At Star's End by Anna Hackett
Series: The Phoenix Adventures #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: March 31st 2014
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
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Dr. Eos Rai has spent a lifetime dedicated to her mother's dream of finding the long-lost Mona Lisa. When Eos uncovers tantalizing evidence of Star's End—the last known location of the masterpiece—she's shocked when her employer, the Galactic Institute of Historic Preservation, refuses to back her expedition. Left with no choice, Eos must trust the most notorious treasure hunter in the galaxy, a man she finds infuriating, annoying and far too tempting.
Dathan Phoenix can sniff out relics at a stellar mile. With his brothers by his side, he takes the adventures that suit him and refuses to become a lazy, bitter failure like their father. When the gorgeous Eos Rai comes looking to hire him, he knows she's trouble, but he's lured into a hunt that turns into a wild and dangerous adventure. As Eos and Dathan are pushed to their limits, they discover treasure isn't the only thing they're drawn to…but how will their desire survive when Dathan demands the Mona Lisa as his payment?
I’m going to warn you right off the bat, this is review is going to be a gush-fest. I love this series with a white hot passion, and I want some of you to love it too!
THIS SERIES IS ABOUT SEXY SPACE TREASURE HUNTERS!
Did I reel you in with that? Because that’s all it took for me to jump on these. For those of who are not thoroughly persuaded by that magical combination of words, let me say more.
Some background: The series is set in a far distant future. Humans destroyed Earth during a series of nuclear wars, but before the end many groups of colonists escaped, often toting Earth’s most precious cultural treasures with them. Fast forward millennia, and humans have spread far and wide in space, encountering other races and seeding new civilizations. Interstellar travel is possible, many planets can apparently support human life, and there are various levels of local and interplanetary governments holding it all together. (More on the world building later.)
Book 1 introduces us to the Phoenix brothers, the sexy treasure hunters mentioned above. Dathan is the de facto leader of the family, and he works together with his brothers to salvage and hunt treasures. They live and work together, aided by their sentient and absolutely hilarious spaceship (who does not get nearly enough page time). Frequently, they hunt for old Earth items, which are invaluable collectibles in this universe. When Dr. Eos Rai wants to hire the brothers to help her chase a fragment of the Mona Lisa, they are skeptical. (She’s a freaking SPACE. ARCHEOLOGIST. If this book is not written specifically with me in mind, I don’t know what is.) First, Eos works for the Galactic Institute of Historic Preservation, an agency that collects and protects priceless treasures. They are the legitimate treasure hunters of the universe, and understandably Dathan is not sure what one of their scientists would want with his less-reputable operation. Two, while tales of the Mona Lisa have persisted, no one has ever seen proof that it still exists or that the lost colony where Eos thinks it rests is real either. Of course, she convinces him by admitting she’s not doing this as an official Institute representative, and she’s got some pretty good clues about the Mona Lisa and it’s whereabouts. They aren’t the only ones who want the Mona Lisa, though. Dathan and Eos have to outrun the other parties, follow the scant clues they have, and of course, navigate the horny feelings in their spacepants.
The plot of this book is so damn fun. Yes, it is completely and totally preposterous to think that this fragment of the Mona Lisa might exist in space after thousands of years, and that they could somehow find it. Even I kind of gave it the side eye when I first started reading, but part of the appeal of this series is the crazysauce. It’s not that logic is totally ignored – for instance, there are some explanations given for how relics have been preserved – but some suspension of disbelief is certainly necessary. This book in particular is full of adventure and action, and it’s just plain exciting to read. It’s Star Wars with a dash of Indiana Jones for good measure. (Hackett is clearly a fan of both franchises.)
The relationship is solid too. Eos is smart and nerdy, but she’s tough. I loved hearing her spout facts about Earth history and loved her righteous indignation at Dathan for his treasure hunting. Dathan is your gruff-on-the-outside/sweet-and-vulnerable-inside hero. He had a lousy childhood and thinks he’s not good enough for Eos, but naturally we all know that’s not true. They make an excellent pair, in (space)bed and out of it.
I adore this book, but I’ll be the first to admit it has some issues that didn’t bother me in the slightest but might bother you.
- It’s short. Some of the books in this series are full length novels and some are novellas. At Star’s End is in the middle at 42K words. To me there’s still enough time for relationship and story development, but you might disagree.
- There are a few minor grammar errors and typos. The number of errors did not feel egregious to me, but there are a few that caught my eye. If you are bothered significantly by errors, YMMV.
- The world building is not as thorough as some sci fi enthusiasts prefer. There is some explanation of technology, but not much. I didn’t feel any glaring inconsistencies, but there are lots of “isn’t that convenient” elements, like how nearly everyone speaks English, even though there are different species in this universe. You can’t think too hard about all the details or they don’t hold up as well.
I could go on about how much I love this book and the series, but I will spare you more of my gushing. I think the best summary I can give is this: If you love the exciting adventure aspect of Star Wars, don’t get too annoyed when you hear “parsec” being used as a measure of time rather than distance, and you wish that the movies had more of Han playing hide the lightsaber with Leia, this series might appeal to you as much as it does to me. Do yourself a favor and start with Book 1–it’s not impossible to start elsewhere but At Star’s End is a solid introduction to one of my absolute favorite series.
Grade: 5 out of 5