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Academy 7 Paperback – May 14, 2009
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Dane Madausin is the son of the Alliance's leading military officer, whose life should have been one of privilege and prestige, but has been that of a rebel. So, against his father's wishes, he is attending Academy 7.
Aerin wants to stay unnoticed, doing her assignments and attending her classes without drawing undue attention to herself or the little differences between her and the other students that could give her away. Dane doesn't care about his reputation and when he thinks that his father is going to order him home, he pulls a stupid prank that lands Aerin in serious trouble. Dane feels guilty for implicating Aerin in his offense and tries to apologize but even though they work together daily on chores as punishment, Aerin wants nothing at all to do with Dane. He is a troublemaker, which leads to attention, which she cannot afford; he got her into trouble and due to other earlier misunderstandings and misleading statements from other spiteful students, Aerin has a very poor opinion of Dane.
Still a tenuous friendship springs to life after Dane discovers that she is not a citizen and they form a bargain - Dane will coach Aerin on the Alliance and she'll teach him fighting, at which she excels. And as their friendship develops, surprising aspects of each character's history and personality are revealed. But is this friendship strong enough to overcome the scars that burden them, the walls that they have built to protect themselves, or the dark past that plagues both Aerin and Dane?
Aerin has been so hurt, so injured by life. She trusts no one, cares for no one. But she retains her courage and dignity. Dane is able to bring a part of her to life that was never allowed to exist before. Dane, as well, as been damaged by his past - abused physically, verbally and emotionally by his father (who could use a few anger management classes), set upon by his brother Paul who plays him against their father. He is furious, lashing out, recklessly endangering his life. But that changes when he meets Aerin. She is the one person who doesn't treat him like the son of the General. She doesn't show him the least bit of respect or deference. But as much as she intrigues him and as much as he admires her, he cannot let her in because that would be too painful.
The suspense and intrigue was overhyped. The big reveal, while certainly tragic, is not all that fraught with peril nor is it as immediately dark and dangerous and terrible as it is made to seem. I blame the cover blurb - don't overstate a matter to get me to read only to have me be disappointed by false advertising.
That said, the friendship story, as it progresses toward something more romantically inclined, is very well done. And for as short a book as this is, I felt that you get the feeling of a lot being done and you feel that sense of time passing and change. You can read 700 page books that get less done, so it is really a compliment when I say that it feels like the story accomplishes something and I honestly wish this book was longer. I never skimmed and did not feel like skipping ahead, a constant trouble with the majority of books I pick up. So a truly excellent blend of pacing, editing and development of character and dialogue that never left me wondering "Why is this here? What is the point? Get on with it already!" If anything, more conversations would have made this book better. And a little less ambiguity in sections.
But with all these secrets beginning to come out, I foresee many troubles ahead for Dane, and especially Aerin. So, please, please, let's see that sequel. Or two. I'll break my "no more trilogies" rule if I can just see their story completed!
For me, characters are what makes a good book. The characters, Aerin and Dane and even a number of the supporting characters, are definitely compelling and I found myself very easily intrigued by and drawn into their world. I would also LOVE to see more of these characters in the future. The story flows and the only real problem I have with it is there could've been more. It is a short book and it really could've been longer.
All in all, it's a truly enjoyable read that doesn't leave you hanging at the end. It wraps up very nicely but still leaves you longing to hear more from this world.
On the surface, Aerin Renning and Dane Madousin could not be any less alike. Just a couple of months ago, Aerin was a fugitive, an orphan escaping a horrific past in a flawed and failing spaceship. She had no home, no family, and no future. Dane is the rebellious second son of the Alliance's most powerful - and visible - man. He's been given every privilege in life and rejected most of them. But Dane's life has not been as comfortable or as glittering as it appears to outsiders and his father's public mask hides a man who can be cold and cruel. Like Aerin, Dane has dark secrets that he holds close and shares with no one.
As the two highest scorers on the Academy Entrance Exam (given to 16 and 17 year olds throughout the many star systems of the Alliance) Aerin and Dane are amongst those chosen to attend Academy 7, the most prestigious and challenging school in the universe. Despite the disparity in their backgrounds and the extremely competitive nature they share, Aerin and Dane overcome initial mistrust to form an unexpectedly strong friendship, and perhaps something more. But it soon becomes clear that their own closely guarded secrets are not all that threaten Aerin and Dane's growing friendship. The pair find that they are catalysts for the resurrection of old conflicts and bitter rivalries within the Alliance.
This is the second novel I have read by Anne Osterlund (the first was Aurelia) and given how much I enjoyed both, I will make sure to read everything else she writes (in fact, I am eagerly awaiting Exile, the sequel to Aurelia). Ms. Osterlund's plotting is spot-on, her stories move ahead briskly without leaving the reader with a feeling that something important has been missed out or skimmed over. Characters are the most critical part of any novel, the real driving force, and Ms. Osterlund's are carefully developed and presented as fully three-dimensional people. Aerin and Dane are real, with strengths as well as weaknesses and the reader learns enough of their pasts to feel as if he or she truly knows them. I LOVED this book. It's futuristic without getting caught up in techno-geeky details, a coming of age story that manages to avoid emotion-laden angst, and romantic without becoming obsessed with the will they/won't they/when will they questions. In other words, Academy 7 is brilliant - don't miss it.
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Set in a futuristic society similar to Earth, Aerin Renning is a seventeen-year-old orphan...Read more