Review copy was received from Author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Embargo of Hope by Justin Doyle
Series: Star Marked #1
Published by Atmosphere Press on August 20, 2021
Genres: Science Fiction Fantasy
Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Even gods have secrets…
On planet Vastire, worth is set by the sins of one’s ancestors. Good families rise to the elite and the wicked fall into poverty. Unfortunately for sixteen-year-old Darynn Mark, his father incited a revolution. Now, Darynn scrounges his way through life in the slums. When Vastire is surrounded by an embargo, it gets even harder to survive.
That all changes when an alien ship slips through the embargo, seeking Darynn with an offer: finish the revolution and the embargo ends. He might have a chance thanks to mysterious magic powers, and his two companions: clairvoyant crush Fyra and soldierly alien Kaylaa.
Cutthroat killers, mystical beasts, Vampires, power-hungry priests and lords, and self-serving spies stand in their way. If the three of them can crack his father’s secret, maybe they can end the embargo and save the poor. If not, another poor orphan will be added to the growing piles of dead.
Embargo on Hope is the first book in a new series Star Marked by debut author Justin Doyle. It is a tale of learning the secrets of the past, your destiny in the present, and finding a way to live with the losses in your life. Darynn will need to follow in his father’s footsteps if he is going to break the embargo on his planet and destroy the caste system used there.
Darynn is the PoV we see through the entire book. His father has been dead for years and he and his best friend have tried to help their people by stealing food and medicine for the lowest caste. When his best friend dies on a supply run, it leaves him a feeling lost and guilty but Kaylaa (a fighter from another planet) comes and gives him the opportunity to play a larger role and take up the cause his father died for.
There is a love interest for Darynn in this also. Frya, is his dead best friend’s sister. He has had a crush on her forever but totally has no game when it comes to girls and has no idea how to court her in the middle of everything else that is happening. This part of the story sometimes felt a bit awkward and forced, but Frya is a kind person with some foreseeing magic. She ends up on Darynn’s mad adventure when he leaves planet to train and makes a good partner for him. She helps to keep him grounded and remains compassionate throughout all of their adventures.
Kaylaa teaches Darynn about the magic he holds in himself and the costs of it. Her magic has cost her a lot, so much she seems emotionless. Darynn will have some pretty big shoes to fill if he is going to be the new heart of the rebellion. There are a few really good plot twists and I enjoyed the slow tease out of what really happened to his father and the battle near the end of the book.
Embargo on Hope is a good blend of magic systems, space travel and war. The beginning is a little slow for the set up but the pay off at the end was good. Justin Doyle has a good debut novel here and I think he is going to grow a lot as an author over the course of this series.