I wound up reading this duology in the span of two days; maybe three. I'm featuring my reviews for both her books today and although they're long, I can promise that there are no spoilers in either of these reviews. With that, I hope I can convince you to pick up this series. It really is just so, so very good.
Title: Song of Scarabaeus (Scarabaeus, #1)
Author: Sara Creasy
Rating: 5 Stars
Fine, I'll admit it: I lost faith in the science-fiction genre. I did. Completely. Granted, I haven't read all that much science-fiction in the past two years as I may have wanted to, but the ones that I have read have been disasters of monumental proportions. As such, I was a little skeptical about Song of Scarabaeus when I went into it. I was more than a little eager to read a duology (for once!), but I was not keen to be burned by science-fiction, yet again. Sara Creasy's debut, thankfully, is science-fiction done right; a masterful blend of world-building, action, and romance that leaves your heart beating erratically, the wheels in your brain turning to keep up, and a smile of relief plastered on your face by the end.
Song of Scarabaeus starts out with a kidnapping and from there, it only gets better. Edie is a cypherteck working for the Crib, an international space company. Edie is the best-of-the-best and her job entails terraforming new planets for habitation. Yet, Edie is a slave for Crib. As a native Talasi, Edie cannot leave her planet without a certain toxin. Ironically enough, though, she is only half-Talasi and the same planet she is tied to is full of people who despise her for being a half-breed. It is because of her estranged childhood that she entered into a contract with the Crib - one that she now sorely regrets. As such, when a gang of mercenaries threaten to kidnap her, planning to use her talents for their own profit, she becomes stuck between a rock and a hard place. And, to make matters worse, her life is tied to that of a serf, Finn. Finn has been assigned as Edie's bodyguard and, to give him incentive to keep her alive, he will die if she does or if he travels out of a certain range. If Edie thought things couldn't get worse, though, it turns out they could, for Edie's first mission aboard the merc ship? Scarabaeus.
What makes Song of Scarabaeus so instantly compelling is its rich world-building. Although Sara Creasy never tells us what became of our own planet, Earth, it isn't difficult to surmise that extenuating situations forced mankind to look to space for habitation. And, with terraforming capabilities, any planet with minimal complex life forms could be transformed into habitable areas for human survival. In addition to this entirely unique idea, though, Creasy's world is full of spaceships and advanced brain technology. With each passing chapter, our understanding of the world deepens and it is shocking to take a step back, re-read your page, and wonder how you are able to understand pages and pages of complex terminology with such ease. Honestly, that is the degree to which Creasy enables her reader to enter her world and, just when you think you know it all, a curveball still manages to surprise you.
Yet, Song of Scarabaeus didn't garner 5 Stars from me based solely on its unique exploitation of science-fiction capabilities, or its thrilling plot line. Instead, what makes me such a huge fan of this debut is Edie herself. Edie is not made of the same stuff that fist-punching, pelvis-kicking heroines are. Instead, her power lies in her talent, which in turn renders her quite vulnerable. As a pawn in the game of space politics, alone and without anyone to turn to, Edie is easy to view as a weak heroine. Yet, her strength comes from within, from her stubborn refusal to treat Finn as a serf, instead treating him as another human being. From her moral values of never usurping the power she has over Finn. From the manner in which she puts the well-being of Fringe planets, whose are under the controlling thumb of the Crib, before herself.
In all this, Edie is a good, righteous protagonist, one whose cunning and stealth we cannot help but root for. As the story unravels, so does Edie's own past and her strange connection to the planet Scarabaeus. Thus, by the end, we have not only allowed Edie into our hearts, but find ourselves additionally marveling at the clever manner in which everything has been brought together. Finn, unlike Edie, is not as vulnerable or see-through. Instead, he's the typical strong-and-silent type who we cannot help but fall for - every time. Although he initially distrusts Edie, their gradual companionship develops over time and is heart-warming to see unfold. Moreover, the sexual tension between the two is practically palpable, ricocheting off the page in heady waves and forcing us to wait in anticipating. Obviously, it's the best type of medicine for a masochist like me who thrives on putting my heart through high patient zones.
While Song of Scarabaeus is one of those books I cannot find fault with, I know plenty of other readers who can, have, and will. Unfortunately, I doubt it is for everyone. Edie is the type of heroine you will either love or find yourself irritated by and the plot of this novel, focusing mostly on time spent on a spaceship before delving into the planet of Scarabaeus itself, is another decision some readers may find to be grating. Yet, for me, every aspect of this novel melding together perfectly, from Edie, to Finn, to the score of other characters gathered in this sparkling debut as well. Scarabaeus, too, as a planet is breath-taking to behold, reminding me of the very first time I saw "Jurassic Park." It is a dangerous place, but one with beauty side-by-side with death. As such, it piqued my interest almost at once and simply never let go. Sara Creasy, mind you, is an author to watch out for, as her debut most certainly proved, and by the end of this installment, I find myself already scrambling to get my hands on the sequel.
