Thursday, May 17, 2018

[Book Review] Zenith by Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings

Most know Androma Racella as the Bloody Baroness, a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her glass starship, Marauder, however, she's just Andi, their friend and fearless leader.

But when a routine mission goes awry, the Marauder's all-girl crew is tested as they find themselves in a treacherous situation and at the mercy of a sadistic bounty hunter from Andi's past.

Meanwhile, across the galaxy, a ruthless ruler waits in the shadows of the planet Xen Ptera, biding her time to exact revenge for the destruction of her people. The pieces of her deadly plan are about to fall into place, unleashing a plot that will tear Mirabel in two.

Andi and her crew embark on a dangerous, soul-testing journey that could restore order to their shipor just as easily start a war that will devour worlds. As the Marauder hurtles toward the unknown, and Mirabel hangs in the balance, the only certainty is that in a galaxy run on lies and illusion, no one can be trusted.

2.5 STARS 

tw: rape, poorly written PTSD, violence 

So I was pretty excited for this book when it was being hyped up last year. So much so that it made my list of Exciting 2018 Releases blog post at the end of the last year. However, as it was released and the massive amount of negative reviews on BookTube started rolling in I decided to wait until the discussion had died down before picking it up for myself. Although I am still seeing people talk about Zenith, I decided that it has been a long enough wait. Disclaimer, I am a fan of Sasha's when it comes to her on social media. I don't watch her videos anymore but  I do follow her on social media and I think she seems extremely sweet. Plus I love her dogs and I think she is a talented painter. I was bummed that Zenith was getting such bad reviews because I was rooting her success. I don't think Zenith deserves all the hate it's getting and I don't think it's the worst book ever written. Although, I think a couple more edits would have made it a better book.

First, like always with my reviews, I want to talk about the characters. Andi, our main character, is the worst character of the bunch (I assume, since I don't remember Breck almost at all, more on that later). I think Andi was too much like Celaena Sardothian from the Throne of Glass series for me to see her as her own character. I know Alsberg (and maybe also Cummings) are fans of Sarah J Maas's book (she even has a blurb on the front of Zenith) and I think it is unfortunate they didn't give their main character a more unique personality.  The authors want us to believe that she's this badass cold hearted killer, but instead what we get is a whiny, pouty, overall immature character and I was over it real quick. The best character in this book is Andi's right hand lady, Lira. She has the most interesting backstory and I actually empathized for her and the stuff she was going through. I think Lira felt the most like an actual tangible and realistic character. She didn't feel like a caricature or half written. Which brings us to Gilly, a character that we are to believe is a young wild killer with great aim and has no issues with taking a life. Instead we get a character that acts like she's about eight when she's supposed to be thirteen and the moment things get intense she just starts to cry. It was hard to believe she was a killer out for blood. The last lady on the ship is Breck, a giantess who honestly gets the smallest amount of time in the story and often you forget she even exists other than to have a line or two. I am thinking she may be a bigger character in the later books but overall I don't think we really got to know about her, or Gilly for that matter. Honestly, I had a hard time believing that these four women are these badass pirate assassins who are cold hearted and tough. At least one if not all of them have some sort of breakdown the moment things don't go their way, every single time. It honestly felt ridiculous. I couldn't buy that these four women not only were on their own before meeting each other in the middle of the galaxy trying to survive, but also that they were able to protect themselves and each other. They felt like amateurs when they (especially Andi) were being considered pros in their line of criminal work. And we also have Andi's love interest, Drex, who was a bit of a cardboard cut out of characters we've seen in the past in young adult fantasy/science fiction. Picture in your mind a tries to be charming, incredibly sarcastic, bad boy love interest and you basically have everything you'd need about Drex.

 One thing I have seen brought up a lot in reviews is that Valen's PTSD is not being well received by readers. And I can see where they are coming from even as someone who does not suffer from PTSD. It was poorly executed and I could see where some would even deem it offensive. It felt like a poorly researched plot point that is used for a short moment and then is never brought up again. I cannot have a full opinion on the representation of a certain mental illness that I don't deal with, but I do wish that the authors put a little more time and research into Valen's PTSD and made it a better example of representation for PTSD.

