Audiobook Review: Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik
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 (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Series: Book 1 of Starlight’s Shadow
Publisher: HarperAudio (February 1, 2022)
Length: 12 hrs and 2 mins
Narrator: Frankie Corzo
I don’t often read romance, but when I do, Jessie Mihalik’s books are my go-to. I very much enjoyed her Consortium Rebellion trilogy. Sure, it was cheesy, but fun. Hunt The Stars looked like it would something in the same vein.
As it turned out, the story had the usual trappings of the genre, but the world and the characters were more fleshed out than expected. In it, we follow the crew of the Starlight’s Shadow, led by bounty hunter Tavi Zarola. Together, she and her crewmates Kee and Eli are veterans of the war between humans and an alien race called the Valoff, a conflict which ended in a tentative truce. After the fighting was over, each side established their own territories in space and agreed to maintain the peace by keeping to themselves.
So imagine Tavi’s surprise when she is contacted by General Torran, a notorious war leader of the Valoff. Even more bizarre is that he wants to hire her team to track down a family heirloom allegedly stolen by human thieves. It’s a dangerous job, and every one of Tavi’s instincts are screaming at her to turn it down. And yet, she also can’t ignore the fantastically large sum of money Torran is offering, or the fact that her ship is desperately in need of some upgrades that all those credits can buy. Thus ultimately, with much reluctance, she agrees to take his contact, but only after she extracts promises from the general that she and her crew would be protected as they travel through Valovian space to his home.
But Torran also has his own demands, one of them being that he and his own team be allowed to tag along on the Starlight’s Shadow to monitor Tavi’s progress. As you can imagine, the resulting dynamic of this arrangement began as awkward and tense, but the two groups eventually fall into a more comfortable camaraderie. As for Tavi, she is annoyed to find herself taking a liking to Torran. He may be her enemy, but underneath that handsome and stern exterior, she discovers that he is also a caring and fair-minded man. Knowing that these thoughts and feelings of hers can only lead to bad news, Tavi endeavors to complete her task as quickly as possible to avoid any temptations—which turns out to be easier said than done.
I know I can be critical when it comes to romance tropes, but to tell the truth, I generally don’t mind them as long as they’re done well—and they were, for the most part, in Hunt the Stars. For one, the novel’s entire premise is based around a love-to-hate relationship, and these have a tendency to move too fast and fall apart when rushed. Fortunately, Mihalik sensibly opted for a slowburn approach, which made Tavi and Torran’s romantic arc feel a lot more convincing and realistic. As our protagonist’s love interest, Torran was also far removed from the roguish, arrogant bad-boy meathead archetype which I so disliked about the male leads in the Consortium Rebellion series. Instead, he was humble and considerate, which was a huge plus. He and Tavi had fantastic chemistry.
Many romance authors also tend to focus too much on the relationship between the story’s main couple to the detriment of everything else, but I’m glad to report this was not the case here. In fact, we actually have very good side character development, like fully fleshed personalities and backstories for Tavi’s crew members, and their close bond was established early on, lending a familial vibe to the dynamic on the ship. World-building was also decent—not extensive, but there was enough to give the reader a sense of a living breathing universe where character action and motives can affect it.
I would be interested in exploring this series further becaue it appears the next book will switch tack to follow Kee and Varro, whose relationship was just starting to develop in Hunt the Stars. I believe the rest of the series will also follow this pattern of focusing on a different couple within the crew in each book, and I’m excited as this will give us a chance to know more about the other characters and to see more of the world.
Audiobook Comments: There are a handful of genres I actually prefer in audio format, and romance is definitely one of them. Hunt the Stars was an easy, breezy listen—exactly what I was looking for, and the narrator Frankie Corzo also delivered an impressive performance with her voicework.