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Beyond the Red Hardcover – March 1, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Kora and Eros cannot be more different: one an alien queen who is fighting to keep the throne from her power-hungry brother and the latter a half-breed human who has never belonged anywhere. This work is told in alternating perspectives and is set in the future on Safara, a desert alien planet in Earth's universe. Kora and Eros are thrust together, and the duo are forced to unite after being framed for an assassination attempt on Kora's betrothed, Serek. The three protagonists not only form a compelling love triangle but are also the world's sole hope to prevent a mass genocide. Fierce and beautiful Kora must navigate her way through court politics, revolutions, and secrets while red-blooded Eros finds himself to be much more important than he ever could have imagined. Serek holds everyone together with his calm yet authoritative nature. Jae's debut novel introduces a unique alien world with a thrilling plot full of twists that are bound to appeal to sci-fi fans, particularly admirers of Avatar and Star Wars. The fast-paced and intense plotlines introduce deep concepts including segregation, homosexuality, and racism; however, the concepts and characters are not fully developed. The author builds a beautifully conceived world with unique details, such as language quirks, an alien monarch ruling system, and special meaning for phrases such as "golden eyes." The fun and engaging plot is predictable but enjoyable. VERDICT An engaging and amusing read for fans of sci-fi romance.-Emily Bayci, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OHα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"Jae's debut novel introduces a unique alien world with a thrilling plot full of twists that are bound to appeal to sci-fi fans, particularly admirers of Avatar and Star Wars. The fast-paced and intense plotlines introduce deep concepts including segregation, homosexuality, and racism; however, the concepts and characters are not fully developed. The author builds a beautifully conceived world with unique details, such as language quirks, an alien monarch ruling system, and special meaning for phrases such as "golden eyes." The fun and engaging plot is predictable but enjoyable. VERDICT: An engaging and amusing read for fans of sci-fi romance." School Library Journal
"Jae's smooth worldbuilding and solid pacing make this a highly readable SF romance. Jae engages with the brutality of her setting and doesn't spare the central characters, who suffer terrible losses." Publishers Weekly
"Ava Jae’s Beyond the Red is a sand-swept fantasy of court politics, rebel attacks, and forbidden romance. While reading, I had flashes of Star Warsa new planet, a fascinating culture, a fresh look on a ruler struggling to keep her powerand I had to know what happened next. Dangerous, exciting, and fast-paced, Beyond the Red is a story not to be missed.” Francesca Zappia, author of Made You Up
Packed with political intrigue and smoldering romance, Beyond the Red left me craving more of Kora’s and Eros’s story and the unique, fascinating universe that Ava Jae has created.” Sarah Harian, author of The Wicked We Have Done
Beyond the Red is a sweeping, compelling romance in a complicated and gritty world. Intrigue and heart on every pageI couldn’t put it down. I’ll be following Ava Jae to see what comes next!” Kate Brauning, author of How We Fall
I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down! What a fantastic debut, perfect for fans of Firefly and Star Wars. Ava Jae’s Beyond the Red packs a punch, a total thrill ride that will keep readers turning the pages. I stayed up all night reading it. From page one, I was sucked in. Jae’s writing style is a perfect mix of stop and go, and her world comes to life within the first few pages. The action was power-packed, and the star-crossed romance had me begging for more by the end.” Lindsay Cummings, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zenith
Ava Jae has built such an interesting world in Beyond the Red. With forbidden romance, gritty action, and thrilling danger, this debut is one to watch. And here’s hoping for a sequel!” S. E. Green, award-winning author of the Killer Instinct series
I loved Beyond the Red! Ava Jae’s science fiction world-building is a perfect blend of a fantastic, foreign alien civilization and achingly human desires all packed into an explosive mix. I couldn’t help but root for crafty Kora as she navigated court politics, revolutions, and dangerous secrets. And Eros! His determination balanced with a sense of humor about his fate made him such a swoon-worthy love interest. The action started swiftly and didn’t let up. I can’t wait to read more from Jae!” Lindsay Smith, author of Sekret and Dreamstrider
"A thrilling blend of science fiction and fantasy, Beyond the Red sketches out an exciting new world full of romance and intrigue. I can't wait for future installments!" Kat Zhang, author of the Hybrid Chronicles series
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I also wanted to know more about the alien race Kora comes from, we learn very little of their customs or their history and there was just nothing that made them stand out as different to humans apart from that they're taller, faster, stronger and have weird markings on their skin. Instead of building a rich and detailed culture we get random words thrown at us that were either totally made up and used with very little explanation or were weird amalgamations of words we already use that just looked ridiculous (I wanted to throw my kindle every time I saw kinduv and that was repeated no less than thirty-seven times throughout the story but there were quite a few sortuv's too & I rolled my eyes at every single one of them).
