Avalon: review

January 8, 2014 2014, 4 star books, Kate, sci fi or futuristic 66 ★★★★

Avalon: reviewAvalon by Mindee Arnett
Series: Avalon #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 21, 2014
Genres: science fiction
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett.

Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.

When I was 21, a mutual acquaintance introduced me to Buzz Aldrin at a cocktail party. We had been talking for under thirty seconds when he just turned around and walked away.  While I was in the middle of speaking.  I got to talk to the second human to walk on the moon, and I was so boring he couldn’t even be bothered to make up a polite excuse for turning his back on me mid-sentence.  It was the greatest moment of my life.

Because I love space.  Space adventures are among my favorite things in the world.  And Avalon is a really, really fun addition to this genre.  I mean, it has laser guns and a cute boy.  What is there to complain about?

Not much, but… well, a few things bothered me. For instance, two (male) members of the Avalon’s crew are virtually indistinguishable from each other, character-wise, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why they both need to exist within this story.  And the plot twists are kind of obvious a little too far in advance.  And there is an awful lot of double-crossing.  And the romance is a little meh.

But—BUT—Jeth is such a great angsty boy.  He starts out with just slightly more responsibility than he can handle, and the added pressure of taking care of his sister (with whom he has the absolute sweetest relationship) and his eclectic band of teenage mercenary crewmates (and their cat) gives him a nice emotional edge.  When characters die, or are killed (bad guys and good), it means something to Jeth because he’s still young enough not to be completely jaded.  He’s just a stressed-out teenager who is trying desperately to do the right thing.  I didn’t really feel the chemistry between him and his love interest (which is, frankly, par for the course in this genre), but I wanted more than anything for it to work out for him.  I really liked Jeth.

I liked most of the crew, actually.  There’s a nice balance of important male and female characters, and strengths and weaknesses are divided pretty evenly among them.  The stuff with Jeth’s little sister, Lizzie, who is coming into her own as a young woman and beginning to chaff at his over-protectiveness, is really lovely.  And the bad guys are scary in interesting, creepy ways.

I prefer that my space stories stick to the basics, and I really only have a few needs: I won’t read a ton of misogyny (many of the beloved classics, like Dune, are no bueno when it comes to the treatment of the ladies) or racism, I am fine with fusing genres as long as it is subtle (I’m not a fan of Firefly because of the overuse of Western elements), and I prefer that things to be noticeably different because SPACE.  Oh, and if the writing is bad, there had better be laser guns.

If you like Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica-style space operas, you will freaking love this book.  If you look at the cover and think “This does not look like something I would ever enjoy reading,” you are probably right.  I like space operas.  I freaking love this book.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.




66 Responses to “Avalon: review”

  1. Heather@The Flyleaf Review

    Ok, I am reading Avalon now so I had to just do the quick-scan but I’m SO coming back because, like you, I am fascinated with space sci-fi. Love your Buzz Aldrin story, though, whoa, douchey move Buzz! My story is that sci fi has always been something me and my dad love together. Star Trek episodes, Star Wars, ET, all of those remind me of my dad—his sci-fi geek gene clearly has been passed down to me:)

    And I do get the whole Han Solo/ Millienium Falcon vibe of Avalon (gosh Jeth just LOVES that ship of his) even though I am only about 30% in so you know I’m loving that. I was always a Han Solo girl–even in 1st grade when all the other little girls were gushing over Luke Skywalker. I liked those roguish pirate types from the start;)

    Anyway, I’ll be back to hear all your thoughts after i read. But tell me this Kate–does that freaky cover image get explained ever? Because I STILL have zero clue what the hell that thing is supposed to be.
    Heather@The Flyleaf Review recently posted…Book Review: Alienated by Melissa Landers

    • Kate Bond

      Kind of? No? Not really? It may have something to do with the big twist, but I don’t know. Huh.

      And I was a total Luke girl as a kid (Piglet was my favorite Pooh character, Michelangelo was my favorite turtle; I had boring taste), but that switched during puberty.

      I LOVE that you and your dad bond over sci-fi. My husband and I do that because it’s one of the only areas where we overlap, taste-wise.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Dress the Part: Cress

  2. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    When I look at the cover I think ‘that looks pretty cool’ and it does sound like it. It’s fun that you can see the relationship between Jeth and his sister, I like when there is some family around. I’m not sure I will completely love this book (I’m only recesntly starting to appreciate sci-fi), but I’m definitely willing to give it a try :)
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Top 10 Tuesday 30.

