Review: Doctor Who: Origins

Title: Doctor Who: Origins
Author: Jody Houser, Roberta Ingranata
Genre: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction
Publisher: Titan Comics
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 10, 2023
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

This latest Doctor Who graphic novel brings a fresh new take on the beloved time-traveler, with a brand-new never-before-seen adventure!

An epic adventure with the traveling Time Lord, this graphic novel is the explosive new story that reveals the very early years of the Doctor. Past, present and future all collide in a Doctor Who tale that’s out of this world!

Bursting straight out of the long-running hit television series, this Doctor Who collection continues the time-traveling tales of the Doctor and friends.

Buy it, read it, then travel back in time to read it for the first time all over again…!

Review:

The Fugitive Doctor makes her debut in this graphic novel about the Doctor’s early years. She has to explore different worlds where Time Lords are living. However, this mission takes a dark turn that the Doctor isn’t expecting. She must find a way to solve the problems while saving the Time Lords at the same time. 

The Fugitive Doctor comes before the First Doctor from the TV series. There was a small cameo from the First Doctor that gave the timeline for when this story takes place. This Doctor had a distinctive personality, who did things her own way, while also holding onto the integrity of the character. It was a good story, but I would have liked to see more about the origins of this version of the Doctor and where she came from. 

This was a great Doctor Who graphic novel! 

Thank you Titan Comics for providing a digital copy of this book.

What to read next:

Doctor Who: Alternating Current by Jody Houser

Other books in the series:

  • Doctor Who: Alternating Current
  • Doctor Who: Missy
  • Doctor Who: Empire of the Wolf

Have you read Doctor Who: Origins? What did you think of it?

Review: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)

Title: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: June 5, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Review:

Kate Harker will do anything to get her father’s attention so he will bring her back home, including burning down her school’s chapel. Her father brings her back to the divided city of Verity where he allows the monsters to roam free and has humans pay for his protection. Meanwhile, August Flynn is the “son” of the ruler of the other half of the city. August is a monster, with the power to steal a soul with a violin song. When the Flynn family find out that Kate will be attending school in the city, they send August to masquerade as a student and get close to her. However, power is shifting in their city. When Kate’s life is put in danger, August has to put his secret at risk to figure out who is trying to kill them. 

This was such a thrilling and suspenseful story. It was an original and complex world. A lot of the rules and history of the world weren’t described until halfway through the story. I would have liked to learn that earlier so I could really understand the world. I still really enjoyed this story!

This Savage Song is a great story! I can’t wait to read the sequel!

What to read next:

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

Other books in the series:

  • Our Dark Duet

Have you read This Savage Song? What did you think of it?

Review: Dead Flip

Title: Dead Flip
Author: Sara Farizan
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Source: Thomas Allen and Son
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Edge-of-your-seat YA horror perfect for fans of Stranger Things
 
Growing up, Cori, Maz, and Sam were inseparable best friends, sharing their love for Halloween, arcade games, and one another. Now it’s 1992, Sam has been missing for five years, and Cori and Maz aren’t speaking anymore. How could they be, when Cori is sure Sam is dead and Maz thinks he may have been kidnapped by a supernatural pinball machine?
 
These days, all Maz wants to do is party, buy CDs at Sam Goody, and run away from his past. Meanwhile, Cori is a homecoming queen, hiding her abiding love of horror movies and her queer self under the bubblegum veneer of a high school queen bee. But when Sam returns—still twelve years old while his best friends are now seventeen—Maz and Cori are thrown back together to solve the mystery of what really happened to Sam the night he went missing. Beneath the surface of that mystery lurk secrets the friends never told one another, then and now. And Sam’s is the darkest of all . . .
 
Award-winning author of If You Could Be Mine and Here to StaySara Farizan delivers edge-of-your-seat terror as well as her trademark referential humor, witty narration, and insightful characters.

