Zenith Review (Guest Post: Charlotte, Somewhere)

This post is from Charlotte, Somewhere, a contributor to nosaferplace. Charlotte is a wife, mother, cocker spaniel owner and someday Queen of the Universe. She can almost always be found with her face in a book and a coffee in her hand. She likes writing, knitting, crafty things, baking, eating, walking, taking photos and nurturing a close relationship with her sofa and blankets.

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg

Anyone who has read my blog posts before will know I am a huge fan of stories with strong kickass women, assassins and adventure. Zenith by Sasha Alsberg has all these things. And more. It is one of my favourite reads of 2017.
Zenith has a really strong opener, describing Valen’s imprisonment in Cell 306. We have no idea until later in the story what the importance of this, but it is a hugely evocative opening chapter. The story then moves on to the life of Androma Racella, aka The Bloody Baroness (what a nickname; I LOVE it!) who is on the run from the law after being sentenced to death for her part in the death of the General’s daughter Kalee (Valen’s sister). Andi is offered the opportunity to win pardon by rescuing Valen from a notorious prison. Obviously, this does not go as smoothly as anyone hopes it will and leads to a dangerous adventure across the universe.
Did I mention it is set in space? I’ve become quite a fan of space as a setting for novels this year, and here we get a Firefly-esque vibe with a bunch of runaways all hiding from something, bonding to form a quirky little family hurtling through the stars (absolute life goals, so if anyone reading this wants to become a space assassin and join me, we leave at dawn…after coffee!)
Andi’s crew is made up of Gilly (a tiny yet terrifying gunwoman) and Lir (who has scales and comes from a planet where emotions are displayed through your scales – this is such an interesting concept). Both Gilly and Lir have their own backstories that are just as complex and important to the overall novel as that of Andi. Lir’s story particularly hooked me as she battles between wanting to do what is expected of her at home and wanting to be her own person.
Andi is described as having “the darkest soul of them all”. She is feared by almost everyone around her, except her crew and then the mysterious Dex, who is sent by the General to assist in the rescue. Dex and Andi are just brilliant together. They are perfect for each other, but they hate each other. It is just marvellous to observe and so much fun to read, although they have so much drama going on that you probably don’t want a real relationship like that. It is clear from the moment we see them both together that they still have feelings for each other and unresolved history and that Andi and Dex have not forgiven each other for what happened, but we don’t discover what happened until late in the story, and when we do it is a heart-stopping moment. I cannot wait to see how their relationship progresses in the next book.
Underneath her bloody persona, Andi is quite a soft and emotional character. I loved that both sides of her were clearly seen at various points in the story, because so often the assassins in novels are entirely hard hearted. Andi feels keenly every death that she is responsible for. She has this beautiful ceremony (at the end of each day) of sitting down to “dance” with each person she has killed that day. She is still deeply haunted by the events around Kalee’s death, by her estrangement from my parents (and oh my what an eye-opener that part of the story is!) and by what happened between her and Dex.
As if that wasn’t enough, whilst all this is going on a ruthless woman on planet Xen Petra is creating a terrifying army and waiting for the perfect time to strike at the rest of the universe as revenge for the wars that destroyed her people. This woman struck fear into my swinging-brick heart. We don’t see a significant amount of her in Zenith, but when she does appear to wreak vengeance she really makes her presence felt, and I have high hopes for more of her venom later in the series.
There is absolutely no let-up in the adventure of this book. There are no boring parts. I was gripped from start to finish. There were twists that took my breath away and losses that broke my heart. Zenith is an outstanding read and one of my new favourites. Read it. You will not be disappointed.

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