Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsPolaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsPolaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

Jessie Mihalik’s debut novel, Polaris Rising (2019), is a bit like if Leia Organa and Han Solo didn’t have that wet blanket Luke Skywalker moping about, bringing everyone down with his whinging about moisture farming and power converters. It’s a story about a runaway princess and an outlaw soldier causing all kind of space-shenanigans, evading capture by the princess’ intended fiancé and her overbearing father, and the best part is that the princess is the one driving all the action and risking everything to protect her life and the lives of her companions.

So who is this princess? Ada von Hasenberg, one of the lowest-ranked among her five siblings in terms of succession to their father’s power and holdings, whose usefulness lies in being married off to one of the two other High Houses controlling the known universe, either House Rockhurst or House Yamado. Since her primary reason to exist is corporate/familial espionage, she’s trained for her entire life in etiquette, combat, politics, and information-gathering. But Ada’s more than just a pretty face, and marriage to Richard Rockhurst sounds like less fun than going for a suitless EVA, so she takes her destiny into her own hands and flees, managing to stay free for over two years until a band of Rockhurst’s mercenaries gets lucky and takes her prisoner.

Jessie Mihalik

Jessie Mihalik

Unluckily for the mercs, they’ve also captured Marcus Loch, the Devil of Fornax Zero and the Royal Consortium’s most-wanted criminal. Loch’s notoriety stems from a killing spree during an attempt to quash a rebellion on Fornax, in which he slaughtered “at least a dozen of his commanding officers and fellow soldiers,” and the Consortium’s inability to capture him since then has resulted in an impressively high bounty being placed on his handsome, surly head. For the right price, Loch will help Ada escape her fiancé, but you know what they say about making a deal with the devil…

Mihalik’s prose is generally well-written; action scenes are paced and explained in clear enough detail that it’s easy to visualize what’s happening and to whom, and the romance scenes are equally descriptive and entertaining. Fair warning: Polaris Rising is not a “clean” romance, and there are detailed and graphic portrayals of consenting adults engaging in sexual acts, though there’s much more to the novel than smoldering glances and wandering hands. There’s also subterfuge, daring escapes and rescues, political/familial/financial intrigue, and some very welcome female friendship. Descriptions of futuristic haute couture are a little lacking in comparison to the action sequences, or the impossibly-advanced ship Ada and her ragtag band discover, but Ada’s obviously at her most comfortable in practical gear, so her focus is on an outfit’s number and placement of pockets and how many weapons she can carry at a given time.

I enjoyed Polaris Rising so much more than I’d expected to, despite some debut-writer missteps: some early details are a little repetitive, character interactions are sometimes oblique when I would have liked more explanation, and the plot had a flew clichés here and there. But the level of sheer enjoyment outweighed all of that and made for a very enjoyable reading experience, even when taking into account the deadly seriousness of Ada’s life on the run. Ada is smart, resourceful, and more than capable of taking care of herself — Mihalik makes it obvious that this princess hasn’t survived solely thanks to the kindness of others — and it’s interesting to watch her struggle to balance her self-interest against her growing reliance on Loch and her slowly-growing number of friends.

In a word, Polaris Rising was fun. Mihalik’s story kept me on the edge of my seat, and I relished the ways in which she subverted my expectations for both the space opera and romance genres. The best news of all is that book two of THE CONSORTIUM REBELLION, Aurora Blazing, is currently scheduled for an October 2019 release, and I’m excited to find out what Mihalik has in store for readers.


Published in February 2019. A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy. In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars. Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head. When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape. But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .


  • Jana Nyman

    JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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