When I stumbled across author F.T. Lukens a year ago, I knew this was a writer I wanted to read more from as soon as I got the chance. So, when Paranormal Week 2018 was floated at Joyfully Jay, I begged to review more of her work. While the series I am going to review this week could be labeled as science fiction due to its being set in space and various worlds, there is also some rather freaky paranormal abilities that get their day in this novel. From the ability of one rather nasty character to control others by mere verbal suggestion, to our main guy’s astonishing gift of becoming one with any piece of technology he encounters, The Star Host is an exciting genre crossing story that any paranormal geek will enjoy. The best part is I will be reviewing the second novel of the series later this week and once you get a taste of Ren and Ash, trust me you will want to see more of them.
Ren lives on a planet split into five fiefdoms with a central leader referred to as the Baron. Every so often, the Baron’s guards do a sweep and drag in the youth of various fiefdoms to be integrated into the Baron’s guard or serve in the kitchens, etc. of the keep. While this sounds almost barbaric (and it is), this is no backwater planet. The soldiers have hovercrafts, stun guns, and force fields that keep those they want to out and those they capture in. In other words, a heap of futuristic technology and machinery that enables the elusively mysterious Baron to control his people.
Unbeknownst to Ren, who lives on a farm well away from the Baron’s fortress, the man in power has been slowly taking over all of the fiefdoms and amassing more and more teenagers for his army. His right-hand man, Abiathar (who can control others just by talking them into doing his will), rules over the new “recruits” (read slaves) with an iron fist. When Ren is captured, he first knocks out three stun guns and nearly escapes only to be grabbed and knocked out before he can get to the safety of the woods. When he catches the eye of Abiathar, Ren knows he is in trouble, for not only does the man know what powers lay inside Ren, but how to manipulate them for his heinous purposes.
Poor Ren is shackled in iron—which negates his ability to literally defuse or destroy any machinery—and taken to a cell where he meets Asher. Ash is a soldier of the Phoenix Corps, a group that patrols the skies, and lives literally on a drift (kind of like a floating bit of space cloud—so cool)! Drifters are notoriously arrogant and look down their noses at those who never take to the stars but are tied to the land—dusters, which is what Ren has been all his life. Ash was injured when his detail tried to investigate what was happening with the takeover of the fiefdoms. He is now a hostage, keeping his mother, who is in a position of power on his home, from sending any more troops to disrupt what the Baron and Abiathar have planned—the takeover of the galaxy.
You see Ren is a Star Host—a technopath and he’s not the only one. But Ren is very powerful, able to dismantle or repair huge space ships simply by becoming one with the technology that runs them. With Abiathar being able to control Ren, he can make the young man do just about anything—including destroy entire fleets of space ships that might try to stand in the Baron’s way. Ren must escape and he is determined to take Ash with him, but how he is going to get out without being killed is anyone’s guess. But the two must try for if the Baron is allowed to continue unchecked, the world as they know it will cease to exist and evil will reign.
Okay—that is the worst synopsis I have ever written, but to give you any more information will spoil this incredible story for you. Suffice it to say that this is one action packed roller coaster ride from beginning to end. While it doesn’t end on a major cliffhanger, it still leaves a few important plot points dangling so that you are eager for the next installment. Yes, this is a YA, story but before you dismiss it out of hand, I can honestly say that Ren and Asher act more adult than most of their older counterparts. Also, before I get to the bits I absolutely loved in this book, I must tell you that there is no sex—in fact the relationship between Ren and Ash is very slow building and merely a whisper on the wind by story’s end. But that thrill of a first kiss, a first love is so very sweet and it makes you desperate to see where their attraction will lead them. Please trust me when I tell you that there is so much going on in this story that the lack of sex in no way diminishes the incredible world building and fascinating paranormal beings that inhabit this novel.
I adored Ren and Ash. They grounded each other every step of the way and, while there were little bits of angst here and there, I loved how the author gave her two young men the ability to openly communicate their feelings—even when sometimes they had to push each other to do so. These guys were intelligent, resourceful, mature, and yet vulnerable and unsure. In short, they were a truly lovely team and not once did I waver in my admiration of them. Author F.T. Lukens creates such utterly real people that you can’t help but be invested in their plight almost immediately. She allows them to be genuine and question each other’s motives, which prevents that tired old plot line we so often see in action adventure novels where one of the characters goes off to “sacrifice” themselves for the good of the others. Instead, she makes Ren and Ash a team and they are truly delightful together.
With a myriad of side characters, many of which became loyal to our duo, and multiple new locations to discover, The Star Host was absolutely captivating to read. Straddling both the sci-fi and paranormal worlds, this novel was stunning in its scope and I cannot wait to read the next in this series.