My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Aerin Renning is a girl on the run. A fugitive. Who happens to be offered the chance to attend the most prestigious school in her galaxy: Academy 7. The catch? You need to be a citizen of the Alliance. Which is something that Aerin isn’t.
Dane Madausin is the son of the Alliance’s leading military officer, whose life should have been one of privilege and prestige, but has been that of a rebel. So, against his father’s wishes, he is attending Academy 7.
Aerin wants to stay unnoticed, doing her assignments and attending her classes without drawing undue attention to herself or the little differences between her and the other students that could give her away. Dane doesn’t care about his reputation and when he thinks that his father is going to order him home, he pulls a stupid prank that lands Aerin in serious trouble. Dane feels guilty for implicating Aerin in his offense and tries to apologize but even though they work together daily on chores as punishment, Aerin wants nothing at all to do with Dane. He is a troublemaker, which leads to attention, which she cannot afford; he got her into trouble and due to other earlier misunderstandings and misleading statements from other spiteful students, Aerin has a very poor opinion of Dane.
Still a tenuous friendship springs to life after Dane discovers that she is not a citizen and they form a bargain – Dane will coach Aerin on the Alliance and she’ll teach him fighting, at which she excels. And as their friendship develops, surprising aspects of each character’s history and personality are revealed. But is this friendship strong enough to overcome the scars that burden them, the walls that they have built to protect themselves, or the dark past that plagues both Aerin and Dane?
Aerin has been so hurt, so injured by life. She trusts no one, cares for no one. But she retains her courage and dignity. Dane is able to bring a part of her to life that was never allowed to exist before. Dane, as well, as been damaged by his past – abused physically, verbally and emotionally by his father (who could use a few anger management classes), set upon by his brother Paul who plays him against their father. He is furious, lashing out, recklessly endangering his life. But that changes when he meets Aerin. She is the one person who doesn’t treat him like the son of the General. She doesn’t show him the least bit of respect or deference. But as much as she intrigues him and as much as he admires her, he cannot let her in because that would be too painful.
The suspense and intrigue was overhyped. The big reveal, while certainly tragic, is not all that fraught with peril nor is it as immediately dark and dangerous and terrible as it is made to seem. I blame the cover blurb – don’t overstate a matter to get me to read only to have me be disappointed by false advertising.
That said, the friendship story, as it progresses toward something more romantically inclined, is very well done. And for as short a book as this is, I felt that you get the feeling of a lot being done and you feel that sense of time passing and change. You can read 700 page books that get less done, so it is really a compliment when I say that it feels like the story accomplishes something and I honestly wish this book was longer. I never skimmed and did not feel like skipping ahead, a constant trouble with the majority of books I pick up. So a truly excellent blend of pacing, editing and development of character and dialogue that never left me wondering “Why is this here? What is the point? Get on with it already!” If anything, more conversations would have made this book better. And a little less ambiguity in sections.
But with all these secrets beginning to come out, I foresee many troubles ahead for Dane, and especially Aerin. So, please, please, let’s see that sequel. Or two. I’ll break my “no more trilogies” rule if I can just see their story completed!