Review: “Honor Bound,” Rachel Caine, Ann Aguirre

Pros: Still loving this series!
Cons: Cliffhanger!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre’s Honor Bound (Honors Book Two) is every bit as good as Honor Among Thieves [review]. Zara, Bea, Nadim, Chao-Xing, Marko, Typhon, Starcurrent, and Yusuf need to deal with the Phage, but first they have to rest and heal. They head for the Sliver–a criminal station where anything can be had, for a price. There are two types of currency on the station. One way to acquire the less useful (but more generically applicable) currency is by selling music, and since no one here has heard human music, the two crews find themselves unexpectedly flush with cash. Repairs and upgrades for the Leviathan, however, will require the special currency. And pretty much the only way to obtain that with any speed is for Chao-Xing and Zara to find sponsors and participate in fights in the Pit. Luckily the two of them are badasses, and easy to underestimate. Bacia Annont is the mysterious ruler of the station, and no one wants to attract their attention (so of course, they want something from our heroes, and are in a position to help immensely).

This one line made me immensely pleased: “Hey, how are we supposed to pronoun Bacia, anyway?” It fit seamlessly into conversation, and was an offhanded, this-is-simple-politeness thing. It neatly established that such things can be a simple and easy part of conversation and interaction, and I’d really like to see more of this.

The Phage is absolutely terrifying, bringing shades of horror to the table. They’re a ravenous swarm that becomes faster and more intelligent the more of them that are together. They burrow into Leviathan and eat them away from the inside, taking them over and using them as ambush points to get to other Leviathan. We find out more about them in this volume, and it’s pretty fascinating. Even Bacia is afraid of the Phage, and they aren’t afraid of much.

The Phage aren’t the only aliens we delve into in this volume. The Bruqvisz are lizard-like aliens that Zara and Chao-Xing make friends with. There are ancient, long-dead beings called “Lifekillers” that we learn a few things about. There are luminous jellyfish and blobby aliens. The Sliver is a criminal gathering, so there’s plenty of danger at every turn. It doesn’t take long before Zara nearly gets herself killed by getting swept up in someone’s plot, and Yusuf needs some particularly expensive medicines to keep him alive as well.

I love the characters in these novels. They grow and learn and change under all the stress. Zara, Bea, and Nadim are turning into quite a team, and Typhon is forced to allow his Honors to get a little closer to him. There’s plenty of depth to even the simplest of characters.

And just to keep things interesting in the background, it becomes clear that the mob boss who’s after Zara back on Earth hasn’t given up on his revenge. I hate that this book ended on a cliffhanger, but I can’t wait to read more!

Why did people look so worried when I had promising ideas?

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