Honor Among Thieves #1 - epic sci-fi
Honor Among Thieves #1 by Rachel Caine
Genre: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Published 2018; 480 pages
First Sentence: "I feel the stars. Energy pulses against my skin, murmuring secrets about this small galaxy, about orbits and alignments and asteroids streaming in space."
Set in a future earth almost destroyed by climate change and war, the alien species Leviathan appeared and offered to 'save' Earth. The deal made is that each year Earth would send 100 Honor people selected by Leviathan to partner and travel space - two humans per Leviathan 'ship' - and aid and learn from each other.
Zara is the main character and depending on how you look at her, she's a rebel, she's a delinquent, she's a homeless person, she's a gang member, she's self sufficient, rude, demanding, independent, and resourceful. As you might imagine, she gets herself in trouble and confined to a rehab/detention facility. It's there that she discovers she's been selected as an Honor - surprising because it's usually doctors, musicians, engineers, etc. No one understands why she is selected - what's her skill?
She is assigned with Bea, a timid but very smart girl, to travel with Nadim. The girls figure out how to communicate with Nadim and gradually they all become supportive friends. There is action as Nadim is attacked and they try to save each other; there is some interaction with other alien species; there is humor, snarky comments, tender moments, fear, and anger. Lots of feelings are explored as the three survive attacks and injuries.
One of the cool elements is how song and music play a role. Nadim and all Leviathan hear the stars and planets sing. Song is used to soothe and to heal.
“Creatures of your planet sing. I sing. The stars sing. Who am I to believe they are not singing on purpose?”
I actually had a bit of a struggle getting into the book & almost set it aside as we meet Zara living kind of off-the-grid in run down Detroit, running with a street gang - a teen with a major attitude. But, by the time she was chosen as an Honor and sent to space, I was hooked.
I enjoyed spunky Zara and bright, sensitive Bea - two girls that are pretty opposite in their personalities and history, yet become strong friends. Each character shows some growth - Zara as she learns to depend on and care about others and realize she's not alone; and Bea comes into her own and finds her inner strength that allows her to stand up for herself.
The aliens are cool, the idea of Leviathan, a sentient 'ship' space creature is cool and the connection he forges with Zara, and to a lesser extent, Bea, is a cornerstone of the story. Some reviewers felt like the Zara/Nadim connection devolved into a standard YA romance trope. While I do find it somewhat sensual sometimes, I didn't get the 'standard' feeling at all.
The action scenes are well done and the end of the book leads perfectly to the next book.