Amid Darkness and Stars by Chani Lynn Feener
Book One of the Xenith trilogy
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Rating: 2 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Delaney’s entire world is thrown into chaos after she is mistaken for Lissa Olena, an alien princess hiding out on Earth in order to escape an arranged marriage.
Kidnapped by the princess’s head bodyguard, Ruckus, and imprisoned in an alien palace, Delaney is forced to impersonate the princess until Olena can be found. If she fails, it will lead to an alien war and the eventual enslavement of the entire human race.
No pressure or anything.
Factor in Trystan, the princess’s terrifying betrothed who is intent on unraveling all her secrets, and her own growing feelings for Ruckus, and Delaney is in way over her head.
Get lost Amid Stars and Darkness, in this YA sci-fi romance from debut author Chani Lynn Feener.
What I Liked:
Dear Lord, please grant me the patience to deal with the Swoon Reads novels I keep subjecting myself to. Don't get me wrong, there are a few that I've really enjoyed (namely, Cindy Anstey's books). But so many of Swoon Reads' publications have been terrible (for me).
In this story, Delaney is mistaken for an alien princess and she is dragged onto a ship and flown across the galaxy to another planet. On the way, the bodyguard who kidnapped her realizes that she's isn't Lissa Olena. But the damage is done, because Lissa Olena has been expected back at the home planet for quite some time - rumor has it that Olena has been running from her politically arranged betrothal. Delaney will have to play the role of Olena, convincing everyone including her terrifying fiance Trystan that she is a conceited, selfish princess who cares about no one. If she doesn't, she risks the alliance being called off by the Rex (Trystan's father), and war breaking out between the Vakars and the Kints.
Okay. I don't have a ton of things that I actually liked, but there are a few. I didn't really care for any of the characters except Ruckus, who is a sweetheart. He is the commander of security and Olena's personal bodyguard, and he takes his duty very seriously. Everyone hated Olena and couldn't stand to be around her, but he did his job. Ruckus is an smart, loyal, protective alpha male who is also kind and attentive. And he has a charming side. I liked him a lot and was really on board with him being the love interest.
For the most part, I wasn't bored or disinterested in the story. The plot moved at a good pace and I wasn't in danger of setting this book aside. I read this one fairly quickly and was interested in finding out what would happen at the end. So I have to give the author points for that.
What else... I suppose the world-building is well-written. This book is set on a different planet, and there is a love of technological advancement on the Vakar planet. Also, everyone except Delaney is an alien, which is cool. There are a lot of neat scientific inventions and advancements in this book, though I would have loved to see more science behind them.
Aaaand we're moving on to dislikes.
What I Did Not Like:
I'm going to go a little out of order and all over the place with my dislikes. I'll start with the ones that bother me the most.
The romance is a tricky thing and overall I think it bothered me too much for me to love it. The good thing: Ruckus knows that Delaney is not Olena from early on. They fall for each other, and I believe Ruckus's feelings are genuinely for Delaney, because he was never in love or attracted to Olena. I'm all for Ruckus and Delaney and really shipped them. My problem is the fiance, Trystan. It was clear in the beginning that Olena and Trystan hated each other, and Delaney quickly grows to hate Trystan. And she falls in love with Ruckus. BUT. Towards the end, Trystan's feelings change. He takes a bullet for Delaney. He loses some of his cruel attitudes. He definitely feels... something for Delaney. And I definitely could see, in future books in this series, Delaney falling for him and this turning into a stupid, ridiculous love triangle. Never mind that Olena comes back into the picture in this book. Never mind that she and Ruckus take their relationship to high levels. Given some lines at the end of this book, I could definitely see the author having Delaney fall for Trystan, which makes me want to retch. Also, the acknowledgements of the book. "Team Trystan"? Stop. Please stop. He organized an assassination attempt to kill Delaney ("Olena"). He grabbed her and frightened her. None of this is forgivable (nor should it be).
Oh and I hated the ending. It involves Trystan and it makes my blood boil. The ending would have been perfect, minus a few paragraphs. In some ways, I want to know what happens next because I hate being so angry about the ending. On the other hand, I think it's better for my sanity if I try and forget I ever read this book and avoid talk of the next two books.
I didn't really feel invested in any of the characters, except maybe Ruckus. All of the characters seemed a little one-dimensional? Like cardboard cutouts? I didn't connect with Delaney, though I felt bad for her situation. I feel like she didn't put up enough of a fight to get back home, initially and throughout the story. The war that would break out if it was discovered that Olena had fled? It would be between aliens... and entirely NOT Delaney's fault, or problem. Any logical human being would have found a way to escape. Stolen a ship, bribed someone (since she is now a princess), etc. There are ALWAYS options, and the author took the unrealistic one. If Delaney were half as brazen as she tried to act, she would have been sneaking around, trying to find a way out, in addition to playing princess. That seems logical to me.
I hated Trystan. Who sets up an assassination attempt on you and then you forgive him? Well, I hope Delaney doesn't forgive him. She doesn't, in this, but since I'm convinced the author wants to make Trystan a legitimate love interest, I'm sure Delaney will forgive him in future books. Ewwwww, love triangles.
Can I go on a mini rant? Why are so many Swoon Reads books full of love triangles? I understand the workings of the Swoon Reads community - it's very different from the contracted work that you see announced on Publishers Weekly - but why is it that so many of the manuscripts spit out love triangles? Especially with so many readers not interested? This book is getting a low rating from me mostly because of the love triangle (though not entirely so). Do better, Swoon Reads!
Would I Recommend It:
I do not recommend this book to anyone, even if you don't mind love triangles. It's not the most impressive space-y science fiction novel in YA lit out there, and it's not an impressive debut. I want to say that I expect better from Swoon Reads but then, I really don't. Skip this book and save yourself the frustration. Especially since this book is part of a trilogy, and we all know how YA authors love to do stupid things with romances in trilogies!
If you want to read a space-y science fiction YA book, try the Starbound trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, or the Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis, or The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid, or the Alienated trilogy by Melissa Landers, or the Starflight duology by Melissa Landers. Literally so many better YA science fiction books out there!
1.5 stars -> rounded up to 2 stars. Maybe I should round down? I think I'm being generous for no reason. Well, there are a few reasons above. This book wasn't all bad, but I won't be remembering it fondly. Heck, I won't be remembering it at all. Hopefully.
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