The Star King
Though I rarely read sci-fi romance, I made an exception and picked up The Star King after we recently reposted a B+ review and it was free on Amazon. I was entertained by the story but not as fond of it as my fellow reviewer. Underdeveloped relationships and world-building, combined with one too many significant plot twists/crises resolved with little to no angst left me unsatisfied and frustrated.
The book opens mid-air during a shoot-out over a desert landscape. The narrative is deliberately disorienting and intense from the start. Told in dual PoVs, we watch as Jasmine ‘Jas’ Hamilton, an American fighter pilot in the dogfight of her life, parachutes out of a damaged jet. She loses consciousness, and the narrative picks up in the PoV of Romlijhian ‘Rom’ B’kah, an alien Vash Nadah warrior/pilot, as he lands on a different? desert landscape and races to his brother’s nearby crashed jet when he’s hit by enemy fire. What follows is a weird, dreamlike sequence wherein Rom regains consciousness and discovers an Earth Angel (Jas) has saved his life. Somehow she can sense his thoughts and emotions and despite their injuries, in a heated moment, they kiss and nearly have sex. Both then begin to regain consciousness in very different worlds – Jas, in an anonymous Arabian desert, and Rom, on the alien planet Balkanor. Confused? So was I.
Flash forward twenty years. Jas is a newly divorced mother of two, has left the military and is an artist based in Arizona. She’s never forgotten her encounter with the alien, but has put it behind her and is trying to move on with her life. Rom is now an intergalactic smuggler with unresolved guilt over his brother’s death and a longing for a woman he never knew. When aliens make contact with Earth and Jas spots Rom on TV during a press conference, she decides to track him down and follow him into space. Fortuitous connections and excellent timing enable her to board Rom’s spaceship just before he’s about to depart Earth. He’s surprised, she’s thrilled, and intergalactic shenanigans ensue. Ahem.
Though the set-up to the romance is compelling, Ms. Grant tries to do too many other things. Both Jas and Rom are likeable principals with an intense attraction to one another, but the author doesn’t spend much time developing them as individuals before they become a couple. Once they finally have sex, she throws twist after twist into the narrative (all of which are overcome with little to no fanfare) to keep them apart and/or insert gravitas into their relationship, but it’s all just fluff. Cults, family conflict, kidnapping, Jas’s long repressed desires…IT’S TOO MUCH crammed into 358 pages.
The Star King can’t decide if it’s a romance or a space thriller and ultimately, it doesn’t succeed on either level.