While on the plane to our honeymoon, I took the time to do something that I haven’t done in a long time: read a book. Between work, wedding planning, D&D, and binge watching White Collar and Criminal Minds, there was simply no free time to get lost in some well written fiction.
So, I picked up Thirteen Rising off my bookshelf and let myself finish a saga I had started many years ago.
Thirteen Rising by Romina Russell is the last book in the Zodiac series, which follows Rho Grace – a Cancrian living in the Zodiac star system, after she sees a prophecy of destruction from Ophiuchus. Suddenly, her planet is attacked, and she is thrust into a position of power and expected to lead an army – all while dealing with her teenage romance. Without spoiling too much of the plot, I’d like to write up a brief review of what I thought as I concluded this epic interstellar dystopian novel.
Now, I first read Zodiac when it first came out in 2014, and then Wandering Star and Black Moon each year after that. By the time I read Thirteen Rising, I was a bit fuzzy with everything that had happened in the previous books. However, Russell does a good job at reminding the reader of past events without doing a complete recap. She is also talented at building her world and immersing the reader without dumping too much information at once.
As this story takes place is a sci-fi world, there are a lot of new technologies and cultures to learn. As such, you can expect to learn new concepts specific to her books. Some of these words include Zodai, Ephemeris, and Astralator. While she has a handy glossary on her website, she is able to introduce these concepts to the reader without having to give a definition. As a writer, I know this can be difficult to do, and Russell is a master at it.
One of the things I loved most is how diverse and detailed her universe was. Over the course of the series, we were able to visit and explore every planet in the zodiac system, even the mysterious 13th planet. Each was complete unique to each other, and the customs of each culture were well thought out and described in detail. Yet another thing I know is hard to do, especially when building a world from the ground up.
My one critique is purely personal preference, and an issue I had with The Hunger Games and Divergent. If you can’t figure out the connection right away, I’m talking about the narration. I am not a big fan of first-person narration, as I feel it takes away a lot of the drama in the story. There is no real threat to the protagonist, as she’s the one telling the story. Katniss couldn’t die. Tris couldn’t die – until Four started narrating his own chapters, which gave away the big reveal of her demise immediately. I read the Zodiac series knowing that Rho couldn’t die.
That being said, there was still a lot of drama and tension in the story that drove it along well. There were casualties to be had (this is war, after all) and I was left heartbroken several times. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop me from feeling somewhat disappointed at the resolution of the fourth book.
I won’t spoil how it ends, but Rho is able to resolve the main conflict too easily. It seemed too perfect, and while there was a twist, I felt that it wasn’t needed. If I were in Russell’s position, I would have had Rho’s initial attempts at stopping the Master fail, forcing her to follow through with the Master’s plans until the final climax on Ophiuchus. Then I would have used the twist to amp up the tension at it’s highest.
Overall, I really enjoyed this series, and will one day read it from start to finish in one fell swoop to properly enjoy the story without year-long delays. It stands up well against the rest of the YA sci-fi/fantasy and romance genre. It’s a series I would highly recommend, and I look forward to reading more of what Russell has to offer.