Release: August 22nd 2017
Received: Net Galley
Disclaimer: I received A Red Peace from Net Galley in exchange for a fair an honest review.
A Red Peace is the first in the Starfire Trilogy written by Spencer Ellsworth, and along with an interesting plot (more on that in a minute) it comes with an utterly stunning cover. Please take a minute to appreciate the artwork, detail and color palette of the cover. I’m in love with it. As far as the plot is concerned, it’s a bit like space opera meets the Wild West. It’s full of aliens, giant space bugs (who doesn’t love giant space bugs?) and psychic weapons galore.
A Red Peace starts off with the end of a war; which is unexpected, despite the name of the title. The Resistance (a group of Jorians seeking their freedom from the humans) have won, but their job doesn’t appear to be over yet (yay for plot continuation!). There’s more going on in the Resistance than there appears to be at first glance; and there’s certainly more to their motives than the lower ranks are allowed to know.
Jaqi (a name I had a lot of fun imagining how it was pronounced) is a half-breed Jorian girl looking to find her place in the world; especially if that place involves tomatoes, but really any actual food will do. I was immediately drawn into liking Jaqi’s character, her motivations are very straight forward and human (yes, I see the irony in that statement, but you know what I mean). Despite knowing better, Jaqi constantly finds herself doing the right thing, even if it means putter herself at risk (for little to no payout to boot). It’s hard not to like and even respect a character like that.
Araskar is a perfect foil for Jaqi’s character – he’s been through hell (I think being on the Resistance during the war probably counts as such) and has completely lost his hope. He’s content with the idea of dying; especially if that means none of his slugs (lower ranking soldiers he’s in charge of) die in his stead. While that sounds honorable, to me it read mostly as him looking for a way out, an escape. Just like his drug addiction. While Jaqi is looking for hope, Araskar is all but lost to the concept. It makes their meeting so much more intense and meaningful.
Earlier I mentioned Jaqi’s love of tomatoes because it’s basically the reason she gets pulled into this whole mess (and thus the plot) in the first place. I personally loved that part; that something so little ended up spinning out into something so massive and unanticipated.
What I particularly loved about Ellsworth’s work was the way he blended his imagery with music and color. It was exceptionally evocative, and didn’t even have to be subtle in some cases – such as when Araskar was directly interpreting it for us. The most poignant moment (for me at least) was later in the novel (I promise this isn’t a crazy huge spoiler) where Jaqi gives Araskar a guitar and tells him to learn how to play. To me this not only connected the musical element to the characters (again), but represented Araskar physically being handed a chance at hope. It was beautifully done.
I really enjoyed reading A Red Peace, and am greatly looking forward to the next installation. Unfortunately I have a bit of time before that happens, and patience is not one of my virtues.