3 (and a half) stars, but it might grow on me even more (and I don't consider 3.5 stars a bad read at all). I'll certainly be picking up the next couple in the series, I can see this really becoming a favourite.
Summary: Sirantha Jax is a J-gene carrier, one of a vanishingly few humans who can "jump" ships into "grimspace" (essentially cyberspace), in the company of a pilot who does the actual steering. Except her pilot (who was also the love of her life) is dead, along with the other 85 passengers on the ship they were in charge of, and she can't remember why or how.
Worse the mega-corporation she and all the other jumpers work seems to be setting her up as the fall gal, so things are looking bleak - until another faction busts her out of her cell and takes her on a wild ride in an attempt to break the corps hold on jumpers.
First off, nice writing. It's such a relief to read an entire novel and not be able to point to any complete failures in plot, characters who just drop out, or incoherent grammar - and I have been dabbling way too much in YA I think, that I even notice these things that should be a given.
I could have used a teeeeeensy bit more background (I didn't figure out until halfway through the book that one of the main characters was a humanoid alien. doh.) Which is funny coming from me - I tend to love the lightly drawn 'show don't tell' authors. It could just mean I read this all in one go, jazzed on too much coffee though, but I just didn't find myself entirely comfortable in this universe until a bit further in the book than is usual.
Nice characterization on the main character. She starts out a broken shell of someone who used to be queen of the known universe and a bit of a brat about it, and finds herself a cause to hold on to instead. Until she loses that too. But she's not your typical beauty in fact, she's scarred all over inside and out, from the accident, and spends a good part of the book with her hair hastily hacked off to the scalp to hide her identity. And she can handle herself in a fight, and she's feisty, but she isn't Ms super kick ass save the universe by herself.
The major side characters are pretty well done too. In fact, I was mentally complaining to myself that one of the characters seemed to be acting weird compared to earlier in the book, when that turned out to be a plot point. So well done there. There's a definite sense in the beginning that Jax is a most unwelcome addition to an existing but somewhat broken team, and none of them are especially pleased to have her there, but she's stuck with them, and they're stuck with her. Also, nice to see a queer character on the team where the different orientation is neither a big deal, nor does she feel like a token. It's a very very minor plot point, in a couple of places, but otherwise it's just who she is.
Also, this is not at all a rainbows and unicorns story. Aguirre is not afraid to kill off a few characters, both fairly major ones and those we've only just met, and more importantly to have the survivors react to that rather than have it all but forgotten by the next chapter. At least one of the deaths really got to me - and really REALLY upset Sirantha, which i liked, because it should have, if that makes sense. Similarly when she falls into a relationship far too soon.
The plot is really full of twists and turns, but it's paced pretty well, certainly kept me turning pages. It's a good old fashioned crime caper at heart, with a gang of misfits off to do nefarious things in the name of a good cause. Space opera with a small insert of romance (small r), but definitely far on the spec. fiction side of the scale, if there is such a scale. There's some space dog fighting, some first contact, some science wibbly wobbly, several locations, it's all quite busy. The last act is even quicker in pace, but slides in just on the safe side of feeling too rushed, at least for me.
And finally, there is resolution. The major conflict of the story is wrapped up, but the larger picture is open enough to having several ways to go forward.
So why only 3 and a half? I honestly don't know. I thought maybe writing this review would sort that out for me, but I guess it didn't. If I ever figure out what that nagging something is that's knocking a star or a half star off, I may revisit this. Either way, I did like it, and I will be reading on in the series, so, I guess take stars with a grain of salt!