Fortune’s Rising by Sara King

I’ve read a couple of Sara King’s books now and what readers can expect is: a LOT of pages, violence, heavy torture, everyman characters who have heart but not brains, oppressive regimes, silly romance, and fluid storytelling. With Fortune’s Rising, King takes all of those themes and tips them completely over the top; it translates into a lot of stupid people in soppy romances with egregious torture porn throughout – at a whopping 600 pages. Admittedly, by about 90% listening to the Audible version, I had had enough and felt dirty and disgusted with the whole thing. 10 showers later and I still can’t wipe the filth off from this book – it managed to hit nearly every trigger. It’s far more enticing to Saw/Hostel horror fans than science fiction aficionados.

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Story: Fortune is a planet with a treasure: alien creatures with psychic abilities whose eggs can be harvested to create a powerful drug. But harvesting is dangerous and if the harvesters (called eggers) aren’t killed in the process, they eventually go mad from proximity to the yolk. Nephyrs (cyborgs) control the eggers and reap the profits of the yolk. Among the inhabitants of Fortune: twin rebel brothers Milar (who escaped becoming a Nephyr and bears the scars from the process) and Patrick, nephyr operator Tatiana who crash lands on the planet and is found by the brothers, egger sisters Magali (who harbors a terrifying secret) and preternaturally gifted but highly sociopathic Anna, a former smuggler and now prisoner/egger Runaway Joel, and an AI robot who becomes fully sentient, Doberman. Their paths will intertwine as a prophecy comes to fruition.

Our lovable but oh-so-flawed characters will do things to each other that far outweighs anything the bad guys can do. If someone is called a sociopath in a Sara King novel, they are truly going to do very terrible things with aplomb. The twist here is that our sociopath is 9 years old. The ugliness adds up fast.

With Forging Zero, King’s previous work, we had a hero that was tortured but very likeable even with his flaws. No such character exists in Fortune’s Rising – everyone is really stupid (and I mean really really dumb), so they can make huge mistakes that get them tortured in some way or other (unnecessary surgeries, heavy beatings, rapes, forced to kill children, etc.). Further compromising any chance of liking them, we get a LOT of soppy romances that in effect take strong women, turn them into marshmallows, all for the love of falsely swaggering man-childs. Add in one character who could actually kick butt but refuses to throughout the book (she wants to be a mother, not a killer!) so a lot of people die horribly and continually around her – and you get a frustrating story with a lot of frustrating characters.

I have always suspected there was a mirror universe in sci fi to contrast intricate and nuanced works like CJ Cherry’s Alliance-Union books or Tanya Huff’s confederation worlds. Sara King found that bottom feeding area, definitely. Easy writing, chirpy if bland/dumb characters, and torture replacing space action as the theme. There’s not a lot of depth to the characters or the worldbuilding even though there is an intricate plot. It’s pretty much torture, flirt, torture, flirt, action, torture, flirt.

I think the big problem with Fotune’s Rising is that it is just too much – too many words, too many characters, too much torture, too much stupidity, too much romance. There’s a really good story in there – that interweaves and then comes together in the end. King knows how to write a good story. I only wish she had more restraint to make a tighter and more focused group of characters and plot. With Fortune’s Rising, I made it to 95%, which is a lot of time invested in this large book (600 pages), and still I couldn’t finish it. I hated all the characters and the relentless torture scenes of every.single.character far passed my tolerance threshold. It was just too much, to the point of being intolerable and flagrant.

I listened to the Audible version and the author did a good job of creating unique sounding characters but I found that I hated them even more as a result: Tatiana sounds like a vapid and stupid valley girl, Joel like an idiot who thinks he is God’s gift to women, 9 year old Anna very childish and frivolous, and Magali even more useless than portrayed in the book.

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