  3. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I know I started this one but then a host of disappointed reviewers who claimed the second half of this book lagged threw me off and I never went back to it. Clearly, though, I really should go back to reading this one. It seems quite the promising start and I love sci-fi/space novels, so really this should be right up my alley. Wonderful review, Kate!(:
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Showcase Sunday (#30)

    • Kate Bond

      The end has more emotional stuff and betrayals mixed in with the action, and I think that after how exciting and fun the beginning was… I don’t know. I get why some people did not like the latter half of it. But it worked for me because I really liked Jeth. If you are not into that character, though, you probably should not pick it back up.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Neverwas Tour Stop + Giveaway

  4. A Canadian Girl

    I’m not crazy about sci-fi novels and wasn’t really interested in this one so thanks for letting me know that it will probably not be my cup of tea, Kate.

    As for your chat with Buzz Aldrin, I’m glad that you found it to be a great moment in your life. I’d actually have been upset and angry at his rudeness. The least he could have done was excuse himself.
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Review: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

  5. Mindy D

    I’ve heard this novel was really good, and now I really want to read it! I’ve always wanted to spell my name that way as well. (Mindee haha)

  6. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    I had no idea this was voiced by a male protagonist, so thanks for that information! I’m not inherently drawn to space books, though I do love Star Wars. I also like cats and sibling stories. I think I will hold off on this one for now, until more books in the series are released (that’s my current MO if I’m unsure). But you’ve definitely peaked my interest in this one. I always take note when someone loves a book despite some obvious flaws. That means something.
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

    • Kate Bond

      I’m a wait-til-the-next-book person if I’m unsure, too. I think that’s probably a good idea here.

      I don’t have any cats (just two dogs), but I love them, and I love even more when they are in books. Wallbanger is theonly example I can think of where I did not enjoy the cat aspect of a book.

      My favorite is when the sexy male love interest TURNS INTO A CAT.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Neverwas Tour Stop + Giveaway

  7. Tabitha the Pabkins

    He just walked away without even saying EXCUSE ME!!!? What the frick! Jeez celebrities…I would expect more from a scientist cause you really have to be a scientist to go to space. Jeez ok now that appalls me.

    only Avalon – I’m so jonezing to get to this! I have it and I should start it soon. See I love space operas but I also love sci fi mashups. So I loved Firefly but also enjoy things like Farscape and Battlestar. I can’t believe you don’t like Firefly…I loved the western elements…I don’t know if we can be friends anymore. teehee jk?

  8. Amy

    Hmm I had this on my long tbr list but I am not a starwars fan and I have no clue what battle star galactica is so doubt I would like this book like I already figured. I would probably like These broken stars which seems to be more of a fluff space book.

  9. Thomas

    Ah, it’s great to know that this book contains a cast that consists of males and females and that the characters’ strengths and weaknesses are split between the genders. While I’m not a huge fan of space novels perhaps I’ll check this one out because of your well-written review. (:
    Thomas recently posted…Why Do We Have Friends?

    • Kate Bond

      That was such a hamfisted way for me to describe it, but I couldn’t think of a way to put it better. The women are still physically weaker, because they are human women, but they are just as vital to the running of things as the men.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Neverwas: review

    • Kate Bond

      The Star Wars/Trek element that is missing here is ALIENS. FYI. I didn’t miss them (I tend to think that sort of thing reads better on screen than in an adventure novel), but just so you know, that is not a part of this story.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Neverwas: review

  10. julie@my5monkeys

    I liked this book too. Jeth was angst boy, and yes I agree it was like BSG & Firefly :) Which I proudly admit that I am a fangirl over them both. I do agree that certain characters didn’t need to be in the book at all. Looks at Celeste , but it was a great opening to the not so nice world. My review is coming up :)
    julie@my5monkeys recently posted…Enders

    • Kate Bond

      I’ll keep an eye out for your review.

      I wish that the extra characters had been taken out. I…kind of liked Celeste? I don’t know. I enjoyed the idea of the two of them just being co-workers.

      And I L O V E D the opening. I felt like I was reading a script.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Avalon: review

  11. Rashika

    This is actually the first positive I’ve read for this book. As a huge space geek I totally get you. I haven’t read a lot of books that take place in space simply because most of them just don’t give me what I want and perhaps I end up comparing all space books I read to a certain space book I read when I was younger (and cannot remember the name to *sobs*). I don’t care much for life on space ships, I am more into the colonization idea, the idea of living on a planet and getting along with the natural inhabitants instead of travelling through space in well, a ship for hundreds of years.