It wasn't the world building that killed the story though, that honor goes to the most ridiculous case of insta-love that I've ever come across. To fully explain how crazy it was I'm really going to have to veer into spoiler territory so be warned if you decide to continue reading this review.
(I'm pretty sure all of this happens within the first 10 chapters of the book but look away now if you don't want to see spoilers)
Let's just imagine you're Eros, you're a half human/half alien who was abandoned at birth by your parents and you've always been treated by an outsider by the humans you live with. The aliens believe half-bloods should be killed at birth though so you're lucky to still be alive and at least you've always been loved and respected by your adopted human parents, their son and his family. Now try to imagine the aliens invading your camp and brutally murdering over 200 humans, including most of the family you adore, right in front of your eyes. All this before you are taken captive alongside over 60 women and children, you are all humiliated, beaten and abused, stripped of your clothing and completely dehumanised before being permanently branded as a slave. Everything that happened to you and your people was done under orders from the alien queen Kora, something she never denies and never really apologises for.
So now you're a slave with no rights and with no choices and Kora decides that her personal guard can't be trusted so of course it makes perfect sense for her to make a reviled half-blood - someone who knows that she was responsible for the slaughter of the family who loved and raised him! - her bodyguard. If you don't agree she will have you sentenced to death so I can't really blame you for going along with it, especially since it gives you the chance to help some of the survivors of the attack, but surely you'll never feel anything but hate for the woman who destroyed your entire life? Surely you won't spend your entire time trying not to notice her beauty or the sexy curves she reveals when she undresses in front of you? Surely you wouldn't climb into her bed to comfort her when she has a nightmare the very first night you are forced to stay in her room? Surely you'd be angry and bitter and resent every moment of time you spent with her? Well apparently not in this case because Eros does all of those things and more!
****END MAJOR SPOILERS****
I could have probably got on board with the romance if it had been done slowly, if we had seen Eros and Kora gradually get to know each other, if they had taken time to talk about what had happened to Eros's family and the entire tribe that raised him, if Kora had admitted making mistakes and had apologised and tried to find a way to make things right. If that had happened BEFORE Eros started mooning over her I might have believed it but it didn't. Okay it takes a lot longer to get to the kissy kissy stuff, and to be honest there isn't an epic romance between them yet but their thoughts around each other are just totally unbelievable and unrealistic from the minute they meet and that totally goes both ways.
Don't even get me started on the issue of Kora announcing that a half-blood is going to be her new bodyguard and nobody questioning it, I'm pretty damn sure that her court would make sure she was chaperoned around her male guards too and I don't think there's any way in hell that her brother (the captain of her guard) would let her spend time with Eros alone. She may be the queen but nobody listens to her when she makes any other kind of decision so I doubt she'd get her own way here and I can't really see why she'd want to. It just doesn't make sense.
This review is already pretty long but there are still a couple of things that I really feel I have to mention. There is a second completely unbelievable case of love at first sight when a prince arrives offering Kora a marriage contract, I mean why have one case of insta-love when you can have two and make it an insta-triangle? Because we all know how much readers love triangles! What about including attempted rape? Obviously the threat of being executed for treason isn't enough when you can remind girls everywhere that there are fates worse than death. I absolutely HATE the use of attempted rape as a way to add danger to a story, there are a million other ways you can go without using it as a cheap plot device as a way to raise tension, especially if it has no further impact on the plot or any of the characters.