Review:

Cori, Maz, and Sam were inseparable friends growing up. Now, it’s 1992, and Sam has been missing for five years. In that time, Cori and Maz have drifted apart. One day when Maz is jogging, he runs into twelve-year-old Sam, who has returned, looking exactly like he did when he went missing. Maz and Cori have to figure out what happened to Sam that night, and how he has changed since then. 

This book is perfect for fans of Stranger Things! There were so many nods to the show. There were even some parts that reminded me of the latest season of Stranger Things, even though this book was written before that aired. 

This story was creepy and mysterious, but the ending made sense. It would probably appeal to a variety of age groups, since the characters are in middle school in some chapters, but in high school for most of the book. The story ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, so there could be a sequel. I would love to find out what happens next!

Fans of Stranger Things should check out this fun and creepy story!

Thank you Thomas Allen and Son for sending me a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Whispering Pines by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski

Have you read Dead Flip? What did you think of it?

Review: Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match

Title: Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match
Author: Sally Thorne
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction
Publisher: Avon Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: September 6, 2022
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From USA Today bestselling author of The Hating Game Sally Thorne comes something a little unexpected… a historical rom-com that imagines Victor Frankenstein’s sheltered younger sister, and her attempts to create the perfect man. 

For generations, every Frankenstein has found their true love and equal, unlocking lifetimes of blissful wedded adventure. Clever, pretty (and odd) Angelika Frankenstein has run out of suitors and fears she may become the exception to this family rule. When assisting in her brother Victor’s ground-breaking experiment to bring a reassembled man back to life, she realizes that having an agreeable gentleman convalescing in the guest suite might be a chance to let a man get to know the real her. For the first time, Angelika embarks upon a project that is all her own.

When her handsome scientific miracle sits up on the lab table, her hopes for an instant romantic connection are thrown into disarray. Her resurrected beau (named Will for the moment) has total amnesia and is solely focused on uncovering his true identity. Trying to ignore their heart-pounding chemistry, Angelika reluctantly joins the investigation into his past, hoping it will bring them closer. But when a second suitor emerges to aid their quest, Angelika wonders if she was too hasty inventing a solution. Perhaps fate is not something that can be influenced in a laboratory? Or is Will (or whatever his name is!) her dream man, tailored for her in every way? And can he survive what was done to him in the name of science, and love?

Filled with carriages, candlesticks, and corpses, Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match is the spooky-season reimagining of the well-known classic that reminds us to never judge a man by his cadaver! 

Review:

Angelika Frankenstein is the assistant to her brother Victor in all of his experiments. When he wants to bring a man back to life, Angelika joins in on the fun. She hasn’t been able to find an appropriate suitor and now she’s run out of men in her town, so she decides to choose her own corpse to bring back to life. However, the man who she revives is more focused on figuring out his identity from before he died than being her husband. Though he is her perfect match, Angelika does everything she can to help him discover his former life. 

I loved the premise of this book, but it wasn’t executed as well as I expected. The romance between Angelika and Will, her creation, was stilted and forced. One minute they would be kissing, and the next minute he would tell her why they couldn’t be together. This happened over and over again, so it was tiring to read. 

The other characters tried to be quirky but I didn’t feel that they stood out on their own. Some of the side characters didn’t really serve a purpose to move the plot forward. Those storylines could have been cut shorter to make the story more concise. 

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match wasn’t what I hoped it would be. 

Thank you HarperCollins Canada for giving me a copy of this book.

Have you read Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match? What did you think of it?

Review: Cake Eater

Title: Cake Eater
Author: Allyson Dahlin
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Once Upon a Book Club Box
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

She has a million followers on social media.

She uses her fashion-forward eye to pick the perfect angle and filter on every photo.

She’s iconic.

She’s a trend-setter.

She’s Marie Antoinette, the year is 3070, and she’s arrived in the Franc Kingdom to marry the prince, secure an alliance, and rake in likes from her fans.

