defiant and very loyal to those he loves. On the other one, him being a leader of a big time heist group didn’t sit right with me. In the book, he was described as Hammer’s new Golden Boy which, I would assume, means that he’s extraordinarily cunning, wise and able to achieve feats of mindblowing thievery that would put Ocean’s Eleven or Lupin’s gang to shame. Or I could be ambitious here and compare him to Artemis Fowl. Instead, I saw an incompetent leader who has the habit of making unwise decisions. All throughout the story, he always got out of tight situations because of Sierra or his crew’s talents. And if you ask me, Jeth is more of a liability than an important role player to the group. Why would I say that? Every time he made a decision, just expect that on the next day, some psycho is chasing them around space because he failed to use his brain.
Anyway, enough of Jeth and let’s move on to the villains. While Mindee failed to create a totally lovable MC, she, however, succeeded in creating 3D antagonists in the persons of Hammer and Renford. Guys, they’re psychos who wouldn’t hesitate to spill the first blood.
The world created by Arnett in Avalon was also beautiful albeit the lacklustre description of the space vessels. Well, if you consider “old floor…rusty pipes… messy rooms… old furniture” a fitting way to describe spaceships then Arnett must have done her job well. Kidding aside, this can be easily overlooked since the other technological advances and the new planetary system were interesting enough to take my mind off the spaceships.
The plot was definitely engaging and in my opinion, is the greatest asset of Avalon. It’s a mixture of politics, mindblowing twists and a planet-worth of mystery that would leave you panting until the very end. The action scenes were well done and would leave no room for you to breathe. The sci-fi element was thoroughly explained without resorting to dreaded info dumps or hard to understand explanations.
Avalon, however, is not without its faults. For one, it didn’t offer any back story as to what happened to the First Earth. Or what drove people to explore and live in new planets. But I guess I can ignore that since we still have books 2 and 3 to explore the said insufficiency. And lastly, Avalon’s romance, if not crap, is not something to be emulated by other books. It was instalovey and was haphazardly inserted into the story. It was dismal and awkward. While it didn’t become the focus of the book, I can’t deny that it was frustrating and easily forgettable. In fact, Arnett could have done a far better job if she just opted to exclude it from the story. Don’t get me wrong though, I am all for romance… I live for it as long as it’s done well…as long as it isn’t destructive. But if an author would just make a lousy job out of it, then nope.
All in all, Avalon has made it to my to-follow series list. Yes, there were snags along the way but the whole journey was all worth it. If you’re a sci-fi junkie who is need of a good fix, then don’t hesitate to rush to your local bookstores and get Avalon.
***An ARC for this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley through Edelweiss. Thank you Balzer and Bray and Harper Collins!***