Cover Image: Victories Greater Than Death

Victories Greater Than Death

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I had a great time reading this YA sci-fi novel that’s focused on Tina, an alien clone, who has lived on earth for the longest time of her life – but now she, “the chosen one”, has to fight other evil aliens, who want to kill her in order to, well, do some bad things to the universe - of course, Tina has a cool space crew, gets to visit interesting new planets and a little love story on the side isn’t missing either.

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, but when I do, it’s usually pretty good – just like this one. Yes, I was confused a lot of times by unknown worlds, new species and planets, but I guess that’s part of the deal. And the deal is good.

Tina did some questionable choices, but who wouldn’t? It’s her first time trying to save the universe and naturally, things can’t be easy – otherwise this wouldn’t be that much fun to read, right?

On top of all the cool space battles, I fell in love with quite a few of the characters (Elza was my favourite!). There’s fat rep, non-binary, trans and more queer rep, Black rep and much more. What I thought was really nice was that all aliens introduced themselves with their pronouns (or lack of those) – it might seem strange at first, but isn’t that kind of the goal we have here on earth too? At least, then people wouldn't assume another person’s pronouns!


Thank you Netgalley for the digital arc.
Was this review helpful?
I was so excited to request this book. I love everything sci-fi, and this book did not disappoint.

This story had it all: humans, aliens, and battles. I certainly loved the diversity of the characters. I loved how each character introduced themselves by name followed by their preferred pronoun. It really puts into perspective how different we all are, and how much we should respect people for who they are.

There were lots of battle scenes which made the story so action-packed, which led to an exciting pace. It also gave way to the world building, and how much detail the author put into the story. The descriptions of each planet, and the detail of the politics and such was brilliant, and extremely interesting.

I can’t wait for the next book!

A massive thank you to Titan Books and Netgalley for this review copy!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for providing me with an ARC of Victories Greater Than Death in exchange for my honest thoughts!

I'll admit that it took me a while to get into this book, but when it finally picked up the pace for me, I had fun reading it. At the beginning, I felt that both the characters and plot seemed a little juvenile - which is probably because it was intended for a much younger target demographic - but as time went on, the characters, for the most part, grew on me, and the story really unfolded nicely!
I think this book really shines when it comes to personal connections and character diversity. I adored seeing this bunch of weird kids make their way in space, learning that the things that made them different back on earth made them stand out and fit in in this different setting. 
I'll admit that the plot gets pretty dark later on and touches on some really serious issues, which is something I greatly enjoy in fiction. I'm very intrigued to see where the story will go, with the way it was set up in book 1!

I'd definitely recommend this book for younger readers who are looking for an intro to Sci-Fi with lovable characters from all different backgrounds, where everyone can carve out a place for and be true to themselves.
Was this review helpful?
I liked getting thrown right into the story. The action is definitely there from the start and the continues to have a big part of the plot. There were quieter moments in between, though, moments that focused on showing the different characters and their interests and their relationships with each other. I liked the mix of action and character & world building.

I also loved how wonderfully, unapologetically queer this book was. Throughout the story, we meet many different alien species and all of them have a different approach to gender and sexuality and you know what? I am here for that. It was so nice to see more than two genders, different ways of sex and exploring sexuality and everyone just accepting it? That was so amazing and refreshing! Especially because everyone introduced themselves with their pronouns. Even when it was an exchange with the enemy it was always „I’m xy and my pronouns are xy“ and that was so good to see. It was normal through the whole universe and I really wish it was like that here as well.

I also really enjoyed the cast of characters, all their little quirks and their interests, but also their problems and insecurities and their hopes. While the cast is quite big, each character is well characterized. Of course not everyone equally, that is impossible for so many characters but just enough to not make the characters fall flat.

I can’t even pinpoint what my problem with Victories Greater than Death was. Especially towards the end, I enjoyed it so much. But I never could get entirely warm up to the story as a whole. I strongly believe this is a case of „the right book at the wrong time“ so I will definitely reread it.