Versailles is not the perfect palace Marie’s seen on The Apps. Her life is a maze of pointless rules, and the court watches her every move for mistakes. Her shy husband Louis is more interested in horses and computer-hacking than producing heirs. Versailles seems like a dream full of neon-lit statues, handsome android soldiers, and parties till dawn. Under the surface, it’s a creepy den of secrets: surveillance in Marie’s bedroom, censored news feeds, disappearing courtiers.

When Marie and Louis become king and queen long before they’re ready to rule, any efforts to aid their suffering subjects are stamped out by the mega-corporations of the First Estate. Between riots in Paris and image-wrecking social media firestorms, Marie can’t afford to lose her head. Using her social media savvy and Louis’ hacking knowledge, they try to fix their reputations and change their kingdom for the better, but the royals may find it’s already too late. They’re ruling over the end of an era.

Review:

In the year 3070, social media influencer Marie Antoinette is sent to the Franc Kingdom to marry the dauphin Louis. Versailles is not what she expected from what she saw on the Apps. She isn’t able to do the same kinds of social media promotion like she could at home. Her new husband is more interested in working on technology than being with his new wife. Marie is under constant surveillance, but she doesn’t know who’s watching. On top of all that, there are riots in the streets for reasons that are kept from Marie and the rest of the Royal family. Marie and Louis have to work together using their technology knowledge to save their kingdom. 

This was a fun reimagining of Marie Antoinette in the future. The comparisons of technology and the things that the first Marie Antoinette did in her life were clever. One of the main themes in this story was how history can repeat itself. I think that’s so apparent today, when things that are happening in the world today are reminiscent of historical events. 

The only issue I had with this book was the year it was set. It was set in the distant future of 3070, over 1000 years from today. This world was quite similar to ours with the same technology and similar social media sites. Thinking back to 1000 years in the past, our world is completely different from then, so I don’t think the world in 1000 years in the future will be that similar. We probably can’t even imagine the types of technology that will be around then, just like the people 1000 years ago couldn’t imagine our technology now. 

Cake Eater is a fun sci-fi reimagining of Marie Antoinette

What to read next:

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Have you read Cake Eater? What did you think of it?

Review: Blood Like Fate (Blood Like Magic #2)

Title: Blood Like Fate (Blood Like Magic #2)
Author: Liselle Sambury
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: August 9, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Voya fights to save her witch community from a terrible future.

Voya Thomas may have passed her Calling to become a full-fledged witch, but the cost was higher than she’d ever imagined.

Her grandmother is gone.
Her cousin hates her.
And her family doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to lead them.

What’s more, Voya can’t let go of her feelings for Luc, sponsor son of the genius billionaire Justin Tremblay—the man that Luc believes Voya killed. Consequently, Luc wants nothing to do with her. Even her own ancestors seem to have lost faith in her. Every day Voya begs for their guidance, but her calls go unanswered.

As Voya struggles to convince everyone—herself included—that she can be a good Matriarch, she has a vision of a terrifying, deadly future. A vision that would spell the end of the Toronto witches. With a newfound sense of purpose, Voya must do whatever it takes to bring her shattered community together and stop what’s coming for them before it’s too late.

Even if it means taking down the boy she loves—who might be the mastermind behind the coming devastation.

Review:

Voya Thomas passed her Calling and now is not only a witch but the Matriarch of the family. Though she has replaced her grandmother as the leader of the family, they don’t listen to her. Her ancestors who she calls upon for advice have been ignoring her, so she doesn’t know what to do next. Then, Voya has a vision of her home burning and her entire family dying. She needs to figure out how to stop it from happening, which means returning to the boy she loves, who may be behind it all. 

Blood Like Magic was one of my favourite reads last year, and this sequel lived up to my expectations. It was easy to jump back into the story because the characters were so vivid and distinct. I particularly love the setting of Toronto, my hometown. This story doesn’t feature typical Toronto settings, like the CN Tower, but instead they visit locally known locations like Dixie Outlet Mall and Trinity Bellwoods Park. I love how this feels authentically like Toronto. 

