Review: Shadow Run - Poor Little Rich Boy

Book Cover
title: Shadow Run
author: Adrianne Strickland & Michael Miller
pages: 390
format: eARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 2/5
genre: Science Fiction
topics: Genderqueer character, Found Family, Royalty, Space

Boy Meets Girl

Qole and her rag-tag crew of misfits are part of the Shadow-fishing business, flying their spacecraft into a...weirdly explained cosmic phenomenon of some kind to gather the....Shadow, it's just Shadow, that's all you need to know. This substance is used as fuel, but also gets into the bodies of those who work closely with it, driving them mad before it kills them. Since Qole's family has been Shadow-fishing for generations, she's gained a kind of affinity with it, developing super powers just slightly ahead of the madness.

Nev shows up to be part of her crew, and very shortly reveals himself to be the prince of an interstellar corporation (yeah, we'll get to that) who things Qole's Shadow affinity is the key to making the substance more stable and revolutionizing the energy market. He convinces her to come home with him, along with the rest of the crew, but first they have to traverse a galaxy of rivals who all want Qole for the same reason.

Wait, who's in charge here?

So Nev....Nev really killed this book for me. He's got the 'poor little rich boy' thing turned up to 11, and every time he went on and on about his 'duty to the people' and 'responsibility' and how his family 'just wanted the best for everyone' I wanted to punch in his naive little unnaturally perfect for no reason face. Yeah, it's contrast for later in the book where his family isn't as perfect as he always thought, but that's like 12 seconds of payoff for a loooooot of Nev being insufferable. Plus I really find it hard to believe that the heir to a giant mega-corporation that does shitty things is being raised quite that pie-in-the-sky ridiculous.

Oh, yeah, he's a prince who's heir to a corporation. I think. It's actually hard to tell, and that really bothered me. There's a whole political subplot about how there's this group of 'royal' families that are all jockeying for supremacy over each other, and I guess theoretically they have territories that they administer? Maybe? Except literally everything that any of the characters talk about with regard to the families makes them sound like businesses? It's all about market shares and debts and manufacturing and...why did they have to be 'royal' in that case? It's kind of amazing that for all Nev's claptrap about having a duty to his people, we never actually get any sort of clear guidance on how governments work in this world/universe. There's threat of Nev's whole family loosing...power, of some nebulous sort, and no one ever actually explains how that would be bad for anyone except the already-ridiculously-wealthy, who (horror of horrors) might have to go down to merely regular-mega-wealthy. It just really soured the whole book to have to spend so long mired in the concerns of, essentially, Elon Must In Space. No one cares, and I hope your family implodes (metaphorically) (also literally, because you're all fictional, so whatever).

When a book gives you whiplash

About halfway through the book, everything changes. The plot, the setting, the scope, the tone. It's the same characters and style and that's about it. We spend the first half in a kind of chase/road trip, evading capture and stopping off on new planets to infodump about, hanging out with the crew, learning about them and having Nev develop relationships with them. And then BAM they get to Nev's home and drop half the characters and basically everything that had been building before grinds to a halt.

Both halves of the book drag, but for different reasons. The first half doesn't have a lot of action, despite the trip starting off with a bang. It's just...a trip. Not terrible, since there's room for a lot of character moments and a slow development of romance between Nev and Qole and them learning about each other. Then the second half comes, and suddenly it's all Things Happening and every bit of relationship building we were working on before flops. It made the ending feel very unsatisfying, because even though it was Big and Flashy, it wasn't the resolution of any of the emotional themes we'd started with. It was just new stuff, dumped in our laps and then exploded. I wound up feeling like I'd read half a book even though it was actually quite long.

A tangent about Basra 

So...Basra. Basra is introduced in Nev's POV and described as looking androgynous. Nev then decided to just use he/him pronouns for Basra 'because it was more convenient.' This was very early on, and I almost dropkicked the book right there. We never really find out about Basra's gender, although there's strong hints elsewhere in the book towards genderfluid, and any way you slice it the idea of "eh, I'll just pick what's easiest for me" is a TERRIBLE way to introduce even the IDEA of someone being genderqueer/nonconforming/anything. Nev couldn't even manage a 'I'll just hold off using pronouns until someone else does', no, it had to be all about his convenience. I'm still not over it, and I never will be.

Overall thoughts 

Overall, it would have been better without Nev. I spent most of this review complaining about him, and I'm sorry, because Qole and her interactions with the rest of the crew were actually really good. It's just, we'd never get that for more than a few pages before it was the Nev Show again. The plot was disjointed, the worldbuilding had some cool ideas but no practical base for them to rest on, and the action was good but too concentrated all at the end. Kind of a hodgepodge of good and bad in here, but I disliked the bad more than I liked the good.

Will I read this author again? Maybe. It would have to depend on the set up.
Will I continue this series? Nope.

More Reviews for Shadow Run

Night Owl Book Cafe - Review: Shadow Run
Ageless Pages Reviews - Review: Shadow Run

Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.  

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