I strongly recommend this amazingly queer book, especially if you like space, spaceships and cool group dynamics!
Was this review helpful?
Overall, this book had so much potential! The diversity and representation was incredible and without a doubt my favourite thing. But it ended up just being too clever for its own good.

Sadly, this book went downhill quickly... I've broken this review into two sections because I have very different opinions on the first 25% compared to the second. I actually gave up on this book just after halfway through.

0-25%: This had a truly brilliant start! The premise fascinated me, and I loved the writing style. Quite a few characters were introduced all at the same time, and it was difficult to keep track of them all. The world-building was extremely heavy, but I really enjoyed learning about it all. I also loved the way the information was told, it was all very clever.

25-50%: I was very lost during this part of the book. It was certainly action packed, but I'm not sure that was for the better. Everything felt rushed, and the pacing was a mess. Most of the time I was confused at what was going on. There's so much detail to every part of this book, but still it managed to not really make sense...

I might try this book again in the future because I really loved the group of main characters and the way the world was described. But the plot was too much of a mess and sadly it spoilt the entire book.
Was this review helpful?
Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

This is Charlie’s debut into the young adult world. It is a science fiction novel with influences from Star Wars and Doctor Who, which immediately reeled me in. I am a sucker for Star Wars. This novel started slow, but built momentum as it progressed, by the end I was absolutely riveted. The characters were what made it for me, they were really likeable, and I loved the way Charlie allowed the characters time for growth. Although I loved Tina, the main character, I had a particular love for Rachael and Elza. They were hugely loveable and interesting in the way they had so much depth. I definitely recommend this book to all readers that love YA sci-fi.
Was this review helpful?
Which science fiction fan hasn’t wanted to go into space? Be it the Enterprise, The TARDIS or an X-Wing - space as we know is cool. But the journey is also important for us to face adventures and also who we really are. In Charlie Jane Ander’s refreshing new YA space opera Victories Greater Than Death we find a galaxy at war and a young teenager that finds herself at the forefront of the fightback pulling together a small group of talented nerdy humans to save everyone.

Tina has flunked Driver’s Ed yet again; her best friend Rachael has had to leave school due to bullies and despite that they are about to protest against an online commentor who promotes sexism. But Tina has for many years known she is not quite human. Her mother was asked by an alien to guard her as an infant as she is the clone of a great warrior. Just as the protests begin Tina starts broadcasting a signal that not only attracts her former employer The Royal Fleet but also their deadly rivals The Compassion. A shoot out on Earth leads to Tina and Rachael arriving on board the HMSS Indomitable and confirming that she is the clone of the legendary Captain Thoah Argentian but the process has left her with no personal memories of her old safe just the facts of the new galaxy they are in - being nicknamed Space Wikipedia by her friends is accurate. Tina, Rachael and a small group of smart geeks and nerds get recruited via online games to help save the universe and discover what led to Captain Argentian’s death.

This was an exhilarating and fantastic piece of science fiction. The weirdness and humanity of Doctor Who gets mixed with the set-up of Star Wars and Star Trek combined with a clear twenty first century perspective. The universe the story takes place in is absolutely fascinating with the Fleet not being the cutting-edge technology they have been but often slow and short of budgets that have allowed the Compassion to take hold. The Compassion are zealots now fixated on making the universe only fit for humanoid species and happy to destroy anyone that doesn’t match the ideal. Anders throws in a huge assortment of aliens for us to enjoy from kind aliens with skulls, engineers who can explode when they lose their temper and an alien race that needs three sides before they will commence a war. It is beautifully alien and a culture shock for our humans, but we also see there are small joys of progression – everyone gives their pronouns when introducing themselves; a ship has two Captains to help reach a consensus in times of stress and the Fleet is very keen to help people find their true careers. Alongside this Anders also notes that these two quasi military groups have now been so focused on their own war they are ignoring a huge amount, of species in need of galactic help with issues such as climate change and poverty. I love the subtle political points being made as the story progresses. What other groups call themselves compassionate I ponder.