I appreciated the blended family in this story. There extended witch families were in this story a lot more because they had to work together to protect the broader witch community. Voya’s family lives in a huge house that includes her aunts and uncles, as well as her mom, dad, and her dad’s second wife and daughter. I liked seeing this positive perspective of a healthy blended family. 

I was getting worried close to the end of the story because I didn’t think there was enough space left for the story to be complete. However, it all came together at the end. I really hope that we will revisit Voya and her family in the future because I love these characters!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for sending me a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

Other books in the series:

Have you read Blood Like Fate? What did you think of it?

Review: Burn Down, Rise Up

Title: Burn Down, Rise Up
Author: Vincent Tirado
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Contemporary
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Raincoast Books
Format: Paperback ARC
Release Date: May 3, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Stranger Things meets Get Out in this Sapphic Horror debut from nonbinary, Afro-Latine author Vincent Tirado.

Mysterious disappearances.

An urban legend rumored to be responsible.

And one group of teens determined to save their city at any cost.

For over a year, the Bronx has been plagued by sudden disappearances that no one can explain. Sixteen-year-old Raquel does her best to ignore it. After all, the police only look for the white kids. But when her crush Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel starts to pay attention—especially when her own mom comes down with a mysterious illness that seems linked to the disappearances.

Raquel and Charlize team up to investigate, but they soon discover that everything is tied to a terrifying urban legend called the Echo Game. The game is rumored to trap people in a sinister world underneath the city, and the rules are based on a particularly dark chapter in New York’s past. And if the friends want to save their home and everyone they love, they will have to play the game and destroy the evil at its heart—or die trying.

Review:

Fifteen-year-old Racquel has been ignoring the recent disappearances in her home of the Bronx for the last year. When Cisco, the cousin of her crush Charlize, goes missing and her mom comes down with a mysterious illness that’s linked to the disappearance, Racquel has to figure out what’s going on. Racquel and Charlize team up to play the Echo Game, which Cisco was playing when he went missing. She starts having visions of a burning version of the Bronx, which is hidden in the underground game. The game starts to blend into their reality, so they have to finish the game and make it out alive before it kills them. 

This story was so intense and hard to put down. The Echo Game was a terrifying ride through the subway, and the rules had to be followed precisely so that they wouldn’t get trapped there. The underground version of the Bronx was burning and full of the walking dead, so that added to the tension. 

The history of the Bronx was an important part of this story. I’ve never been there and I didn’t know the horrific history. The buildings were turned into slums and many were burned down in fires in the 1970s. There was even a bridge built that was too low to allow buses through so people couldn’t travel under the bridge. These were systemic problems that are still affecting them today. I appreciated that this history was woven into the narrative. 

Burn Down, Rise Up is an intense page-turner!

Thank you Raincoast Books and Sourcebooks Fire for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Have you read Burn Down, Rise Up? What did you think of it?

Review: The Kindred

Title: The Kindred
Author: Alechia Dow
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: January 4, 2022
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…

Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

Review:

On the distant planet of Hali, Kindreds are mind-pairings that connect two people throughout their lives, whether they are rich or poor. Joy Abara is an ordinary girl, but she’s known for being the Kindred of Duke Felix Hamdi. They are closer than two people can be. Some people marry their Kindred, but Joy and Felix can’t marry since he’s from a noble family. Despite that, they still want to meet and continue their close relationship. However, when the royal family is assassinated, Felix is next in line for the throne and he is also the prime suspect. Joy is also a target since she is so close to Felix. He finds Joy and they escape to a distant planet called Earth. They have to navigate Earth while also fleeing from the those hunting for them and learning to love each other.

