Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Starjacked by Karin Shah

TITLE: Starjacked
AUTHOR: Karin Shah
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 68k)
GENRE: Sci-fi romance
COST: $5.50

Rork Al’Ren, Head of Defense for the Union, goes undercover to break up a powerful piracy ring once and for all, and finds himself enslaved as a result. It’s better than dead, he thinks, until the notorious Tia Sen, the daughter of the pirate leader, puts a control collar on him and pronounces him hers. Tia isn’t exactly as she seems. Beneath her father’s nose, she does everything she can to free children from future enslavement, but these are secrets she guards preciously, since exposure would mean death to those who help her. Nobody can find out, especially the slave she can’t stop thinking about…

I don’t know what’s in the water these days, but I have been having the hardest time getting through opening chapters on many of the stories I’m reading. Either it’s boring, or overwritten, or excruciatingly bad, and most of the time, I’ll set it aside to try again later or give up entirely. This was one I decided to slog through, though it took me several chapters before I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time. In the end, it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, though it never veered from the middle of the road.

This is role reversal in space, with the female pirate and the alpha male taken into her custody and forced to do her bidding. Tia has a reputation as long as her arm for her maliciousness, and Rork wants nothing more than to bring her to justice. He lost his wife and unborn child to pirates, as well as a recent comrade, and from the very beginning, his mission is personal, even if he denies it. He witnesses Tia commit a rather heinous crime when he is captured (though it was all for show, and the prisoners she purportedly killed escaped), and cannot understand how he can be attracted to a woman so despicable. Thus begins the song and dance that typifies their relationship throughout the book, Rork disgusted with himself for his weakness, Tia wondering why she cares so much what a slave thinks.

The whole thing would work much better if Tia was as strong a character as Rork is. Oh, sure, we’re told over and over again how strong she is, and we do get opportunities to see her hold her own. But all too soon, she starts to lose it, until she is the damsel who needs Rork to save her. The entire middle section completely disintegrates as this occurs. Pacing disappears, and the story gets stuck in a holding pattern where nothing actually happens. Thankfully, Tia does pull off a little stunt that catapults the action back into play (and while I had no doubt something was going to happen to save her ass, it was a real joy to see her saving it herself), but by the time it happens, I’ve lost interest again. Considering how long it took me to get interested in the story in the first place, that’s not a good thing.

In the end, I’m left a strong feeling of déjà vu – a hero whose actions become predictable in spite of the fact that roles have been reversed, a heroine who doesn’t live up to her reputation (and I don’t mean the murdering part, I mean the strong, no-nonsense, don’t mess with her part), plot developments that are telegraphed chapters before they actually happen. It doesn’t make it a bad story – though the uneven pacing certainly drags it down – but it definitely keeps it from being a very good one.


7/10 – A too dense beginning and pacing issues weaken the novel’s strengths


7/10 – Serviceable as an alpha, though sometimes a little too predictable even with the role reversal


5/10 – More damsel than powerful pirate

Entertainment value

6/10 – The pacing and a heroine who doesn’t live up to the promise of her reputation weakens what could have been a very good story.

World building

7/10 – Though there are some good ideas here, clumsy execution holds it back



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