The plot was a bit all over the place. It was jumpy and the pacing felt off for the second act of the story. I think the pacing really should have been fixed and it needed more editing. I think the actual plot of the story, the skeleton if you will, was interesting and a lot of fun to read. I wish the authors fleshed parts out that they kind of glossed over and cut parts that just dragged the story. I think if Zenith went through a few more edits the story would be a more cohesive one. One thing about the plot I found incredibly unnecessary and offensive is that there is a random rape scene in the story that didn't seem to fit the story at all. It was off the page and it included a character being essentially mind controlled into having sex with another character. And honestly it didn't need to happen that way. The end result the authors wanted out of that scene could have had a dozen different scenarios where they would have gotten what they wanted. It felt cheap and gross.

There are moments in this book where I either hate the writing or I like it. There are so many moments where the descriptions and similes just made no sense. They were absolutely ridiculous and appear more in the first half of the book but they do happen throughout the entire story and a lot of the times its laughable how bad some of them can be. Which is a disappointment. I also felt like we are being told how epic everything is without actually showing us and putting us in the shoes of the characters.However, I think the authors can write pretty good action scenes and when they happened I enjoyed them a lot. There are certain scenes where they work extremely well and they are even enjoyable to read. I even found myself genuinely smiling, laughing, and getting emotional in a couple moments. I think chapter 39 is one of the cutest ones, and I would have liked to see more bonding experiences like this where we see how close the ladies are. I think specific scenes where two characters are talking about something serious is where the writing really shines. Those scenes include Lon/Lira, Andi/Valen, Andi/Lira, and even Andi/Dex, which was a surprise to me because they both drive me insane. You can tell that the writers do have talent but unfortunately they weren't given enough time with the story to really showcase it. I kept seeing people saying "if this book was written by someone else, it would have been a better book" insinuating that the authors didn't have the writing chops to write this story. I disagree, I think the authors definitely have the talent of writing this book into a really great story, I just think they needed to put it through a handful more edits.

There are too many POVs. I think the main problem for me was that out of the six POVs we are following, two of them are about characters that we do not get any explanation of who they are and by the time we find out it isn't satisfying or rewarding. At the very end I was even annoyed because I figured it out partially on my own. I think that either these two characters should have been fleshed out more or this part of the story should have been integrated into the main story differently. Every single time I got to one of their chapters I felt myself wanting to put the book down because I did not care and I knew I'd skim if I forced myself to read it. 

I obviously have a lot of issues with this story as a whole. But I also think that as a story there are parts that were enjoyable to read. I may even pick up the sequel, who knows. I don't think the story deserves all the hate it is getting. However, I don't blame readers for feeling like they were tricked into buying a book they assumed was properly edited and was given the allotted time to be the best it could be. It obviously needs work and I don't think the blame falls solely on the authors. I think both the publishers and the editors needed to have more time with the story to make it the best it could be. Some readers are suggesting that the publishers rushed the publication because they knew the book would sell either way because of Sasha's following on YouTube. And I think I see that side, but maybe it's the optimist in me hoping that maybe there is a better explanation. I know one thing, I'd definitely be angrier if I ended up actually pre-ordering Zenith like I almost did last year.

That being said, I think if you are genuinely interested in this story (or maybe you're interested because of all the discussions in the BookTube/Book Community) then pick it up and see what you think. I borrowed it from my local library, so I didn't have to spend any of my money. If that is a better option for you, I say check your libraries also. I really hope the second book is better written and properly edited. The ending to Zenith definitely has me intrigued to read book two, so fingers crossed book two is better. However, whether I pick up the sequel or not, I do wish both the authors all the best. I don't want my review to come off negatively towards them and I am excited to see what is in store for them when it comes to the sequel to Zenith and any other books they may write in the future.

Thanks for reading!

Have you read Zenith? I'd love to discuss!


  1. Phew!! I'm glad you didn't buy it!

  2. Too much hype usually kills a book for me. This looks like a perfect example.Six POV's is way too many! Great review, it has some very good points.

    1. Thank you! I am typically okay with a lot of POVs as long as they are written well and they are all necessary to telling the story. But in Zenith I didn’t think this many were needed!

  3. Oh no this sounds like such a mess. I'm definitely gonna avoid it. I also hate it when a book is rushed through without the proper editing - it never ends well.

    Great review, though, Heather!

    1. Yeah! It's a bummer because I think there was a great story hidden underneath all the mess. If it was edited properly I think it would have gotten better reviews.

      Thank you! <3