As the first book in the Consortium Rebellion series, Polaris Rising, by Jessie Mihalik, picks up as Ada, a younger daughter of High House von Hasenberg, is captured by mercenaries on a remote space station. She holds the dubious honor of having the highest bounty in the galaxy on her head, a bounty that’s being offered by her father. He’s been trying to find her for years, ever since she skipped out on her arranged marriage to a son of one of the rival High Houses. As we meet her, she’s on her way to share a holding cell with the guy who used to hold the highest bounty: Marcus Loch, aka the Devil of the Fornax Rebellion, wanted for murdering his squad and entire chain of command.
Before the cell door closes behind her, Ada is already setting in motion plans and schemes to free herself. Having an ally who can face down the most dangerous of mercenaries would be helpful, even if she’s not sure how far she can trust Loch. They’re on the way to striking a shaky alliance when her not-quite-ex-fiance arrives in a high-tech ship with his own battalion of shock troopers. Whatever else might be going on with her father, Ada knows she can’t let herself be taken by her ex, and the plot kicks into high gear.
All the escapes, captures, mutual rescues, creepy planetside expeditions, injuries, larcenies, and scheming a girl could want ensue. Polaris Rising checked off all my favorites: capable space princesses, taciturn military non-coms, found families, actual families, and having to share the only bed for warmth, plus competency porn that extends past just physical skills. Yes, Loch is totally badass as he tears through one mercenary company after another (and Ada holds her own, too), but other situations call for other skills, and no one thinks that they’re lesser. It’s equally important to be able to read an engineering spec, find the critical piece of spy gear that’s going to get people behind enemy lines, and know how to dress for a formal reception so no one figures out what you’re really up to.
In the middle of all the action, there’s also a well-thought-out romance (and some very no-fade-to-black sex scenes) happening between Ada and Loch. (Add a good princess-and-the-rogue romance to the list of things that make me happy. Yes, I did imprint on Han and Leia at an impressionable age; I’m sure that’s not a surprise by now.)
People even show love and caring by making food for each other, be still my heart.
The last quarter of the book is a little slower-paced, which threw me off a bit, but again, it makes it clear that the derring-do of a classic space opera isn’t the only way to make things happen, which I appreciate. Ada can take care of herself physically, but she can also think and plan and scheme her way to success as well.
I’ve been in the throes of a serious reading slump, where book after book after book ends up abandoned somewhere in the house or car, but Polaris Rising might have just broken that losing streak and given me the space opera/romance hybrid I didn’t even know I wanted.
This is very much a romance set in a space opera, not a space opera with romantic elements, so if you’re looking for a classic sci-fi book, this will probably not work as well for you as it did for me. But seriously, if you, too, were not aware of how much you wanted your space princess to rescue herself and get the guy (and a few extra new friends) until you saw this, Polaris Rising is definitely the book for you. (And lucky us, the second book in the series, Aurora Blazing, is out already. It’s arriving at my house shortly, and I’m sure I’ll let you know what I think.)