This was a fun science fiction story. The idea of Kindreds was exciting and terrifying. The Kindreds had a special and unique bond. They experienced everything together, even if they had never met. They could hear each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s feelings. The downside is that they can feel each other’s pain, and potentially die if their Kindred dies. This made Joy vulnerable when Felix was in trouble and created a lot of conflict and tension.

Music was an important part of this story, just like it was in Alechia Dow’s novel The Sound of Stars. This story also featured some of the same musicians that were in that book, so they were set in the same world. I love it when there are subtle connections between books like that. The ending of this book was also open to a continuation, so I hope there will be more books set in this world.

The Kindred is an exciting new story!

Thank you HarperCollins for providing a copy of this book.

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer

Have you read The Kindred? What did you think of it?

Review: The Annual Migration of Clouds

Title: The Annual Migration of Clouds
Author: Premee Mohamed
Genre: Science Fiction, Novella
Publisher: ECW Press
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In post-climate disaster Alberta, a woman infected with a mysterious parasite must choose whether to pursue a rare opportunity far from home or stay and help rebuild her community.

The world is nothing like it once was: climate disasters have wracked the continent, causing food shortages, ending industry, and leaving little behind. Then came Cad, mysterious mind-altering fungi that invade the bodies of the now scattered citizenry. Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to get away – to move to one of the last remnants of pre-disaster society – but she can’t bring herself to abandon her mother and the community that relies on her.

When she’s offered a coveted place on a dangerous and profitable mission, she jumps at the opportunity to set her family up for life, but how can Reid ask people to put their trust in her when she can’t even trust her own mind?

Review:

Many years in the future, the world has faced climate disasters, resulting in food shortages and parasite diseases. Reid lives with her mom, and both of them are infected with Cad, a parasite that tries to control what they do with their bodies. When Reid is accepted to a university in one of the only preserved cities left, she’s eager to leave. Most of the people in their community are proud of Reid, but her mother is suspicious of this too-good-to-be-true offer. Reid has to figure out how to make sure her mom is taken care of while she’s gone, while also contemplating if she should leave her mom and the community.

This story has a disturbing look at what the future could look like. They didn’t have any of the conveniences we take advantage of, including available food and running water. There had been viruses that had killed people, and Reid was currently infected with a parasite. This story had a creepy possible future that could happen if we don’t look after the planet.

I predicted the way this story ended fairly early on. It was a literary style book, and it had an open ending. I didn’t get the closure that I wanted. I would have loved to see this story continue because I want to know what happens next, though I know that’s the style of the story.

The Annual Migration of Clouds is a creepy dystopia story.

Gutter Child by Jael Richardson

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Have you read The Annual Migration of Clouds? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Excerpt: The Kindred

Title: The Kindred
Author: Alechia Dow
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: January 4, 2021

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Goodreads Synopsis:

To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…

Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

Excerpt:

Excerpted from The Kindred by Alechia Dow, © 2022 by Alechia Dow. Used with permission by HarperCollins/Inkyard Press.

CHAPTER 1

FELIX

Looking this pretty takes time.

The clothes must be expensive but not gaudy, complex but not as if I put in all my effort. My hair must look styled but like I’ve walked through a gentle, aimless breeze, and I cannot be sweaty, which, on a planet known for having three suns, is rather difficult.

Parties that start early are the worst anyway. Everyone should be thanking me, not giving me the stink-eye, which they are. For some reason, they expect me to actually show up on time.

“Look who decided to join us,” the drummer from The Monchoos mutters as I step into the dimly lit hallway. We’re from the same planet, Maru-Monchuri, but there’s no comradery between us. Who could be friends with a pompous, spoiled duke like me, right? I could be better, could be the person I’m expected to be, but why waste the effort?

I give him a quick wink as I look around. This coveted, hard-to-get gig’s on Outpost 32: a man-made station between XiGra and Hali-Monchuri—Joy’s homeworld. XiGra’s a rich planet that’s not a part of the Qadin Kingdom (yet), and Hali is a part of the Qadin Kingdom, but also extremely poor. Thankfully, this outpost is the perfect mash-up of the two: international enough to be popular among wealthy travelers, cool and gritty enough to reflect the rock ’n’ roll aesthetic.

