Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie

(9.0/10)

Emily Skrutskie’s Bonds of Brass is a fast-paced YA space opera with plenty to love. We’re introduced to two fighter-pilots-in-training one of whom turns out to be the heir to the throne of an evil space empire. It’s one part coming of age story, one part military sci-fi, and one part YA romance. It’s easy to love the two main characters, and the story pulls you along making it difficult to put the book down.

There are plenty of things worth praising in Skrutskie’s novel. The pacing, in particular, was excellent. There were just enough moments to catch your breath for the fast-paced action to feel natural. From the first moments of the novel it’s obvious that Skrutskie isn’t waiting around. We’re thrown into the action, but just as quickly we’re introduced to the two main characters - best friends and roommates - through the action. Those two characters are easy to love and we instantly care about them, their concerns, and what is going to happen to them. All this happens by about the tenth page, which is an impressive feat. In the midst of that, Skrutskie also manages to introduce a good deal of world building and relevant history. All of it feels natural. Another thing I loved about this one is how violence is not seen as a panacea. Too often in science fiction and fantasy, violence is largely perpetrated without consequence. In Bonds of Brass, the characters have to deal with the violence they commit, even violence committed in self-defense, and the way that said violence affects them psychologically. There are also themes of friendship, love, and divided loyalties that are weaved seamlessly throughout the story. I loved every moment of it, and the climax is suitably tense and thrilling. Fast-paced, character-driven, military science fiction with a strong coming-of-age element and characters you love and ache for isn’t available on every bookstore shelf. It's a very emotional book. By the end your emotions are raw. Friendship and loyalty play a pivotal role, but so does legacy and birthright, and the importance of the past in shaping the future. It’s a wonderful story, and I'm looking forward to the next book.

There isn’t much that I have to criticize in this one. It is written in present tense, and I am not a fan of that writing style. I know for some folks it works fine. For me, reading a present tense narrative almost always jars me out of the story at some point. The exceptions to this are few and far between. In this case, there were moments when I was jarred out of the story by the present tense narrative. But it happened less than I might have expected, and I noticed it less as the story went on. I also would have liked to have seen a little more fleshing out of the technology. This isn’t hard scifi, and it doesn’t need to be, but a little more explanation for how technology works, faster-than-light travel, that kind of thing, would have been something I enjoyed. Obviously, that’s the sort of thing that’s very specific to reader preferences.

Bonds of Brass grabs you, makes you love it, and then leaves you aching for more. It’s a wonderful young adult tale. Sure to appeal to fans of Star Wars: Rogue One, folks looking for a YA science fiction tale, and those yearning for a M/M YA romance. The entire book feels real and authentic at every turn, and it doesn’t shy away from grappling with important themes. A wonderful start to a new trilogy. I can’t wait to see where the story takes us!

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