Thursday, December 18, 2014

ARC Review: Zodiac by Romina Russell

Title: Zodiac
Series: Zodiac #1
Author: Romina Russell
Published: December 9, 2014 by Razorbill (Penguin)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis:Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories. 

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

*** I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher at BEA for an honest review, This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

When I finished reading Zodiac my first thought was, this was good but getting to the good stuff was kind of rough. Despite the fact that there was a lot that I didn't like, it's not that I didn't like the book, because I did. Zodiac (unlike it's plot and characters) was a mysterious contradiction. It had a great and creative world but I didn't enjoy the world-building. And despite not really liking the characters I was still connected with their struggle.

One of the best parts of this book was the world. Romina Russell has created a complex and interesting Science Fiction universe based on astrology. I'm not the kind of person who reads my horoscope but I have always been interested in the idea that where you fall on the zodiac says something about your personality. Russell has taken that concept of the personality traits of each sign and created whole races of people around these traits. She has made both planets and people that are complex and interesting. I felt like I could perfectly visualize everything from the ocean planet of Cancer, to the technology of their space vessels and other gadgets, to the appearance of Librans and Geminin. Russell created something so interesting in this book.

But as much as I enjoyed the world of this book, the execution of the world-building was problematic. It was the classic mistake of telling instead of showing. And while I did feel like I could immerse myself and visualize this new and creative world I was annoyed by the explanations. Most of the book was full of info-dumps and at times even read like a play by play or a color commenting. The world was so creative, if the world-buiding had been scaled back a bit, I think I would have enjoyed it more.

But even more frustrating than the world-building was the plot and pacing. Actually these two things are kind of go hand in hand because of the sheer amount of world-building in this book, especially in the beginning. I was overwhelmed by explanations and expositions and it took far too long for this book to get interesting. I powered through but I can completely see why people might DNF this book. But when it did get good, boy was this plot thrilling.  It was full of high-stakes, end of the world action scenes in space that had me on the edge of my seat. I'm not sure at what point in the book I started enjoying the plot development because it wasn't like they flipped a switch and things started to get interesting. There was actually a fair amount of exciting scenes in the beginning of the book but they really should have been the focus not the world-building. Just another contradiction about this book. 

And the characters too were not my favorite. I can usually forgive a lot of things about a book that I don't like if I do like the characters. As far as the main character Rho, she was fine but nothing special. She had her strengths and weaknesses and was thrust into this role that she neither wanted nor was prepared for. Sounds like a trademark reluctant hero, a trope I always like, but I just didn't feel connected with her. And the romantic leads were nothing to write home about either. This was a love triangle where neither side really worked for me. Plus there was an overwhelming amount of characters in this book. There seemed to be a need to include at lease one character from each of the twelve Houses of the Zodiac in some way. But the book did have a pretty complex and sinister villain. He could been much more mysterious and featured more prominently but I did find him a pretty good villain.

But the biggest contradiction with the characters was that in the end I did feel invested in their success. When the book finally reached it's climax I was rooting for them and when they were treated unfairly I wanted them to come out on top. This surprised me more than anything. Maybe I had grown attached to them by the end of the book, or maybe they had good development because of all they had been through. But honestly I think it was more sympathy than empathy. I kind of just felt bad for them and didn't want them to be unfairly treated anymore. On the whole while I didn't find the characters anything special I was cheering for them to succeed and I guess that is something.

But despite this overly critical review I did enjoy reading this book. I feel like I am not expressing my feelings of it very well. It had it's flaws but it was still an interesting and exciting read. It had a lot of potential and it did get there in the end. The creative world and exciting climax redeemed the book for me and by the end I had warmed up to the characters.

I give Zodiac by Romina Russell a 7.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are a fan of Young Adult fantasy, are looking for something with an interesting and creative world, and don't mind if they tell instead of show when it comes to world-building than check this book out. Maybe Zodiac will appeal to a younger audience or those who are big fans of Young Adult SciFi. It's not very complicated and if you can power through a slow beginning you'll get to the payoff, a thrilling conclusion.

Have you read Zodiac? What did you think? Have you read a book recently that you liked despite being really critical on it? What book? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I really enjoyed your review. I started this but couldn't get into it and had to pass it on before I could read the rest. The first few chapters didn't really grab me the way I had hoped they would. I still want to read it since it gets very mixed reviews.
    ~ Britt @kalebsmome

  2. I really loved the concept of this book, and the author is such a sweetheart! I thought this book was just a fun ride with a few flaws in the way. It was a bit dark sometimes which I was really surprised by, and I loved the various planets and traveling that went on. The weakest point in my opinion was the characterization. Lovely review!

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books