Review: Navigators of Draconis

Navigators of Draconis by Jake Ashwell

3 stars – I liked it, but it could’ve been better

I am embarrassed to say that even though I was sent this book back in April, I only started reading it in September. It was sent to me by the author to review. As such, I have completely forgotten what this book is about other than that it’s sci-fi, and the cover looks great (though the photo editing has some flaws). I finally started reading on September 16, 2022.

Finished on September 22, 2022.

Space Pirates!

Grace Malia Myrasatra is in trouble right from the prologue. On a typical night out, she’s accosted by a hazer, and the encounter ultimately leads to his death with Grace as the main suspect. Though it was self-defence, the hazer turns out to be a cop, and Grace knows that she has no way of escaping conviction, so she immediately packs her bags to go on the run. Only shortly after, she is arrested and taken to a prison, where she meets the pirate LZ. After a rescue by LZ’s crew, Grace joins the pirates in hopes of making enough money for a new ID. If only she knew the mess she was getting herself into.

Right out of the gate, the rating of this book is made clear to me since it drops the f-bomb right on the first page. Of course, going into this with no recollection of its contents, I was surprised, but I was easily able to adjust my expectations for a book with an older audience.

Grace is, of course, the protagonist of the novel, but I’m not sure how to feel about her relationship with Zane. They come from different worlds, and we know that they’ve been together for three years. Still, starting out, it feels a lot like Grace has a lot more to gain from their relationship, given that Zane is a high-level citizen, comes from a wealthy and influential family, and has a job at one of the top companies in the city. However, most of the first chapter is dedicated to showing that their feelings are equally reciprocated and that she’s not with him for his advantage. Unfortunately, their day is ruined when law enforcers capture Grace, and she is separated from Zane. Her relationships with the pirate crew are varied, but it’s most clear between her and LZ, who she becomes close with in prison and even closer on the ship. The others in the crew—the captain, pilot, and two others—don’t have as many scenes with Grace, though each of them helps her in some way. I admit that I couldn’t quite distinguish between some of them until the very end of the book.

Moving on to the writing style and quality, I’d say it falls right in the middle of the pack here. It’s clear that the author spent time working out everything so that the world was realistic and immersive, but I think the book would benefit from a final edit as there are some sentences where the grammar is a bit lacking.

Something I found very interesting, though, was that the beginning of each chapter has an excerpt from a made-up book within the universe, such as textbooks, well-known novels, and even a drug pamphlet to explain the world’s made-up drugs. It was very creative and felt very realistic, so I applaud the author for that.

I can’t really speak to the design of the book, as it was sent to me as an ARC and was therefore more of a manuscript than an actual typeset novel.

This is a quest sort of book, made obvious by the title “Navigators of Draconis”, but I have to say that I wasn’t expecting them to be space pirates. I am convinced that the author did his research to make the fight scenes immersive, and I liked the creativity with the weapons being a mix of the classic pirate pistols and cutlasses and the more futuristic laser guns and plasma swords.

Still, this book is only three stars for me because there were numerous points throughout that I thought “this could be better”. I finished it, but it wasn’t as immersive as other books have been for me. It’s probably just not my cup of tea, and definitely, the swearing pulled me out of the book. I can see others not minding the adult themes and messaging in this book, but I much rather read younger fiction.

Overall, a good read. I would recommend this book to adult readers who don’t mind a bit of swearing and mentions of sexual content (though nothing explicit). It’s for people who enjoy space adventure and pirates at the same time, the morally grey characters who serve both sides but ultimately themselves—neither good nor bad.

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