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Friday, August 26, 2016

Lefty's Lowdown: Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

Beyond the Red by Ava Jae
(Beyond the Red #1)
Published: March 1, 2016 by Sky Pony Press
Source: I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.
Summary from Goodreads: 
A story of betrayal, love, and loss—all on a technologically advanced alien planet where monarchy reigns, but lies rule.

Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. But that doesn’t stop him from defending his people—at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He is given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.
 This book was a pleasant surprise, and I wish I would have read it much sooner. I was feeling kind of meh about everything I'd been reading, but then this book came along and took me on an adventure full of twists and turns.

Beyond the Red is action-packed from the get-go, and Jae is not afraid to "go there." My jaw dropped open several times while reading because I was so shocked that certain things actually happened. It's definitely an exciting book! And the writing is wonderful. I think one thing that deterred me from reading this for so long was that, for some unidentifiable reason, I had a feeling the writing would not be very good. Nope, nope, nope. That feeling was completely inaccurate, because the writing is solid.

The novel is told from alternating points of view--Eros, the half-blood who everyone knows shouldn't be alive, and Kora, the alien queen that many people want to be de-throned. First of all, before I even delve into the characters, I just want to say that this book contains some really important social issues like racism (the human hate the alien race, the alien race hates the humans, and everyone hates the half-bloods) and sexism (many of the aliens don't want Kora to be queen simply because she is a female). I love the way she handled these issues! She's slowly deconstructing these issues and asking why these arbitrary prejudices exist, but she's doing so in a way that doesn't feel forced or cheesy. The development is a bit slow, but I have a feeling we're going to see attitudes continue to evolve in the next couple of books.

Now, I really liked the two main characters. They are my favorite kinds of characters: they're flawed, they've made horrible mistakes in the past, and they're uncertain about what is right and what is wrong--but they're doing their best. They are trying to be good people, but it's not always so easy. I'm really looking forward to seeing them develop more in the forthcoming novels. I've been reading a lot of standalones lately, so I haven't really had the chance to get excited about characters the same way, but I'm so so so excited to see where Eros and Kora are going to end up by the conclusion of the series. Wherever they end up, I hope it's together because I SHIP THEM SO MUCH. The chemistry is present from the get-go, and I was ready for them to tear one another's clothing off immediately, but alas! Here we have a slow-burn romance with many obstacles (and a steamy scene that will probably take you a bit by surprise at first but also make ya sweat a lil bit). I'm curious as to where this ship is heading in the sequels.

I think the one thing this book could benefit from is a bit more worldbuilding. I'm not exactly an expert when it comes to fantasy or sci-fi setting, so I don't know exactly what is missing, I just know that I feel like I only got part of the picture and that there were some gaps. I did love that there was a little bit of special dialect thrown in. It added a lil flavor.

Really and truly, I enjoyed this book a ton! It started with a bang and stayed strong throughout. This novel got me excited to read more sci-fi and fantasy. I want to point out that this is not a cheesy alien romance--it's way more than that! It's political and sharp, and the aliens are not painted as caricatures, but rather a different race with their own culture, beliefs, etc. It makes me sad how underhyped this book is because I feel it deserves more attention. I can't wait to read the rest of the series!!!

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