YA Weekend: Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of The Honors
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 13, 2018)
Length: 480 pages
At first glance, I thought Honor Among Thieves was going to read like your typical paint-by-numbers Young Adult novel, but there were actually plenty of surprises to be had, and in the end I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
The story, which takes place in the distant future of 2142, follows a teenager named Zara Cole, whose debilitating headaches as a child caused a schism between her and her family. After a traumatic experience, she became estranged from her parents and refused to relocate to Mars with her mother and sister, preferring to remain by herself on the mean streets of New Detroit. Although the world has seen a number of technological advancements since the arrival of the Leviathan, a race of sentient space ships that bestowed their vast knowledge on humanity, Zara has access to very few comforts, reduced to thieving in order to stay alive. But one day, she steals from the wrong person, landing her in the crosshairs of a dangerous man. Having already survived one attempt on her life, Zara decides to get herself booked into a detention center for wayward youth, thinking she’ll be safe behind jail walls.
What she did not expect, however, were the Leviathan. Each year, the aliens select a hundred individuals from the human population to join them in space in a kind of “exchange program” meant to promote and further relations between the two species. Called “Honors”, those who have taken part in the past have included great minds like artists, musicians, scientists, military strategists, and more. Never once have they called for someone like our protagonist, a petty thief from one of the lowest echelons of society, so it was a surprise to everyone when the Leviathan decided to name her an Honor. But while it is a dream come true for many, for Zara, the idea of being stuck in the belly of what is essentially a giant space whale for a whole year is just about the worst thing she can imagine. Still, when the alternative is to stay on Earth where her vengeful enemy can get to her anytime, the opportunity to get off planet is starting to look like her best chance for survival.
What follows is an exciting, but also at times emotional, narrative detailing Zara’s time on board Nadim, her Leviathan. As an alien race, these sentient ships are an interesting concept. They are first and foremost explorers, traveling through deep space to discover new worlds, offering their inhabitants the same proposal they gave Earth: partner with the Levianthan by letting them recruit their best and brightest for a year, so that each species would be able to share the knowledge and learn from each other. At the end of this period, Honors can also choose to join the Leviathan in a more long-term arrangement called the “Journey”, though few have gone down this path since it effectively means cutting off all ties from their home planet forever. Still, through this process, the Leviathan have rescued countless worlds, including Earth, from the brink of destruction and extinction. They are understood to be benevolent overseers who only want to help.
All this is thrown into question, however, in the time Zara spends with Nadim. Along for the ride is also another Honor named Beatriz, and over the course of the novel the three of them end up forming a tight and long-lasting bond. I loved them all, including Nadim, who is obviously nothing like your usual protagonist. Bizarre and otherworldly as he is, there’s also a familiarity about his character and situation. Like his passengers, he is young and inexperienced, desperate to prove himself. There are a lot of things about his fellow Leviathan that he doesn’t understand, so in many ways, he’s learning as he goes along, together with Zara and Bea.
There is also no romance per se in Honor Among Thieves, though Zara’s connection with Nadim is something unique and, in my opinion, so much more special than any conventional relationship. Not only is this type of bond new and different, it is also very unusual and a little eerie, which immediately piqued my curiosity to find out more. In fact, it was what drove me to keep reading, even through some of the slower paced sections in the first half of the novel which were less eventful action-packed. Because of the new ideas and the increasingly deepening friendships between Zara, Bea, and Nadim, I really never found myself bored.
Because of this, I would say my experience with Honor Among Thieves was a definite win. I got what I wanted in a new and different space adventure featuring cool aliens and complex characters who go on to form beautiful and meaningful relationships. The story also gradually builds to an exciting climax which comes complete with fast-paced action and the kind of space battles you just don’t get to see every day. If this is an indication of where the series is going, sign me up for the next one.