Author: Mindee Arnett
Genre: YA, science fiction
Series? Yes, Avalon #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 21, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads: A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.
Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.
Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they’re damn good at it. Jeth doesn’t care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents’ ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he’ll go to get the freedom he’s wanted for so long.
Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon’s cult hit show Firefly.
Avalon is one of my favorite sci-fi books, though I don’t think everyone will be able to say that. The comparisons to Firefly are more than warranted, and there are some tropes that can irritate readers. However, I found that all of the elements worked together really well, and while the plot was slow at certain points, overall Avalon was a well-developed, engaging book.
And here we have the culprit of my now-two-month-long science fiction obsession: Avalon. When I saw it billed as “for fans of Firefly,” I knew I had found a winner. It had everything I was looking for: space, futuristic technology, crime bosses and heart-of-gold robbers, a wee bit of romance, and a bunch of orphans making a family for themselves. So while Avalon has all the plot devices and character tropes that I can’t get enough of, others may find it annoying and cliché – it all depends on what you’re looking for.
Let’s get the cliche out of the way: the answer is yes, Avalon does have MANY similarities to Firefly. A goodreads user sums it up in their review here, albeit a bit harshly. There’s the loyal, stoic captain (Jeth) who will do anything for his crew, the kid sister (Lizzie) who’s a whizz with tech, a goofy pilot (Flynn), the badass woman sidekick (Celeste), and the muscle (Shady). But just as I fell in love with Firefly for that perfect combination of characters, I fell in love with Avalon for these teens. Of course there are some differences, but really that mixture is just flawless, and I’ll read it over and over again in whichever book I find it.
The plot had some slow parts, but I didn’t find them to be too irritating. It gave room for the characters and their relationships to develop, and Arnett did that very well! I was on my seat half the time, trying to figure out where the plot was going and how all the ends would tie up. And I really enjoyed how the metatech was included: it wasn’t too much jargon, and I think even a sci-fi newbie would be able to grasp it fairly easily.
Ultimately, what I fell in love with was the characters. I couldn’t help but root for all of them, especially Jeth as he tried to protect his crew and earn back the rights to his parents’ ship. And I have to give a big thumbs up to Arnett regarding Jeth’s relationship with Hammer, the crime boss. Most YA novels I’ve read just show their MCs get a bit roughed up, a punch here or a bullet to the shoulder there, but Jeth is really thrown to the dogs in some parts. Arnett didn’t shy away from illustrating the torture that Hammer inflicts on Jeth after a mission goes wrong – it made everything a lot more solid, and I could really feel for Jeth after that.
So here’s my final word on this book: I loved it. Absolutely adored everything about it! And I can’t wait for book 2 to come out (no release date yet – AHHH!!!). But, I think this is one of those books that not everyone will love, which is obvious since there’s a lot of mixed reviews on goodreads. As long as you know that there are some tropes, a few cliches, and the plot can slow a bit at times, then you’ll be good. Avalon had everything that I really enjoy in a science fiction book, and I can’t wait to read it again!
My Final Rating: