I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Black Star Renegades by Michael Moreci
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 2 2018
Genres: Adult, Science fiction
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The nitty-gritty: A fun and character-driven debut, fans of Star Wars will find much to love in this fast-paced space opera.
In Michael Moreci’s afterward to his fun and furious debut, he unabashedly calls Black Star Renegades his “love letter to Star Wars,” and it shows. It’s easy to make your way through the story and say things like “Cade is Luke Skywalker” or “Ga Halle is Darth Vader” or “the shido must be a light saber.” But Black Star Renegades, for all the obvious Star Wars parallels, has its own charm and character, and I fell hard for Cade, Kira, Mig and 4-Qel, the main ensemble of the story. If you’re looking for an action-packed and entertaining book to start off 2018, then you really can’t go wrong with this one.
Cade and his older brother Tristan are members of the Rai (think Jedi), having trained for the past ten years with their mentor Ser Jorken. When the story opens, they are on a mission to literally change history. After years of oppression under a group of people called the Praxis, most of the galaxy lives in a state of fear, after the Praxis developed a way to steal the energy from stars, thus enslaving any planet who benefited from that energy. But there is a myth of a Chosen One called the Paragon, a Rai with the strength to pull a sacred weapon called the Rokura out of stasis, a weapon which could restore order and balance to the galaxy and end the evil reign of the Praxis for good. And guess what? Tristan is thought to be the Paragon, but in order to test his mettle, he must journey to the planet Quarry where the Rokura waits for someone worthy enough to wield it.
But when Tristan and Cade finally make it to the caves where they do indeed find the Rokura, things do not go quite as planned. After a confrontation with a waiting enemy, Cade finds himself in possession of the Rokura, and now he either has to prove that he can wield and control the Rokura, or find the real Paragon. Neither option is going to be easy, because now that he has the Rokura, everyone is after him. With the help of friends Kira and Mig and Mig’s android 4-Qel, Cade tries to stay one step ahead of the enemy, but when the enemy is everywhere, that’s very hard to do.
Moreci gets things going with a bang, as the first couple of chapters are non-stop action and set the stage for the rest of the story. Black Star Renegades has a cinematic feel to it, which doesn’t surprise me considering the author has lots of experience writing comics and graphic novels. There is a subtle humor that infuses the story, and I’m happy to report that it was my kind of humor, snarky and understated, but not so overpowering as to hit the reader over the head with it. Cade has plenty of humorous dialog with both Kira and Mig, but I especially loved 4-Qel’s humor, which is even funnier because he doesn’t understand that he’s being funny.
The story has lots of twists and turns, as Moreci is determined to send Cade and his friends from one adventure to another with barely room to breathe between them, but for me the story really took off once Cade, Kira, Mig and 4-Qel become a team. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a close-knit ensemble cast, and these four characters really made this story special.
Kira was a fantastic character, who luckily isn’t added just as a romantic interest for Cade. (Yes, there is a bit of romance going on, but it’s definitely not the focus.) She’s braver and pluckier than Cade, and as I mentioned above, she’s hiding some secrets about her family that could have a profound impact on how the others think of her.
Despite the strengths of this novel, it wasn’t perfect, and there were some elements that didn’t quite work for me. Moreci’s talent lies in his character-building, dialog and action sequences, but I have to say his writing style is a bit rough around the edges. There were a couple of really awkward sentences—“His torso propelled forward, sitting Cade upright.”—which either escaped the editing process or have perhaps been corrected by now. I was also puzzled by the spelling of 4-Qel’s name, which continuously changed from “4-Qel” to “Four-Qel,” back and forth, as if the author and editor couldn’t quite make up their minds which version to use. Now, I understand I read an uncorrected proof, but usually in this state the spelling/editing mistakes are few and far between. (I’m tempted to check out the finished book to see if this rather distracting issue has been fixed!)
Although there are brief glimpses into the characters’ backstories, I wanted more detail. We only get a few paragraphs about Cade’s and Tristan’s childhood on Kyysring, a backwaters world where corruption, drugs and murder run rampant. And a tantalizing mention of Kira’s mother and her connection to the Praxis made me anxious to learn more of her backstory as well. Characters’ actions in the present are shaped by their past experiences, but it’s nice when authors flesh those moments out. I wanted more, but hopefully, as this seems to be the start of a series, Moreci is going to give us more in the next book.
As far as stories go, this one hooked me from the beginning and didn’t let up until the end. Moreci may have written an ode to his favorite universe, but he’s also created a story with plenty of heart and characters that I’d like to follow on another adventure or two. I didn’t see any firm indication on Goodreads that this is the start of a series, but here’s hoping!
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.