I feel like I've really ripped this book to shreds which is awful because I hate writing negative reviews but this story had so much potential and it just could have been so much better. There must have been something going for it because I did keep reading until the end and I actually read the whole book relatively quickly because it was very fast paced and had plenty of action going on but the negatives far outweigh the positives and I have to be honest about that. I have to warn you that there are a lot of unanswered questions at the end too, it resolves a few things but it's quite a major cliffhanger considering we have no confirmation of a sequel. I can pretty much guess how things would play out so I'm not too bothered by the lack of resolution and to be honest I doubt I'd read a second book even if one is published but I think it's worth being aware of before you pick up the book.
Source: Received from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Beyond the Red by Ava Jae
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
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. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s 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.
What I Liked:
I really wanted to like this book. It's my Pili-Pushed recommendation for the month, and I trust Pili's judgment - nearly all of the Pili-Pushed recommendations have received positive feedback from me! This one would be of the few (sorry, Pili!).
Kora is the queen of one of the Sepharon territories, Elja. She's the first female ruler in generations, and her people are calling for a new leader. They want her younger twin brother, Dima, on the throne. Kora has a plan to meet suitors and marry. Eros is a half-Sepharon, half-human man living in the desert among humans. He's never been accepted, except by his adopted family. When Kora's people attack his and take him prisoner, he has a choice: execution, or swear fealty. Eros is made one of Kora's personal soldiers and bodyguards, because she doesn't trust her guards (they have shown more loyalty to Dima), and no one would dare bribe a half-breed (they think he's an abomination). Things go from bad to worse when an assassination attempt is made on her betrothed's life, and she and Eros must run in order to save themselves - as well as humans, and Sepharon, from a greater threat.
Things that worked well - the setting and most of the science fiction aspects of the book. I loved the sandy setting of a planet nothing like Earth. I liked the set-up of the Sepharon kingdoms. The idea of the Sepharon is cool - they're aliens with weird markings on their skin, almost like permanent gold tattoos. Some of them have strange eye colors. They have a different color of blood too. The humans are like normal humans. The Sepharon enslave humans and basically strip away their humanity - it's horrifying. THAT was done really well too - the cruelty of the Sepharon to humans.
I will say that I never once thought to put this book, as it had me very much hooked. I kept reading and waiting for my questions to be answered - even at 95%, I was like okay... there's still time for a really thorough epilogue... I got nothing. Time for the next section of my review!
What I Did Not Like:
Immediately upon finishing the novel, I made a list of things I didn't like in the book. I'm going to use the list format.
- Lack of resolution in the ending (is this part of a series?). Clearly this book wasn't written to be a standalone. Or, if it was, it is a very s***y standalone novel that deserves 0.5 stars from me. I'm sure the author intends to have a sequel published, but as far as I know there is none that exists/will exists via the publisher... but I don't know this for sure. In any case, the ending wrapped up NOTHING. I have more questions than I started out with, about Roma and Eros's potential new role, about Eros and Kora, about the humans, the Sepharon, the pale man (who is he?). Nothing is explained!
If you know you're getting a contract for ONE book, why in the world would you half-write that one book, like you intend for there to be another book to follow?! That is SO rude! The author could have at least cleaned up the ending a little; making it somewhat open-ended is one thing (fine), but not answering anything, especially logistics questions? Not okay.
- Absolutely NO resolution in the romance (in terms of our lead pair); again, is this part of a series? Our lead pair has no idea where they stand. Kora and Eros kiss once, and then Kora freaks out and they don't speak and Kora ignores him and THERE IS NO RESOLUTION. Or symbolic scene of hope (like, the two of them reaching for each other's hands, or hugging, or looking into each other's eyes, or something). Nothing.