The black stone walls are plastered with band posters, grime, and beneath it all, the touch of musicians that would either make it or break it onstage. I wonder which one we’ll be tonight.

Joy humphs in my brain, but doesn’t elaborate.

She said she wouldn’t watch me choke, couldn’t be a part of another concert experience that sets off her anxiety. And yet, she can’t stay out of my head.

Of course, I’d be paired with the most judgmental Kindred in the system.

A coordinator peeks out from the curtain, a detached comm-ball hovering around their blue tentacled head. Dosani. They’re music geniuses, and probably the friendliest species in the universe. They speak Dosan into the comm, and then it flies over to us, translating.

“You’re late. Get onstage.” The voice doesn’t sound all that friendly. Weird.

My bandmates stalk behind the curtain, leaving me there in the deserted hallway for just a second. My nerves begin to spiral in the pit of my stomach, and I reach out to her, because she’s there, she’s always there—well, usually there—and she knows what I need.

Joy, I say through our connection. We’ve been together since birth. I’m exactly three minutes older than her, and I had to wait for our chips to sync for those three minutes. Not that I can remember. Still, that’s the longest I’ve been without her in my life.

The Kindred Program was created decades ago, after The Second Chaos, aka “The Revolution.” Apparently, the poor rose up, feeling like their voices weren’t heard by the rich, powerful rulers, and so the lower classes threatened a reckoning. Maru’s top scientists offered a solution: the citizens of the Monchuri system could be paired, one from the upper class, one from the lower. Establishing this would allow everyone to have a voice that could be heard, blah-blah-blah, and no more revolution. How could anyone ignore a mind pairing?

Given that I’m a duke and cousin to the Qadin royals, I was supposed to be paired with someone a little closer in economic class, because not just anyone should have a voice with the royals. Yet, I got paired with Joy.

Joy, who is dreadfully poor, living on the most impoverished planet in our system. Joy, who is my best friend, my moral compass, my judge, jury, and sometimes executioner. She’s not always my biggest fan, but she supports me in whatever I choose to do. Which isn’t much. I like traveling, adventuring to new worlds as long as my amenities are acceptable, and playing in a band. We both love music. She loves listening in as I practice, hearing new melodies outside of her Halin hymns. She thinks music has the power to transform you and make you feel anything and everything. She believes in it, just like she believes in me.

Which is why I need her right now.

Because as much as I love music—and I do, with all of my small black heart—my stage fright keeps me from making it. Already, the nausea creeps up my throat and my breaths come too fast to let oxygen into my lungs.

Joy, I say again with some urgency.

Yes, Felix…? Her question whispers through our connection. She’s there inside my mind like a perfectly clear radio channel, the only one on my brain’s frequency. She can read my thoughts, converse with me, feel my emotions. She can see what I see. She’s the one consistency in my world, and I can’t live without her. Even if our worlds seem hell-bent on keeping us apart… Nah, I don’t need to be thinking about that now.

Tell me I can do it. I run a hand through my hair and blow air out between my teeth. My feet bounce on the dirty tiles. Tell me it’s not a big deal. Easy.

You’re the most talented person I know. You can do this. And I swear, if you make me sick again, Felix, I will murder you.

I chuckle. It’s not my fault you get sympathy pains.

The stronger we accept the bond in our minds, the stronger the feelings, including negative ones. Pain, illness, anxiety, sadness, anger… It can be so intense in such bonds that if one Kindred were to die, the other might follow shortly after. It occurs in maybe one in a thousand pairings, but it happens. Until recently, I would have thought Joy and I would be one of those pairs. But she’s been pulling away more and more.

