Review – Zodiac by Romina Russell

December 11, 2014 Reviews 25 ★★★½

Review – Zodiac by Romina RussellZodiac by Romina Russell
Series: Zodiac #1
Also in this series: Wandering Star
Published by Penguin on 12/9/14
Genres: Fairy Tales Legends & Mythology, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Source: BEA
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, but it's not described; Some violence)
My rating:
3.5 Stars

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

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My Take

Zodiac was a really unique and compelling sci-fi/fantasy read. I loved the worlds that Russell created and the story was intriguing. Rhoma spent her childhood being taught by her eccentric mother how to read the stars and access the power of the psy network. When she is sixteen, her world is all but destroyed (something that she foresaw, but no one believed her). Rhoma doesn’t believe that this was an accident. She thinks that the leader of the mythical 13th House of the Zodiac – who is now believed to be no more than a fairy tale – is back and looking for revenge. Rhoma is thrust into the role of being the leader of her people, but she can’t get anyone to trust her when she tells them that all of the Zodiac is in danger. She has to prove that there is a real threat before it’s too late.

What I LOVED:

  • Universe based on the zodiac. I really loved the idea that the planets in this world were based on the twelve houses of the zodiac and that the people’s character traits had to do with which house they belonged to. I thought that this was a fun and clever way to build a fantasy universe. There were a lot of interesting sci-fi elements to the story, and the worldbuilding is really rich right from the beginning, when we see Rhoma and her family on the seas of Cancer. Then there was the governmental structure of the universe and the psy network which allows people to communicate with one another, but also to lift themselves to a sort of higher level of consciousness. It was all very new-agey, which fit perfectly with the zodiac theme. I thought that Russell did a fantastic job of creating an imaginative world based on astrological signs.
  • The story. I thought that Russell also did a great job of creating a compelling story, fraught with danger and intrigue. There were some interesting twists thrown in that kept me guessing about what was going to happen next, and Rhoma’s struggle to make people believe in her felt very realistic, considering her age and lack of experience. The stakes were high, and Rhoma herself didn’t feel particularly qualified to face the dangers before her, but she was forced to. It was either that or watch her universe be destroyed around her. I enjoyed seeing Rhoma learn about how the politics of her universe really worked and watching her grow in confidence as the book went on. And the ending definitely left me guessing about what would happen next!

The negatives:

  • The love triangle. I had a hard time with the love triangle in this book. Sometimes a love triangle can work, but in this book, it just bugged me a bit. Mostly because I was never completely sold on either guy. I felt like Rhoma didn’t even really like Mathias for most of the book, but then she was hung up on him from when she was younger – and he often protected her. His lack of trust in her was a major issue, too (and it was handled that way – but then she would go back to being unsure about her feelings for him again). In some ways, I felt like the whole relationship was just setting us up for the ending, which then felt a bit forced to me (and I don’t really believe that what we’re led to believe happened really happened – we shall see). Then there was Hysan, who I actually really liked, but I didn’t want to get too attached to because I felt like Rhoma couldn’t let herself just actually like him because of Mathias. Anyway, I am still curious about what will happen in the next book with the romance, but it was my least favorite element of this one.
  • Worldbuilding didn’t quite always make sense. While I loved the idea behind Russell’s worldbuilding, there were a couple of minor points that stuck out to me and made me scratch my head a bit. The biggest one was that the Zodiac universe was supposed to be a futuristic human society whose ancestors were from Earth. I actually wished that Russell had just left this little detail out and made the book take place in a completely fantasy world because it didn’t make sense at all and I found myself dwelling on it. Why would regular humans suddenly start showing the traits of zodiac signs (not based on when they were born, but where they were born)? How did they happen to end up on these planets that mirrored the zodiac signs? By making this a futuristic human society, I suddenly felt like the people and planets had to make sense instead of just being able to enjoy the fantastical elements as pure fantasy.

Overall, I enjoyed Zodiac, and I’m eager to see where Russell goes with the next book in the series. Even though the romance didn’t thrill me, I loved the imaginative universe that Russell created and I really want to see more of it. I give this one 3.5/5 stars.

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

About the Author

romina-russellRomina Russell is a Los Angeles based author who originally hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—College She Wrote, a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. When she’s not working on the ZODIAC series, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a Virgo to the core.

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25 Responses to “Review – Zodiac by Romina Russell”

  1. Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

    I’m reading this one right now. I’m with you on the world and world-building. I’m enjoying the creativity of the planets based on the zodiac but the world-building is making things a little complicated and hard to just devour. I’m only about 1/3 of the way in and I’m hoping that it picks up a little bit as I keep reading. Great review!

    • Nicole

      Yes, I loved the worlds that Russell created, but there is a LOT of worldbuilding that has to happen. Hope you enjoy the rest of the book!

  2. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    I like that this sounds so unique but I am kind of bummed about the world building thing. I am so iffy about fantasy in general because I am too focused on logic, and that worries me about this book. BUT, the zodiac thing (and fine, if I am being honest, the cover) is enough to make me want to give this one a shot anyway. It is on my Christmas wish list, and I am pretty sure someone bought it, so I might as well give it a try 😉 Great review, I am glad to know what to expect and be prepared for the world building issue!

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted: Review: Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
    • Nicole

      It’s good worldbuilding if you can ignore the fact that she says the people are ancestors of Earth. Just pretend she doesn’t say that because if you’re like me, you’ll sit there thinking about how nothing makes sense anymore. It’s like one sentence that threw off the whole worldbuilding for me! 🙂

  3. S. J. Pajonas

    I’m a HUGE astrology buff (I build all my characters on their astrology signs) and my friend at Penguin gave me this book as an arc a few months ago. I really want to read it but … sigh … I also have issues with love triangles. Your “what I loved” points, though, strike a chord with me, so I’ll have to move it up the queue 🙂

    S. J. Pajonas recently posted: The History of Auberge
    • Nicole

      If you love astrology, I think you should give it a try. You’ll really enjoy the universe that Russell created. I’m still really glad I read the book, even though the love triangle soured it a bit for me.

  4. Brittany

    I was actually pretty leery of this book. I’m terrible about avoiding new authors, particularly if they haven’t been recommended or mentioned by my friends. And, despite the love triange (why do YA authors seem to think that they ALWAYS need to include these???), it does seem pretty promising. I might just have to give it a shot.

    Lovely review and blog! I followed via Bloglovin!

    Brittany @ http://www.spacebetweenthespines.com/

  5. Kritika

    Ooooh this sounds really cool! I’m a little skeptical of people magically having the same traits because of where they’re born, but it seems like there is a lot of other stuff to love in this book. I’ve been looking for more sci-fi/fantasy blended books and this one sounds good!

    Kritika recently posted: Happy Holidays!
    • Nicole

      Yes – if the people weren’t supposed to be descendants of humans, I think I could have swallowed the different traits for different planets better, but I couldn’t make sense of it this way.

    • Nicole

      There were definitely some new-agey elements that were kind of confusing (with the psy network and such) – I could see how that might have frustrated you.

  6. Olivia

    Hmm… I have seen this book around but this is the first review I have read! I like the idea of the houses being based on the zoadic – it kind of makes me think of the houses in Percy Jackson. But the love triangle is a bit of a turn off for me. I think I need to read some more reviews before I decide about picking this up!

    Olivia recently posted: Fat Girl (Blog Tour & Giveaway!)

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