I really liked the first book in the Sirantha Jax series. It was fun, breezy sci-fi with a female heroine. I had some issues with the writing, but it was so fun and new that I was easily able to ignore those issues and just enjoy the story. I guess the novelty’s worn off or something, though, because that wasn’t the case with Wanderlust. (Of course, my disenchantment with this book could also be that I wasn’t really in the mood to read it, but I had to because I had to get it back to the library ASAP before I owe them a million more dollars than I already do. It has been my experience in the past that reading books when you’re not in the mood for them can ruin the book for you, so take the rest of this review with a grain of salt.)
Wanderlust picks up a couple of weeks after Grimspace. Farwan Corporation is officially history, and the formerly politically neutered Conglomerate is looking to fill the power vacuum left behind. They name Sirantha Jax ambassador to Ithiss-Tor and charge her with opening negotiations to ally them with the Conglomerate. Jax doesn’t accept the assignment out of turn — she’s got to do things her way. But the book really has nothing do with the mission to Ithiss-Tor, because her and the crew never make it. They get sidelined by a seemingly endless parade of distractions, stowaways, alien attacks, and a trip to the worst planet in existence, Lachion. On top of all this, Jax’s health is declining and she has no idea why, and her relationship with March is on the rocks, mostly because she keeps freaking out and pushing him away. It’s incredibly frustrating.
The beginning and end of the book were pretty interesting, but the whole middle section was a slog. I hope these books never ever go back to Lachion, because if I have to hear Jax talk about Keri one more time I’m going to get violent. Keri as a character illustrates perfectly my problems with Aguirre’s style in this book. All we ever hear about Keri is her name, and what Jax thinks of her. I don’t actually have any fucking clue who Keri is as a character, so every time Jax starts bitching about her, I just get annoyed with Jax. It’s not great character work. Also, I don’t give a shit about the war between the clans on Lachion, and it’s the biggest setpiece in the book. The whole book feels kind of aimless, like Aguirre just started writing and then stopped because she figured it was a good place to rest in her story. I like my books to have a beginning, middle and end. An arc. This one didn’t. Hopefully the next four books won’t have this problem. And please, god, no more Keri.
I do, however, like Aguirre’s commitment to keeping Jax as fucked up emotionally as possible. It gives her somewhere to go. (Not a huge fan of the cover, either, especially as I like the ones for books 1,3, 5 and 6 so much. 4 is a dud, too.)