Wandering Star by Romina Russell
Book Two of the Zodiac series
Publication Date: December 8, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Orphaned, disgraced, and stripped of her title, Rho is ready to live life quietly, as an aid worker in the Cancrian refugee camp on House Capricorn.
But news has spread that the Marad--an unbalanced terrorist group determined to overturn harmony in the Galaxy--could strike any House at any moment.
Then, unwelcome nightmare that he is, Ochus appears to Rho, bearing a cryptic message that leaves her with no choice but to fight.
Now Rho must embark on a high-stakes journey through an all-new set of Houses, where she discovers that there's much more to her Galaxy--and to herself--than she could have ever imagined.
What I Liked:
I'm sad to say that after finishing this novel, I feel slightly disappointed. This one is getting 2.5 stars from me, and while I'm rounding up to 3 stars, I still can't shake the rather glum mood I'm feeling after finishing this book. It's like bad aftertaste, or something. I think I was enjoying the story, but there were certain (big) things that I couldn't stand.
Rho is no longer the esteemed Cancrian leader, and she is slowly slipping into life on Capricorn, helping the other Cancrians adjust to their new lives on Capricorn. But it's not long before trouble comes knocking at her door, and she can't avoid being involved. The Marad are threatening all of the Houses, and Ochus is reaching out to Rho, seemingly trying to help her. Rho is going to set out to discover who the master that is controlling Ochus is, and how to stop the marad.
This book was very informational, compared to Zodiac. There are a lot of discoveries in this sequel, some shocking, some obvious, some expected. To be honest, I didn't remember much of Zodiac, going into this book, but that was okay because Russell made it fairly easy to read without having to reread the first book.
I think I liked Rho less in this book (see my thoughts below), though I can see the incremental character growth that her character is experiencing. I am a huge fan of Hysan - he is charming and sweet and rogueish, and a wonderful male protagonist. Nishi and Rho's friendship is heartwarming, especially when we reach a certain part of the book that devastates everyone.
Which leads me to another thing I both hated and loved - the body count really rises, in this book. There were a lot of death in Zodiac, but this book had more personal deaths, deaths that shook Rho and the crew. Definitely a good thing in a book, when there are a lot of dead people - even when it's people that really REALLY matter. So sad though.
I think, overall, I like the direction of this book, especially in terms of the inter-House conflict, the Risers, the Marad. I never really liked the House system, though the world-building is AMAZING, definitely well-constructed. It's interesting to see how Rho's perspective on the House system not necessarily change, but waver.
The ending is bizarre, and I'm not sure I like it. It's not specifically a cliffhanger ending, so I suppose that's a good thing. But it's not one that I personally loved. More below.
What I Did Not Like:
POSSIBLE SPOILERS. There might be implications that could be seen as spoilers, though they are extremely vague. You are warned.
The first thing I will say is that I didn't like Rho very much in this book. It was very, very difficult to like her when all of her decisions seemed to be the wrong ones. Of course, this is all part of growing and maturing and all that, but it was hard to root for her when you're reading it and want to shout "DUH!" at her. She wants the Houses to trust each other, but she herself doesn't trust those out of her House. She wants unity, yet she clings to everything that makes her Cancrian. Not that there is anything wrong with loving the House you were born in - but she refuses to see HERSELF having other House traits.
I didn't like her decisions on a lot of things, but especially in terms of the romance. You thought the love triangle was taken care of, in Zodiac? You thought wrong. I KNOW. I mean, how could it be though? Authors don't just DO that, not in the first book. And the love triangle is STILL NOT RESOLVED, by the end of Wandering Star. It's weird and twisted, how Russell reintroduces the love triangle (it's not what you think... oh but it is... you'll see). I refuse to believe that Rho "loves" two guys like she says she does. There is a lot of SAYING that - it's like she is trying to tell us and convince us readers, but I don't see or feel it. She bounces between guys like Pinball; it's honestly disgusting to see her go from one guy STRAIGHT TO THE OTHER (thinking of a very specific scene, in which she quarrels with one, and right after, runs to another).
Honestly, this book is losing two stars because of the romance. Zodiac lost one star because of the romance. Russell just cannot control the romance, it seems. The love triangle makes NO sense, it doesn't have any spark on one side (but oh so much on the other side).
Rho in general... the girl is so immature in this book. I think, in the grand scheme of the series, we'll clearly see Rho's character development. But book by book? Rho's intelligence seems to take a nosedive in this one. Or maybe her ignorance shoots up. Something is going on, and while I can see that she IS developing, her rate is pissing me off. I think, by the final book, Rho will have grown a great deal. But she is on the struggle bus, in this book.
The ending is kind of dumb, in terms of the romance. The note that Rho writes? So selfish. That's all I'll say about that. If anyone wants me to spill anything (IN PRIVATE), message me on Twitter or email me, I'd be happy to dish (as long as you promise not to tell the public).
Would I Recommend It:
The thing is, while I HATED the romance (at least the one leg of the triangle - why the f is there a love triangle at all??), I like the story. And I feel like "my" side of the triangle will win (there should be no "side" though, because there should not be a triangle!). So I'm feeling hopeful, in some aspects, and I really cannot wait to see how the plot shakes down, in terms of the Marad and the Rises. So much craziness! So I think I WOULD recommend this sequel, but maybe read it when the third and final novel is published (2016 hopefully!).
Put it this way - had I known that this series had a love triangle, I would NEVER have started the series until the series was published entirely. But I read the first book, liked it a lot (despite the love triangle), had high hopes for this one, didn't love it as much... I can't seem to quit, even though I could potentially end up hating the series. If that makes sense. It's a like a bad, addictive drug.
2.5 stars. I'm rounding up to 3 stars (may have to revise this and round down to 2 stars, haven't decided yet); I enjoyed the book, I'm liking the action of the series, and I can't wait to read the final book - but I HATE the romance. Why does a ridiculous love triangle have to ruin the entire series!?
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