I’ve written a lot of five-star reviews for Fictionist, and only one one-star review. Generally, I love books. I love all kinds of writing styles, all kinds of plots, all kinds of characters.
When I went to BookCon 2017 for Fictionist, I saw a lot of books given out. Lots of Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs), lots of author signings, lots of books for sale. It was amazing — I brought home 25 books, only two of which I had to pay for. Better than Christmas Day. Anyway, one of the many ARCs given out was Zenith. The line for this ARC wrapped around half the show floor — people were camped out hours in advance. They were even given numbered sticky notes at the booth to prove they had been in line since the beginning. It was a long wait, and I didn’t have the time to sit in line — I had other ARCs to sniff out, other authors to meet.
After BookCon, I saw Zenith on NetGalley. “Cool,” I thought. “It’s that book everyone wanted at BookCon. I should request it and see what the fuss is about.”
After I started reading Zenith, I started wondering why everyone was so excited about it. I Googled it, and it turns out one of the two authors is a popular BookTuber (YouTuber who posts book content). Many Goodreads reviews focus on this fact, saying Alsberg had only gotten the book deal because she already had a substantial internet following. This didn’t particularly upset me; many authors get publishing deals because of an online following. If I’m not mistaken, even Sarah J. Maas’ success in publishing dates back to the popular online version of the first Throne of Glass book — then titled Queen of Glass.
My point here is, it isn’t Sasha Alsberg’s internet popularity that made Zenith a bad book. It’s just written badly. That’s all.
Lindsay Cummings, the other author involved with Zenith, didn’t seem to help, either. Cummings was already a published author, so you’d think she would have helped the book along — but in practice, having two different authors made the book feel even more fractured.
Honestly, in my opinion, the book read as if someone had thought to themselves, ‘What if we wrote about a really cool all-female space pirate crew, but all we really focus on is the fact that it’s all girls? Have I mentioned it’s all teenage girls? All of the crew are girls! Girls, girls girls!’
I actually started highlighting every time the world “girl” is used, because it got distracting. The authors couldn’t use better words? Not “crew,” not just the characters’ names, not even just “she”? It had to be “the girl”?
“A group of girls…”
“The girls had taken the job…”
“The girl said…”
“The tall, broad-shouldered girl…”
“The older girl…”
Now the two girls…”
“…surveyed the girls.”
“The girls had taken on…”
“You girls in position?”
These quotes are only from the first 15% of my Kindle version. They’re from the very beginning, when we’re supposed to be introduced to the “Bloody Baroness,” AKA Andi, our main character. She’s supposed to be the best space pirate in the universe, feared by everyone. We see her at one point gouging a bunch of lines into her sword’s blade, supposedly one for every life she’s taken. This concerns me, because I feel like anyone who really cares about their sword wouldn’t be voluntarily gouging lines into the blade all the time.
There’s also such gems as:
“But he could certainly see the rest of her: perfect curves beneath a sleek, skintight leather bodysuit, the hilt of a knife sticking out from her black boots.”
“…lying, cheating lady thieves…”
“…the bloodthirsty little fairy…”
“Godstars, she was magnificent, a creature who had released her wrath on the world.”
These, again, are only from the first 15% of the book. I had this strange feeling, sort of like being gaslighted, while reading this book. The authors are trying to convince me that I’m reading about the most feared pirate in the galaxy, but I’m also being told someone who literally installed metal plates on her cheekbones as a sort of armor would just wear a skintight leather bodysuit around without any other protection. I’m being told that the girls are running out of food money, but one of them spent a bunch of cash to get red streaks in her hair.
‘This girl is a huge badass, but wait, have I mentioned that she’s a girl? Here, let’s talk more about her white and purple hair. Have we mentioned recently that she’s a girl? Okay, but did you know she’s not a dude?’
I had such hopes for this book. Firefly, a Joss Whedon show about space pirates that’s often described as sort of a “space Western,” is one of my favorite shows in existence. As soon as I started reading, this book gave me Firefly vibes, but then the vibes got heavier. Layered on top of that were some Throne of Glass vibes, and then some Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way vibes.
Suffice it to say, I did not enjoy reading this book. If you’re interested in checking it out, though, let me know what you think! Here’s a link to it on Book Depository, where you can get free worldwide shipping.