    I like the idea of an angsty boy (as long as there is no bad boy thing going on :P). I am glad you enjoyed this Kate!

    Lovely Review :)

    • Kate Bond

      He is NOT a bad boy. Well. Let me think about that. He doesn’t, like, smoke, drink, sleep around, whatever, but he is a very Han Solo-y character. I mean, he’s a teenage mercenary. He runs a ship stealing things for the mob. So.

      And this is a VERY space ship-heavy book. Very, very space ship-heavy. FYI.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

      • Rashika

        I am probably the ONLY person who wasn’t a huge fan of Han Solo :P I was too busy being in love with Luke to care about Han Solo.

        … stealing stuff in space? That actually sounds FUN! SPACE MOBS. Even if it’s space ship heavy.

    • Kate Bond

      The key seems to be, based on the other reviews I’ve read today, whether or not you like the main character. If you don’t like him through the beginning of the book, which moves along very very quickly with a lot of fun action scenes, you won’t be onboard with following his emotional journey through the back half.

      I think that Han Solo was a supporting character in Star Wars for a reason. Having everything come from his perspective makes for a different story. And this guy is kind of a teenage Han Solo.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

  12. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction

    Ok first…BUZZ ALDRIN! I would fangirl so hard and I’m sure traumatize him to no end. He walked away during mid-convo…that is…just…I don’t know…amazing? Second…no Firefly? As others before me have expressed. I enjoyed Avalon for the most part. I agree 100% with the aspects you felt fell flat. I was sad that I could predict the outcome and I agree about the romance. I will be reading the next book and hope that its twists and turns are a bit more twisty.

    • Kate Bond

      Kristen, his walking away while I was in the middle of talking was… It was just so wonderful. I can’t imagine a better outcome to my meeting him, because now it’s a funny story I can tell rather than a lame name-dropping “guess who I met” thing.

      OK, so you could predict the outcome, too. Good. When they were on the ship where they found Cora and they couldn’t figure out what was causing the stuff to happen I wanted to SCREAM INTO MY PILLOW.

      I really hope the plot stuff is better in the next book. Or that she at least doesn’t TRY to do so many big surprises, since they aren’t surprising?
      Kate Bond recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

  13. Nikki @ Foil the Plot

    I’m torn on this one, Katie. On one hand, I love space books. There needs to be more of them. Fact. But on the other hand, it doesn’t sound quite like the characters and I will jive. I get a “meh” feeling by it. So you see my dilemma? Also, predictability is never really a good thing. Generally speaking, I don’t read these types of books for the romance factor so much as I do for the character arcs and action (and laser guns, naturally), so if you can promise me enough of that, this book and I might be able to see eye to eye.
    Nikki @ Foil the Plot recently posted…Book Review: Champion by Marie Lu & Legend-ary GIVEAWAY

    • Kate Bond

      I always feel guilty when I say plot elements were predictable because I am NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to fool. I ALWAYS guess what is going to happen–sometimes, like with Shadowlark by Meagan Spooner, all I have to read is the back of the book. So I guess the predictability is relative? I am going to read through everyone else’s reviews of this book later in the week and see whether they thought the plot was weak, too.

      The action and the non-romantic relationships were great. The crew interacted like an eclectic family (they don’t tip over into quirky, though), and there’s a lot of humor. And space ship-y action.

      I really love the characters and the world and the general storyline, and I will absolutely be reading the next book.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

      • Nikki @ Foil the Plot

        Yeah, I guess I never really thought about predictability being relative (but it totally makes sense). Humour and space ship-y action is certainly something I can get behind. And if the relationships are solid, then even if the book is somewhat predictable, I think I can overlook the predictability stuff. Thanks for the info!

  14. Karen

    Ok – I’ll throw myself to the wolves with you. I didn’t like Firefly either. *hides* I even tried watching it again recently when they were showing a marathon. Nope.

    It sounds like the pros outweigh the cons for Avalon and I’m always looking out for a good boy POV irregardless of the genre.

    Great review!

    Also – the Buzz Aldrin story is hilarious..
    Karen recently posted…Mini Reviews: Winterblaze by Kristine Callihan, A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney milan, Not Over You by Marquita Valentine

    • Kate Bond

      People really don’t like hearing that you don’t like that show, right?

