Sadly, this fell into so many cliches and was so shallowly written as to be a real slog to have to get through (especially without rolling my eyes every few pages). Loosely based on the Russian Revolution, the setting is sci fi: cue boys falling all over our heroine for no particular reason, a mustache-twirling 2-dimensional bad guy, and a lot of side characters who really needed to be fleshed out more (in one case, literally). Last of Her Name is not a terrible read but I have to wonder if perhaps it is time we really ask for more from YA authors these days.
Story: Anya has been running wild and free on a vineyard in a remote part of the jewel belt of planets. She’s happy to fix space engines (oddly enough) and play with her childhood friends Pol (from a genetically mutated set of humans) and Clio. But then the quasi-Stalinist leader Direktor Eminent shows up on their doorstep and accuses her of being the lost princess of the deposed ‘czar’. Not only that, but that her family has a secret mutation themselves that has allowed them to rule the galaxy until the Direktor took control. Anya must flee with her friends to save her life and discover her power.
The parallel to the Russian revolution is that hereditary rule is replaced by the emperor having a genetic mutation that allows the family to control the mysterious crystals that power the entire jewel belt – from ships to everything on the ground. There is a very far fetched plot that the emperor killed his family to protect the secret from someone less ethical taking control of it – while at the same time spiriting his infant daughter out of the palace. Anya is believed to be the key to unlocking that genetic code and so will be hunted across their galaxy.
The cliches come hard and fast:
– girl with mysterious hidden power that she suddenly discovers in her teens. No one tells her anything about it, natch, even though it is very important to the galaxy and could have made the difference between her surviving by using it or dying.
– girl is rude and obnoxious and kind of dumb. Yet everyone falls all over themselves to protect her.
– boy love interest is madly in love with her and spends a lot of time either saving her from her own stupid actions or trying to sacrifice himself for her.
– villain is an evil megalomaniac.
– girl uses a lot of modern phrases – such as “As if!”
– girl spends most of her time rushing into danger and making decisions without consulting anyone. Too much TSTL syndrome.
– boy is perfect in every regard. Overidealized to the extreme.
The book is mostly a series of chase scenes and they do alleviate a lot of the more simplistic elements of the plots and characters. There is a very shallow discussion of the genetic mutations, some elements of prejudice against them, and a rulership loosely based on the Russian Czars. There are also a lot of Russian names, in case you didn’t get the parallel.
In all honesty, I didn’t really like Anya. There is so much tell and not enough show – and the plot felt loosely defined and ended rather pat. The big surprise was easy to guess early on and so much felt shoe-horned in order to make the surprise somewhat legitimate. But I think the biggest issue is that YA is so starved for intelligent heroines who use their brain and not their impulses. I want to see a book where the heroine really thinks through all her actions and doesn’t react on every single impulse, just so she can be saved. And mostly I want to read about a heroine who inspires the single-minded love of the hero through actions/deed and not just because she’s pretty or has ‘spirit’. Too many heroines are written to show spirit by being rude, impulsive, and aggressive. I want more Elizabeth Darcy rather than Ariel, the Little Mermaid. Written from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.