Title: Children of Scarabaeus
Author: Sara Creasy
Rating: 4 Stars
*No Spoilers for Book 1*
Children of Scarabaeus picks up directly where Song of Scarabaeus ended, only this time, Edie swiftly finds herself back under control of the Crib. Now, back under the thumb of Natesa with the leash between herself and Finn still very present, Edie has nowhere to run. As such, she is forced to begin work on Project Ardra, the plan that will somehow enable advanced planets to be controlled by the Crib. Yet, as Edie begins to realize, Natesa's dream project has more flaws than can be controlled. Natesa is dependent on Project Ardra in order to keep her career, though, and even more people are concerned with Scarabaeus, the planet Edie herself has been tinkering with. In a game of politics where Edie's life is not her own and her existence as a human is barely acknowledged in favor of her talents, Edie must find a way to free herself, Finn, and the world they live in - or die trying.
As with its predecessor, Children of Scarabaeus is a page-turner. It seems as if Edie and Finn can never catch a breath or even a spare moment of time together, for both are rare and far-between. Yet, as a finale, Children of Scarabaeus succeeds in tying up all loose ends successfully. Each and every decision taken by Edie and Finn brings them closer to a solution and the clever manner in which everything is brought around to a full circle is the epitome of satisfying. Children of Scarabaeus still manages to introduce us to new characters, each of which make their place in our hearts, but Edie and Finn still steal the show - every time. Even the plot twists, although not wholly unexpected, are surprising and the depth of world-building, of creativity, and of knowledge that Creasy demonstrates of her world continues to be astonishing.
Yet, what Children of Scarabaeus excels in is the sexual tension still very prevalent between our two main leads. Although we were introduced to the rough past of both Edie and Finn in Song of Scarabaeus, this installment brings forth a larger understanding of these two. Now, Edie finds herself face-to-face with people from Finn's past - Saeth, like him - and she must acknowledge the fact that once the leash is cut, Finn may no longer want to remain by her side. What makes Edie such a compelling heroine, to me at least, is the fact that she is so strong, but so vulnerable too. Edie lacks the physical prowess that marks the kick-ass protagonists of novels such as Kate Daniels or Mercy Thompson. Instead, she reminds me more of Chess Putnam from the Downside Ghosts Series - intelligent, cunning, and used for her unique talents, but ultimately still alone at the end of the day. For Edie, Finn is a life-line of sorts; proof that someone out there cares what becomes of her and, perhaps even more, trusts her. As such, the emotional upheaval that Edie faces throughout multiple scenarios in this novel tore my heart, merely because she feels to very real to me.
Although I will admit that I hoped the romance in this installment would be slightly steamier, I am overall not disappointed in the least. If anything, I am continually surprised that Creasy steers clear of drama and instead imbues her writing with careful subtleties, never fully spelling out the depth of connection between these two lovers, but rather showing us and allowing us to infer on from there. Finn and Edie have come a long way since they first met and even more, their relationship has solidified into one of ultimate faith. Working together, side-by-side, both of these have managed to find equal footing in their relationship. Song of Scarabaeus revealed their imbalances, with Finn at the will and mercy of Edie, but Child of Scarabaeus proves just how much these two mean to one another when their lives aren't being controlled and when, at last, they have some modicum of free will. It is true that I am desperate for more of Finn and Edie, to see how their relationship evolves in the future, but they've left off at such a strong, realistic end, that I'd rather just leave the rest to my imagination.
Children of Scarabaeus is a sequel that is equally as strong as its predecessor, that cannot be denied. With such a tight, well-formed plot line and subtle, but deeply felt romance, it can't go wrong. Yet, there were a few small issues that irked me as I read through this installment. For one, I was ever-so-slightly disappointed by the black-and-white characterization of the villains. Natesa, though proving to have a few shades of gray, was not entirely convincing as a character with more than simple surface depth. For a woman who played such a large role in this novel, I still remained utterly convinced of her evil intentions. Granted, this issue never took away from my enjoyment of the novel, but it makes me reflect upon the sacrifices Creasy has made in ensuring this series is a duology. As I said before, there is room for a sequel and even in this installment, I don't doubt that Creasy could have very easily split Children of Scarabaeus into two books, allowing for a trilogy instead.
Yet, it is hard to say whether Book 2 would have fallen into MBS in that case. Although I wanted a few instances to be taken slower, for even more depth to be infused into the main characters, for a larger understanding of the future of this realm, I am unable to distinguish how much of this is my own yearning for information on a series I love or whether I genuinely felt the loss of these traits in this novel. I suspect it is the former and not the latter, but it seemed worth mentioning. Creasy's debut series is a duology - and it works well as a duology. It never seems contrived, rushed, or flawed in any way, and I suspect that as a trilogy, it might have seemed too forced. Nevertheless, I cannot help but wish this book were longer, if only to prolong my time with these characters, if only to add more insight into the villains, if only to paint an even deeper image of this futuristic world in my brain. If only.
As John Green would say, though, "...the world is not a wish-granting factory." Thus, in the way only a greedy human can be, I am content with what I have been given. Although it has been quite a few years since Creasy has published another novel, I retain hope that she will write another series, just as good - if not better - than this one. I know, for certain, that I will be the first one in line if she does. Honestly, this series is just that good.