Review: Avalon by Mindee Arnett

Avalon
Mindi Arnett

Balzer + Bray
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Released January 21, 2014
432 pages
YA / SciFi / Spaceships

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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.

I didn’t realize how space pirates gave me the warm fuzzies until I started reading this book and instantly wanted to fall into this world of spaceships and crime bosses. It very much had a similar feel to Firefly in the group dynamics of Jeth and his crew of teenage thieves as they go across the universe, stealing spaceships and illegal items for Hammer, the governor of a space port and mob boss who seems to have his tentacles of influence stretched across the stars. I really liked this book.

Arnett gets points for telling her story both from the point of view of the male protagonist and also in third person. Both are unusual enough to YA that it was refreshing to not be stuck in the head of a teenage girl. Jeth is sentimental, but not sappy, a care-giver and yet still a reckless teenage boy. He’s a nice balance between responsible and foolish. He takes chances, but at the same time, protects his crew by taking blame for mistakes and suffering the consequences as long as his friends remain untouched.

Avalon begins with Jeth seeing a tiny light at the end of a dark tunnel. He fronts a crew of orphan teenagers working for a thug in hopes that he might one day earn enough to buy back his parents’ ship, the Avalon. After they were arrested for treason and executed by the intergalactic government, Jeth, his younger sister, and their uncle took Avalon and left behind their home planet. Eventually their uncle lost the ship to Hammer during a poker game and led to Jeth’s and his hacker sister’s indentured servitude to the bad guy.

When a ship goes missing in the Bermuda Triangle equivalent of space where Jeth’s parents did their research, he and his crew are sent to find it and haul it back. Of course because it’s the Bermuda Triangle of space, weird stuff starts to happen, nothing is as it seems and people start going a little crazy. Adventure ensues, friendships are broken, torture is dished out and mysteries start unfolding about Jeth’s family.

I was happily surprised to find that I couldn’t predict where things were going. Arnett is masterful at writing gripping action sequences where anything could happen and nobody seems safe. Her space tech is well-crafted and believable for a future time when intergalactic space travel is possible. Henchmen have implants that link them together and demand loyalty to their thuggish leader. Lines build up at government officiated star gate-like places where ships go through to jump across the galaxy. Each new piece of tech makes Arnett’s universe more vivid and believable, creating an immersive experience that made me a very happy reader.

Avalon ends with a big window open for the inevitable sequels, but the main story is wrapped up nicely and it feels like a complete story. I’m very excited to see what other mysteries Arnett has in store for Jeth and his crew in the future sequels. This is a brilliant beginning to a true science fiction YA series with tons of potential. Anyone who has any interest in spaceships and action should definitely give Avalon a try.

 

I received an ARC from the publisher in return for an honest review. Opinions are all my own.