Series: The Honors #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on February 13th 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Diversity, Young Adult
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Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead of moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell.
Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers.
Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a science-fiction novel with a concept similar to Honor Among Thieves. (I know a historical steampunk, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, that comes to mind, but with the barest of similarities.) So what makes this book stand out from the rest? I would have to say… its intriguing concept of aliens. The aliens in Honor Among Thieves are called Leviathans – huge whale-like creatures that sing with the stars and eat them for sustenance. As humanity was heading to a downfall, the Leviathan swooped in and helped them get back on track, with new inventions and innovations that would change how the species would interact.
Thanks to the biotech supplied by these amazing living ships, humans have not only survived a global crisis that threatened to destroy us, but we now have clean energy, safe food and water, and incredible advancements in medical care.
In return for the amazing biotech the Leviathans supplied, they wanted smart and capable human beings to board them and have some sort of cultural exchange. That’s right – these aliens are basically like ships. Humans board them, establish bonds, and can basically feel the Leviathans, just as the Leviathans feel them. Odd concept, right? The story begins with a fast pace, as Zara, a criminal who spends time in prison after a stunt with a super rich man’s daughter goes wrong, gets chosen as an Honor. It’s really an honor to be an Honor, as they get lots of publicity and benefits for taking the risk and setting off to space on an alien whale. Good times. Zara only accepts so she can escape her fugitive life on Earth, and away we go to space.
This is what few us to them, this energy. Many forms of life exist in the vast, black ocean between suns, but few burn so brightly. Sing so clearly.
I really enjoyed Zara’s character. She is kind of prickly and guards herself a lot, but slowly starts to open up on the ship. Because of her not-so-nice past with her family and the people on the streets, she doesn’t trust easily and is quick to give biting responses to other people. Throughout the time of her journey on the Leviathan named Nadim though, she learns to open up to her fellow Honor, Beatriz, and her ship. Beatriz was also a great character to get to know, with her quiet and academically-focused character a sharp contrast to Zara’s outspoken personality and street smarts. And Nadim. What an intriguing character. It is so odd to me to dissociate the fact that he is a ship to an actual character that has relevant opinions. But Aguirre and Caine do an excellent job in doing so. There’s much banter between Zara and Nadim, especially as they establish a deeper emotional bond where each’s feelings can be experienced by the other.
‘Safe. I live safe.’
‘I thought Leviathan traveled alone most of their lives. So what?’
‘We’re never isolated. Not completely. The stars sing. Even planets sing. And we sing to one another, across the long reaches, for comfort.’
In space, Zara knows that something is off – about the Leviathans, the huge Journey that specially picked Honors to get go on, and even the reason why she – a random criminal – could be chosen as an Honor. All this and more secrets are explored as her and Nadim’s bond gets stronger. So Nadim. He’s an interesting character, as, you know, he’s a sentient alien ship. But I think the authors did a really great job of bringing him to life, personality-wise. He’s a rather young Leviathan who’s made mistakes and continues to do so with Zara and Beatriz on board. I found the bond between him and Zara to also be quite intriguing as well, as they eventually become very in-tune with the other’s feelings and perhaps feel something more? I never assume a romantic relationship unless otherwise stated, but I read in one of the author’s acknowledgements about ‘an unconventional OTP’ and yes, can totally see it as a possibility. It’ll be interesting to see how this relationship is further explored in the next book.
The setting was very easy to get immersed in. For the majority of the time, we are traveling in Nadim, in space, with Zara and Beatriz. The plot follows a fast pace that makes Honor Among Thieves a very quick read. This also allows for the storyline and conflict to come in small increments that ensure a reader never gets bored. I loved seeing Honors from different countries of the world, as well as other alien species that are yet to be introduced formally. The authors create a very vast space that readers can really feel the wonders of.
I enjoyed Honor Among Thieves, especially with its unique premise and three-dimensional characters, but there’s something I can’t pinpoint about it that makes it a “good” but not “great” read for me. I guess despite its use of Leviathans, the whole adventure aspect still felt formulaic. If you’ve read Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Jeann’s Review), it follows that theme: exceptionally fast pace that leaves you with just another mystery at the end. And that was an aspect that contributed to my lack of connection with the characters (despite how well they were written) and the mystery aspect. It was exciting, but not exhilarating, if you get what I mean. Nonetheless, I do think sci-fi readers should add this to their repertoire, especially with the authors’ unique and creative exploration of the future!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Honor Among Thieves was released on February 13, 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books. It now available at American retailers for $17.99