      And the pros DO outweigh the cons if you are onboard with a plot-driven story. I just think…I mean, romance-wise, two hot teenagers who live adult lives living together on a tiny space ship could tip very adult very, very quickly. So that part is as good as can be expected.

      As Buzz Aldrin was turning away from me, I thought to myself, “I get to tell people this story for the rest of my life!!!!”
      Kate Bond recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

  15. Kim

    Yesssssss. I’ve really been looking forward to this one so I’m so glad you liked it, Kate! I am always after strong romance in genre, but this sound like it’s got enough other strengths that I’ll still really like it. I certainly adore sibling relationships (as long as the older brother “protectiveness” isn’t just annoying patriarchal posturing in disguise).

    I can actually understand not liking Firefly. The Western elements are easily my least favorite aspect. But the badass ladies! The action! The humor! The heartbreak! :(

    • Kate Bond

      It really bums me out when people review a book negatively because of too much romance. I WANT ALL THE ROMANCE. ALL OF IT. And it’s not BAD in this book, but realistically, they’re two hot teenagers living in cramped quarters, and if they had a ton of chemistry this book would need to step over to another genre. Oh man, I really wanna read that book.

      Firefly just bored me. I didn’t watch it as it aired, so I didn’t still have the post-Buffy adoration of Whedon–he had written several things that I didn’t like at all by the time I got around to seeing Firefly–and I think that has a lot to do with my indifference.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

  16. Kate @ Ex Libris

    I liked Firefly, but I’m kind of with you on the overuse of Western elements, but that might be because I’m not a fan of Westerns, so…..

    This is coming up on my reading list, and I’m looking forward to it. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi because of where I work & my inability to easily separate fiction from “that’s not the way it really works”, but this sounds good.

    That’s a really funny Buzz Aldrin story! From what I’ve heard, he’s kind of like that, though. Crazy astronauts!
    Kate @ Ex Libris recently posted…Ex Libris Romance: Happy New Year!

    • Kate Bond

      I’m a HUGE fan of westerns, so I was pretty grumpy about the bastardization of two things I love.

      I totally get the science fiction/science fact thing. My husband gets driven up the wall by that stuff (which is hilarious because he is a science fiction writer), but as long as it sounds reasonable I’m on board.

      At the end of the day, Buzz Aldrin is still an old white man, you know? They be how they be, no matter how cool their jobs are.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

  17. Pili

    But but but… how can you dislike Firefly?!?! It even changed the way me & the bf use the word “interesting”! Whenever one of us uses the word the other always asks “Firefly interesting or the regular interesting?”

    As a huge nerd of all things sci-fi and huge lover of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly, I am more than reinforced in my hope that I will love this book! Space operas for the win!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #24!!

    • Kate Bond

      It just felt too deliberately quirky. I don’t know. I think it was the Alan Tudyk of it all. But…I do adore Nathan Fillion. He’s one of the nicest people in the world, and he LOOKS LIKE THAT.

      I think you probably will really like this. It’s pretty plot driven, so if you absolutely must have a great romance to get pulled into a story, it won’t be for you, but otherwise, you’re good.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Starters series & Social Club series: giveaway

      • Pili

        Captain Tightpants is fantastic! He’s brilliant in Castle, but Nathan Fillion will always be Captain Mal for me!
        I don’t necessarily need a great romance to pull me into a book, sometimes I’d rather have the romance in the background or not at all. So hopefully, I’ll love it!
        Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #24!!

        • Kate Bond

          Yeah, I can be the same way. I tend to prefer either really good romance or none at all. But I’m not one of those people who get upset when a book pitched as science fiction is just a romance novel with those elements. Maybe because I also love romance novels.
          Kate Bond recently posted…Neverwas: review

  18. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    I agree that there was a lot of predictable plot twists and lame romance, however I think I may have made my expectations too high since I was a little pissed at this book when I finished. But I loved the friendship within the crew! Truly spectacular. And wow, this guy sounds pretty rude! Totally not because you’re boring to talk to :)

    Lovely review, Kate! <33
    Melanie (YA Midnight Reads) recently posted…Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

    • Kate Bond

      Compared to the people he normally interacts with? I’m pretty dull. But he and I have some pretty opposing worldviews, so we wouldn’t have a whole lot to talk about, anyway.

      And, yeah, I’m glad I read this before everyone else because I was able to just experience it with absolutely no expectations.

      I haven’t read anyone else’s reviews yet. I’m going to try to go around to all of your blogs to see what you thought tonight.