Go get onstage! They’ve been waiting hours for you and your beautiful voice. She laughs, shifting her body on the couch in her apartment, nearly toppling her sketch pad off her lap. Get up there, she commands again, and then she’s gone. She’s turned the volume down to a whisper and tuned me out.

I hate when she does that. I also don’t know how she does that. Why can’t we just always stay connected? Who needs space? Not me.

With that thought, I take another deep breath and strut down the hall. I tug on the velvet red curtain and step through onto the sticky levitating stage. We lift a few feet off the ground, but thankfully, unlike in most of the more modern venues, the floor doesn’t spin. Thank the Gods.

My bandmates stare at me, wide-eyed as the crowd goes wild. The excitement in the room is palpable, like a glittery haze that coats my limbs and makes me want to sing and dance and be alive. My chest rises and falls in sync with their cheers and stomps.

I both love it and hate it up here.

The band’s set up and the microphone’s hot. The lights are low, the room’s packed, and I’m going to sing, even if my stomach churns and threatens to upchuck my dinner of steamed hopfal leaves packed with gooey black rice.

I swagger up to that mic, my legs wobbling like jelly. “Hello. I’m—”

“I love you, Felix!” someone in the audience shouts, though who it is, I can’t see. They’re all shadows and faceless bodies from up here. Just the way I like them.

The light beats down on me, and sweat prickles at the edge of my scalp.

“I love you, too.” I laugh into the mic, which earns a few grumbles from my bandmates. “Now I want to…” I trail off as a shadowed body comes into view. Their eyes bore into mine. The face is one I’d know anywhere. A face that shouldn’t be here.

My throat dries up as he stalks through the crowd, waiting for me to finish. I step back, almost stumbling over my own feet. With a fleeting glance at my bandmates, I trip offstage and toward him.

The crowd boos. My brain’s short-circuiting. He’s not supposed to be in this part of my life. He’s part of the Duke’s life, the one I shrug off and leave at home whenever the opportunity arises. His being here can only be bad for me. It can only mean trouble.

My feet are on autopilot as he nods his head over to a private booth reserved just for us. I can feel my bandmates’ glares, but they begin strumming on their guitars as if I was never really a part of their group anyway—which I wasn’t. The drums pick up and the audience forgets all about me and my promises of a good time as they dance.

My visitor wears a long black tunic embroidered with crimson thread and matching pants. His golden hair’s slicked back and his vibrant golden eyes flash as I slide into the booth first. He takes the seat opposite me, flips on the privacy switch in the center of the table, and then folds his hands on the table as a translucent wall falls around the perimeter of the booth.

We sit in silence for only a moment but it feels like a lifetime as my heart hammers unsteadily in my chest.

“Do you know why I’m here, Duke Hamdi?” he asks finally, his head tilting to the side.

I suck my teeth. “My parents think I’m at some interplanetary summit for the children of dignitaries on Kippilu and they found out I was lying?”

“I don’t work for your parents.” Arren huffs, leaning back. “I work for the Qadins. You may remember them as the royals that pay for the pricey state-of-the-art ships you use to jump planets and slum in music halls—” he waves his arm at the room “—your flashy clothes and instruments that you seemingly never play onstage, and the countless opportunities that have been provided to you over the course of your short life.” There’s a bitter edge to his words that has me sitting taller. “You are a disappointment to their name.”

Arren’s a royal advisor—the royal advisor, and he has done enough over the years to earn my fear and respect. But there has to come a time when I crack.

Tonight, I was going to finally get over my stage fright and make a name for myself that had nothing to do with my actual name. All of my hard work, practicing until late at night, and pushing myself to new limits both artistically and mentally would have paid off. Instead, I’m here, missing my chance, being scolded for chasing my dreams by the royal advisor that threatened my Kindred’s life.

I will not forget, and I will not forgive.

