Goodreads: Honor Bound
Series: The Honors #2
Published: February 19, 2019
Zara Cole was a thief back on Earth, but she’s been recently upgraded to intergalactic fugitive. On the run after a bloody battle in a covert war that she never expected to be fighting, Zara, her co-pilot Beatriz, and their Leviathan ship Nadim barely escaped the carnage with their lives. Now Zara and her crew of Honors need a safe haven, far from the creatures who want to annihilate them. But with two wounded Leviathan to treat, plus human and non-human refugees to help, they’ll have to settle for the nearest outpost, called the Sliver: a wild, dangerous warren of alien criminals. Zara’s skills from the Zone may be invaluable. However, Zara discovers that the secrets of the Sliver may have the power to turn the tide of the war they left behind—but in the wrong direction. Soon Zara will have to make a choice: stand against the ultimate evil or run from it. But she’s never walked away from a fight.
Honor Bound is the second installment in Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre’s thrilling and fresh space saga.
Honor Bound is an irresistibly gripping follow up to Honor Among Thieves, a rare sequel that might, in fact, be even better than the first book. Caine and Aguirre bring back an amazing cast of characters, while introducing a few that are likely to become new fan favorites, and send them all on a wild space adventure that takes them to a seedy space outpost and on a suicide mission heist that other teams have tried and failed. Honor Bound is a great space book, with a thoughtful look at space travel, technology, and alien races, but it will also be a compulsive read for anyone who likes books like Six of Crows that feature teams putting all their strengths together to do the impossible or that give readers a look into a criminal world.
The short review, then, is that I liked basically everything about this book. When I reviewed Honor Among Thieves I wrote:
Zara is a character who could have been hit-or-miss for me. She has an issue with authority and tends to make snarky comments that could have just come across as annoying or try-hard, but the authors actually sold me on her tough attitude and hard exterior. Possibly this is because she quickly develops a close relationship with her Leviathon ship and her new crewmate, so readers can see she does have a gritty past and the toughness to go with it, but she’s also not heartless.
This continues to be true, and it’s one of the driving factors of the book. Zara is tough. She lived on the streets. She knows how to deal with criminal elements. But she also fundamentally a good person, so readers get to cheer for her. Honor Among Thieves basically puts Zara in her element, as the crew goes to an outpost called the Sliver where there are no rules and no free rides, but Zara knows how to deal with people to get what she wants. People didn’t think she was a good fit for the Honors Program, but here she turns out to be exactly what is needed.
I also still think the Leviathan/human relationship is one of the most unique parts of the book, but it does get a little weirder in book two for me. I noted in my review of the first book that other people were calling it a “friendship” and that term didn’t feel right to me; it’s too intimate and physical. Basically there are almost sexual undertones, and that comes out more strongly in Honor Bound, as Zara seems on the verge of contemplating a threesome with her Leviathan and their other crew member. It’s not phrased that way, probably because this is YA, but the suggestion is definitely there, and I’m not 100% certain how I feel about it. I guess readers are supposed to say something to themselves like “It’s space and a new alien race; anything is possible and correct” and move on.
Unless, however, this is a metaphor for something that I haven’t quite figured out. The book definitely uses alien races to send messages to readers about using correct gender pronouns and respecting different cultures that are obviously supposed to then be applied to humans, so it’s possible the book is sending some sort of sex-positive message about polyamory using aliens and intimate-bonding-that-is-not-sex as the means to deliver that message. I haven’t really seen other people talk about this, but it’s there.
Plotwise, the book is utterly engaging. A lot of books get called “unputdownable,” but this is one where I truly just wanted to know what would happen next because it was always high-stakes and always interesting. There are a lot of space books and a lot of them have criminal outposts (it’s almost a cliche), but the way Caine and Aguirre use the elements feel really unique here, and though the general arc of the plot is predictable (for example: will they complete the heist?), individual elements are not, and that’s what makes the book so strong.
This is likely to be on my list of best books I read in 2019 at the end of the year, and I hope more people will pick it up.