- Speaking of our lead pair -- instalove sets on really quickly. I cannot believe how quickly it seems that Eros's feelings change. Yes, she's attractive, and your body recognizes that. But his FEELINGS go from hatred (she did have his family murdered) to squishy tender caring. Hmmm. And vice versa! Kora falls for a half-breed who is, yes, hot, but also, a HALF-BREED, that everyone else finds unattractive. (Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against the fact that Kora finds Eros attractive; it's WHY that's bothering me. Literally EVERYONE else thinks his existence is disgusting.)
- I completley understnad that Kora is supposed to be very very attractive, but I find it so hard to believe that he falls for her, the woman who ordered the execution of his people. So implausible. Lucifer was supposed to be gorgeous, right? Doesn't make him someone I'd want to plant my mouth on, just saying.
- What I find even more unbelievable is how quickly it takes the lines to be blurred; the queen and her new, half-blood personal guard/slave get really close, like on a first-name basis, WAY too quickly. Like, DAYS after he is dragged to her palace. Really? Not plausible. In any type of hierarchy, especially when it comes to royalty, soldiers/servants do NOT address the royalty by their first name. EVER. I find it difficult to believe that mere days after Eros is brought to the palace, he is trussed up as a PERSONAL GUARD to the queen, and he's calling her "Kora". SHE can call him whatever she wants; he should not have the right to reciprocate.
- I'm trying to understand why Kora isn't disgusted by Eros. Literally EVERYONE else is. Sure, he's attractive. But that's not even what she notices about him. What whim caused her to take pity on him? She should be wary and distrusting - not invite him into her personal guard. I'm very confused by this (even if the reason she gave to Eros for forcing him to be her new personal guard was a tiny bit reasonable). I don't buy into Kora's alleged intelligence - she seems a bit dumb to me. She barely seems queenly half the time, and it often has nothing to do with Eros.
- Also, girlfriend is not as bada** as she seems. She lets her (younger) brother walk all over her. Dima is the Commander, as well as he's her second (the one to take her place if she dies or anything like that). It amazes me how many times he orders Kora to do something, and she does it. Go inside, Kora. Shut up, Kora. You can't do that, Kora. KORA. You are the f***ing queen. ACT LIKE IT.
- The presence of a love triangle (kind of -- though it resolves itself in the end; quite possibly the only thing that IS resolved is the triangle, because of what happens to one of the "legs"). It's a weird love triangle, but it's there. You have the betrothed (the one she "should" be with, the pure-blood prince), and you have Eros, the half-blood hottie. I like Eros. I feel bad for him. I liked the prince (Serik) too but I felt like he deserved better than Kora (Eros too, for that matter). It's also shockingly weird how quickly Serik FALLS IN LOVE with Kora (not lust - love; this was very explicitly stated).
- Weird insertions of made-up words that are supposed to be dialect or speak of the planet, but they were distracting, more than anything else. So distracting. I had to read lines twice and three times again because I couldn't catch the meaning, or because that one made-up word made me pause. Those words didn't flow well, with the story.
- Not to mention there were waaay too many modern-day references that stuck out like sore thumbs too. You can't blend 21st-century American slang with weird planet slang ("mo" for moment, "kinduv" for kind of, etc.). There were sooo many colloquial phrases that just did not fit in the book, and like I said, the weird slang dialect words the author threw in the book were also distracting.
- Above all, it would help to know if this were part of a series or not. Because then I would look past my first and second complaints, and this book would get another star. Big difference between 2.5 stars and 3.5 stars. But as we don't know about a sequel, I'm just going to give the (almost ultimate) punishing rating because I am NOT satisfied.
Would I Recommend It:
I do not recommend this book. It's not worth reading, especially since we have no idea if there will be a sequel or not. It wasn't the best-written story, and there were too many juvenile novice things that bothered me. Not to mention a HIGHLY unsatisfying romance and an infuriating ending. Did I mention the deus ex machina in the climax? One of my biggest pet peeves!
2.5 stars -> rounded down to 2 stars. Actually maybe it's just 2 stars flat. I want to say that I'll give the sequel a shot if there were to be one, but after writing this review, I'm not so sure. The more I think about this book, the less I liked it. Thank goodness it was fairly short!