Review: Zodiac by Romina Russell

20821306paper ARC won in giveaway

Summary:

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Review:

Okay, I generally make it a point to not review ARCs this far out in advance (yeah, this comes out in December, sorry peeps) but since I won it in a blog-giveaway and there was something about the cover that kept intriguing me about it, I decided to just go for it and read it now.

Wow. I was really surprised by this. In all the right ways.

I admit it: I thought this sounded a bit cheesy when I first read the summary so to my great surprise, it wasn’t. This is easily one of the most unique Young Adult genre worlds that I have read in ages, right up there with The Grisha series for things that I haven’t normally seen. Yeah. We’re talking that level of unique, people. Romina really put some thought in to her universe building, and she’s clearly studied her astrology. Even the notion of a 13th house can be traced back there – yeah, Ophiuchus is a legit thing according to some. The Houses have different traits and different characteristics. She even has made up her own fables and stories for a few of the houses, I’m particularly fond of a Libran tale about the Letter O and making judgements without all the facts. There are a few points that seem slightly silly (like how a person can literally change form if their traits don’t match their native House), but the rest is done well enough that you can forgive the flaw, though it wouldn’t surprise me if this didn’t become a plot point later on in the series.

But really what sold me on this book was that it’s fundamentally a tale of standing up for your truth. Rho sees something in the stars, and literally no one believes her, but she keeps fighting. She gets knocked down a lot more than she gets a helping hand, but she keeps trying. And at the same point, the author does balance this message with another message that says believe in your truth, but don’t become so dogmatic in your belief that you can no longer see facts that might contradict your point of view. It’s a nice touch.

The other thing that sold me on this book: fairly early on you start to see a triangle develop between Rho, Hysan and Mathias. But guess what? Rho realizes that in the wake of genocide it’s not appropriate to moon over which boy likes her. Oh, she still has feelings, and she does actually act on them, but she is a far cry of wishy-washy which do I choose and nor does she let her feelings for them interfere with what she sees as her duty. It’s awesome. And refreshing. And we need more of it in Young Adult, please.

The biggest disappointment of reading this book so far out in advance is that I’m going to have an even longer wait until the second book comes out. Don’t worry though, you’ll see reminders of this popping up before the years end, I promise. If not in other reviews, than almost certainly on my Best of 2014 list. Yep. I went there. This is genre YA done absolutely right and we need to give it all the love we can.

Verdict it: Buy it

Available: December 2014

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