When Jacob Dawes is selected for the Imperial Intellectual Complex as a child, he's catapulted from the poverty-stricken slums of his birth into a world where his status as an unclass is something no one can forget, or forgive. His growing scientific renown draws the attention of the emperor, a young man Jacob's own age, and they find themselves drawn to each other in an unlikely and ill-advised relationship. Jacob may have won the emperor's heart, but it's no protection when he's accused of treason. And fighting his own execution would mean betraying the man he loves.
I really wanted to like this more. It’s a scifi romance, with a space prince and a scientist! But the writing style just didn’t click with me. The worldbuilding was very light and character development was pretty much non-existent. Without those things as a solid foundation, the rest of the book fell apart.
The first chapter has one or two mentions of aliens and how the space!empire is structured, and then it just tapers off to nothing. More details about, like, EVERYTHING would’ve been nice, especially when certain aspects of the world weren’t as advanced as you’d expect in a futuristic society. Medical care, for instance, is basically at the same place it is now in 2015. Why? Is technology stunted for some (plot-related) reason?
The characters, meanwhile, went through a lot of crap and learned nothing from it. I actually wouldn’t have minded how emotionally and politically stupid Jacob was (he’s a sheltered teenager) IF he actually learned from his mistakes instead of just apologizing and then making the same mistakes all over again. And nobody call him out on that! They just enable him! All the time! It’s like he’s a puppy who keeps peeing on the carpet and nobody wants to punish him because he’s so cute.
Peter (the space prince) isn’t much better. Like, he exiles Jacob for a few months and then takes him back like nothing happened. A space prince, dating an ex-criminal. An ex-criminal who has used his connections to manipulate people and events for his own gain multiple times, and who has no qualms about doing so again. This is a major problem!!! And nobody has any issues with this! Except for the bigoted villain character, who is so over-the-top ridiculous that he’s impossible to take seriously.
Admittedly, the relationship ridiculousness makes for good drama. Peter and Jacob DO have a cute romance, if you ignore the fact that Jacob committed treason (against his BOYFRIEND, which I feel somehow is worse than regular treason) and got away with it. Dorky people falling in love over science– it’s adorable. And if they’d actually managed to have an adult conversation about what they want from each other and their relationship, I’d have been much happier with the book as a whole, especially since the non-romance part of the story has problems, too.
Most of it is fine. Jacob goes to space school, he beats up some bullies, falls in love, GOES TO SPACE JAIL FOR TREASON, etc. However, there are hints to a larger conspiracy (as in multiple people set Jacob up for the treason thing) but Jacob never even notices until the very last page. I had an inkling, but nobody else did and it comes off like it’s a big surprise “twist” or something.
None of it’s resolved and it’s SO frustrating, particularly because it ended so abruptly. AND even more so since the narration makes it sound like Jacob’s writing his memoirs, so presumably he’d have known about a conspiracy from his POV, and could’ve worked in more hints about it throughout the book. Sometimes foreshadowing is a good thing you know?
So that was really negative! Let’s end on a positive note.
Things that were done well: Jacob’s PTSD from his time in jail, Peter and Jacob’s early relationship (science nerds!), weird overly emotional teenage lust problems, space prince Peter himself, having class as a major motivator for different characters.
Read: June 6, 2015
Sidebar: I wasn’t sure how to work this into my review, but there was a heck of a lot of non-erotic corporal punishment/spanking in here. Like, more than you’d expect or want in a space romance, tbh.