Written by: Ava Jae
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Pages: 360, hardcover
Series: Standalone (I hope not, but that’s what Goodreads says!)
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Thank you to Sky Pony Press and Edelweiss for the ARC!
Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.
Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.
When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.
Kissing and politics–a combination after my own heart! Add in humans rebelling against an alien regime, a young alien queen struggling to keep her throne and protect her people, and a young half-blood soldier who doesn’t really belong with either people, some cool technology, the opposite-sides-fall-in-love trope, and you have this exciting, tension-filled book.
I don’t read science fiction all that often and I really don’t know why, because when I do I end up loving it. And of course, I loved this book. It took me a lot longer to read than I expected, but that was really more my fault than the book’s–as I noted before, I really shouldn’t try to read things around finals. However, Beyond the Red was just as good as I’d expected from the author’s Twitter and blog presence. The world was vivid and compelling, and two protagonists were sympathetic and had believable voices.
When I was looking up information about this book, I found out that it was listed as a standalone, which it isn’t. At all. So I’m hoping that this is a mistake on Goodreads or that Ava Jae gets a deal for a second book and we get a proper conclusion.
A character named Serek showed up halfway through the story, and he just fell flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated how well he treated Kora and how strong his moral convictions were, but there wasn’t much to his character beyond that, and I found myself wishing he’d been developed in more depth considering how big his role in the story was. I did see hints of that in his relationship with his brother and the decision he made in the end, but unfortunately there wasn’t much.
The relationship between Kora and Eros was….not insta-love, exactly, but they started trusting each other REALLY rapidly considering the circumstances. There’s one scene in particular where Eros comforts (a very naked) Kora after a nightmare, and all I have in my notes is, “Well, that escalated quickly…”
The worldbuilding, and the sci-fi elements in general, were very strong. The settings were described so richly that I could picture them in my head, and the Sepharon people’s beliefs and way of life were extremely intriguing, as were the politics and technology. I liked the way the book introduced details about the world–enough that it always felt distinct, but not so much at once that it became overwhelming.
Of course, the book is full of action and plot twists and brutal moments (and when I say brutal, I do mean it. It’s not excessive, but it’s there enough to make you really feel it. Keep some tissues nearby).
Kora and Eros were both fleshed-out and believable characters. Eros has been treated badly all his life for something beyond his control, so he understandably carries a lot of anger and bitterness around, but he’ll always fight to do the right thing. Kora is still pretty new to this whole “queen” thing, and she’s genuinely trying to protect her people and prevent bloodshed, but she struggles both with outside opposition and her own confidence. Both had a lot of challenges thrown at them, and both grew a lot as they dealt with said challenges. I also appreciated that the narrative voices in their POV sections sounded different, since that’s something I always look for in multiple POV novels and don’t always find.
Also, kissing. Ava Jae is very good at writing kissing scenes, and despite what I said in the previous section, for the most part I really did enjoy how their relationship developed.
Absolutely pick this up! It’s a really fun sci-fi book with cool diverse characters and and even cooler world. It definitely reminded me that I need to read sci-fi more frequently. (Now here’s hoping for that second book!)