“Do you think by doing all the Qadins’ dirty work, it’ll make you one of them? Do you think they consider you their equal?” I try to twist my lips at the corners, even if dread sinks into the bottom of my stomach. “What’ll happen if I go into politics like they so desire and come for your job?” I’m balancing on the tip of a sword, and at any second, I’ll get cut.

“You’re a fool.” Arren chuckles, though there’s no humor in it. “I do not wish to be a Qadin. I am not their equal. And you…” He trails off suddenly to look at the carefree dancers and the band that went on without me. “You have responsibilities that come with your title.”

“There are other dukes, other cousins.” My nostrils flare as I watch him. “Why do they hold me to such high standards when the others are free to do what they want?”

“Because you are meant to be much more than you are. Soon, you’ll need to step in and step up.” He holds my gaze now, and in it, I see a flicker of something that’s not frustration. It’s a thoughtful, plotting look. Arren’s got plans, and he wants me to follow them. “Soon your Kindred will marry and move on with her life. But where will you be? Failing on the stages of dingy bars—because at some point the good ones will stop booking you no matter your title—and burning through your trust fund? Do you know how many people would kill for the opportunities you have?”

Something about that question furthers my unease. Who would kill for opportunities? The Kindred Program makes sure that people are heard and happy. Murder doesn’t happen anymore. Citizens are content with their roles in life.

“Don’t you have other things to do, like I don’t know, figure out the Ilori conflict or something? Aren’t they trying to colonize us? The Qadins should be putting their energy into that, not whatever this is. What could they possibly want with me? I have no power or ambitions in politics.”

“The Qadins didn’t send me, so I don’t rightly know.” He stands, running his hands down his spotless tunic as I digest that news. If they didn’t send him, why is he here? “I came because I am looking out for your best interests. King Qadin would have no issue ignoring your existence, but I know you have a great destiny. One day, you may have power, and you could create change. Stop this music nonsense and join me, join my side. Together, we can pave our own paths in this kingdom. You could find your voice, since you can’t seem to find it onstage, and finally reach your potential. I believe in you—can you say that about anyone else?”

I barely keep the anger from my voice as I shuffle my legs beneath the table. “Is that why you threatened my Kindred?” I remember the way he had guards surround her without her noticing, pointing their weapons at her as he made me promise to never see her. Never allow her into my heart. “Was that your way of believing in me?”

“I was following orders. I work for the Qadins, but I am not one of them, and with Princess LaTanya’s impending nuptials with her Kindred, Johann Kao, I never will be.” He shakes his head, as if he didn’t mean to say that. Admittedly, it was a weird thing to say, but then I do know from the tabloids that he’s enamored with LaTanya… Still, that thought flees my mind as he continues, “They were right to make sure you keep your distance from your Kindred. There is only one person you can rely on, Duke Hamdi, and I believe, in time, you’ll come to see that. Someday soon, you will need my help. And I won’t hesitate to give it.” He slips a card onto the table and with that, he strides off, disappearing into the dancing fray.

My fingers edge the tip of the card. It’s solid black. It’s an upload, something I’d need to stick into a holo-frame monitor to access. It probably has Arren’s private info encrypted for me, so that I can learn to live up to my potential and what—overthrow the Qadins and stage a coup with him? Why would I do that? What makes him think I want any responsibility that big? Despite what he says, I learned early that my name gets me in doors, gets me a seat at the table, but that’s it. I don’t matter. No one cares about my opinions or thoughts, so why should I have them anymore?

I shove it deep in my pocket and punch the button in the center of the table for service.

He chose this night, this moment, on purpose. He probably even had Outpost 32 book this gig for me just so he could ruin it. So I would be miserable and malleable to whatever he’s plotting. But he underestimated my indifference.

At least I’m here where I can get drunk enough to drown my sorrow as the crowd dances and the music thrums through them, and me.

At least his newest power move will keep me from thinking about Joy.

About the author:

Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, teacher, and librarian. When she’s not writing, you can find her having epic dance parties with her little girl, baking, reading, or traveling.

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