Release: November 28th 2017
I received a copy of Shadow Sun Seven from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Shadow Sun Seven is Spencer Ellsworth’s second book in the Starfire trilogy. This series is perfect for anyone looking for a science fiction read with just a little bit of fantasy thrown into the mix; the cover description calls it a space opera, and while that term didn’t immediately come to mind I certainly can’t argue with it either. Like the last novel, I absolutely loved the cover (Thank goodness for those bright covers – it caught my attention right away!). Fans that enjoyed A Red Peace will appreciate the follow up, meanwhile those that haven’t read it will probably be at least a little bit lost, so please don’t jump right to this one.
Shadow Sun Seven feels very much like the middle of a trilogy – it starts off with the assumption that we’ve read the first novel (seriously, don’t skip it) and concludes knowing we’ll read the third one to find out what happens next. The ending isn’t a cliff hanger, in the “I’m going to go crazy if I don’t see what happens next” sense, but it still laid the groundwork to keep you coming back.
Ellsworth spends a lot of time with character development in this novel. Like the last one, most of the focus is directed towards Jaqi and Araskar. There’s a handful of other characters included as well (the children and Z being the predominant ones from the last book), but they don’t get as much attention or development.
Jaqi has so much on her head right now. As if running a resistance (…against the Resistance) wasn’t enough, many of her followers think she’s a new saint or deity. Talk about pressure. It’s understandable that she’s having a lack of faith crisis here. She’s never had to have anyone rely on her in any way that actually matters, and suddenly there are all these people who are literally willing to die for her. That’d be scary for anyone (anyone that isn’t a sociopath at least). I feel like her lack of immediate belief in her supernatural powers makes her more relatable and human (I know, I know, she isn’t actually human, but you know what I mean). Despite her reservations about herself and her abilities, Jaqi is one of the best people in the group she’s running. She’s determined to do what is right (even if that makes their job so much more difficult that it becomes next to impossible) and so far she’s always stepped up to the job when it was needed of her.
I really enjoyed Araskar’s character arc for this novel. As with the last book, he’s got a lot of ground to improve upon. Last time we saw him as a drug addict trying to make the hard choice between following his leader, or doing what is right. This time he’s a recovering addict (during the roughest part of the transition, no less), he’s made the choice to do the right thing, and yet he’s suffering. He’s haunted by his past, by his actions and actions of his now ex-comrades. Despite all this he’s loyal to a fault to Jaqi – in a way I almost feel like she’s become his replacement drug (an easy connection to spot – both induce music in his mind). While I’m concerned about what this will ultimately mean for Araskar (he’s a walking tragic hero, so I can easily see him giving up his life to save her), I do appreciate the work that’s gone into his character him to this point.
I’m anxious to see how the reunion between Araskar and John Starfire goes. I feel like it’s a safe assumption that this will happen at some point – after all John is aware the Araskar survived and betrayed him (not to mention the whole killing his daughter thing). Between the actions Araskar is taking and the bounty by John on his head…well it’s inevitable. Likely this will happen at the end of the trilogy…but hey, you never know!
Z also got a little bit of character development, though it’s hidden well behind all of his bluster and ranting about blood and honor (get used to that saying). Two major turn of events are thrown at him, both causing his honor and his beliefs to be questions. The first is a choice; complete the mission (which Jaqi, a woman he considers to be sacred, and more, needs completed), or kill the man that slaughtered his people. I’ll admit I don’t really envy his position here; morally he’s in the wrong no matter which option he chooses, at least in theory. After his choice was made, and while accepting the consequences of his actions, Z is forced to learn that something has changed, specifically something about him. This change may or may not make him a pariah of his people, removing his honor and taking away his ability to go home. It’s no surprise after this double whammy that Z needs to take some time and think (I never got the impression that he was a quick thinker to begin with…so…).
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve spent more time talking about the characters than I have about the actual plot. There’s a reason for that. This novel, while absolutely fantastic, is clearly setting up for the third novel, where the heavy impacts will occur. Part of that setup includes insuring that the characters are at a place where they’ll make sense. So it’s only naturally that they’re a major part of this book, in many ways more so than the plot (but don’t worry, there actually is a plot for this book, I promise!).
I absolutely cannot wait for the third novel to be released! It’s so difficult to find a series that fits perfectly into the genre and mood you’re in at that moment, but this series has been perfectly for me lately. Naturally that’s making me a little bit anxious to get my hands on the next one!