Into this sweetshop of joy comes the human Earthlings led by Tina and Rachael. And this is a geeky cast I think readers are going to love meeting. Tina is our narrator, and the story puts her centre stage with someone who is a young teenager who knows she isn’t the legend everyone was hoping for and yet wants to do her best to help everyone. Very quickly we see someone happy to risk her life to save others and yet also fight the despair that isn’t yet skilled or knowledgeable to take up being a captain again. Rachael is her counterpoint - introverted, artistic, and able to pull a team together but she has to battle the introverts’ dreaded fear running out of energy working with so many people. We get a wider cast quickly introduced from the adrenaline fuelled Damini who becomes a pilot, the technology obsessed Yiwei getting over a bad break-up; science loving Keziah and my favourite the smart mouthed hacker Elza. The latter is a glorious character who challenges Tina’s rosy view of the fleet and yet there are sparks between this trans character and Tina that make you really hope they both learn to discuss their feelings. Anders does a brilliant job of giving each character a separate voice and task to help the plot move along but with some joyous snark and banter to enjoy too.

Lastly, I need to highlight the frenetic energy this space opera has. Although there are character moments expect land battles, spaceships duelling to the death and dramatic rescues and dangers to face. This galaxy is not safe, and The Compassion is not stupid in charge is the person who killed Tina’s old body Marrant a person obsessed with making himself the perfect human and who has created the ability to turn anyone into a puddle of organic materials. When you see what else they can do then you will hate them even more (It’s a brilliant yet horrible idea!)! Importantly though this story has consequences and seeing characters we like die gives it a dramatic tension. But alongside this standard battle of two forces, we start to gain a glimpse of a bigger galactic battle and even more powerful forces that I suspect we will see more of in future volumes.    

This is a brilliant story that once I started, I could not stop reading. It is science fiction to make the pulse race; the head think and the heart feel. I certainly think it’s some of the best lines talking about rebellion, love and being human I’ve read in a while and I think may be my favourite of Anders stories to date. Lovers of creative space opera should queue up for this now – I think everyone should give this a try! You will have a lot of fun and as a famous Doctor once said The Trip of a Lifetime.
Was this review helpful?
Before I start, thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

It always hurts to read a book that I just didn't enjoy and then review it. I know that someone, in this case Ms Anders, has put their blood, sweat and tears into writing a book. I know I couldn't do it. But I also know that this just was not for me.

Tina is the clone of a spaceship captain, hidden on Earth as a teenage girl. Until she isn't hidden and is on a spaceship and... there are some other teenage characters and there is a big bad and, yeah.

Maybe I was not the right audience for it but I found the book vaguely saccharine and then NOT AT ALL in other places. I found the romance incredibly forced and the friendship between Tina and Rachel was lovely but it just made no sense in the long run, like Tina kept forgetting who she was? IT also got very 'Shakespeare-writing-a-tragedy' at the end, and by that I mean, there were characters left, until there weren't.
Also she abandoned her mum without so much as a by your leave because she was chasing some dream that didn't quite come off...?  I was weirdly more interested in Tina being on Earth too than the ship. 

It took me a long time to get started and then, it took a long time to finish. 

So sorry, I'm not sure I'll be reaching for this again - maybe it is someone's cup of tea and I hope they really enjoy it, but that person is not me.
Was this review helpful?
VICTORIES GREATER THAN DEATH is an action-packed space adventure with a diverse cast of characters. It’s pure fun and the action scenes are so well written. Perfect for fans of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, it features a hugely varied number of aliens with snippets of information about each species. I loved meeting all the different aliens and growing attached to them.

Aboard the spaceship are six Earthlings, with Tina being the main character and clone of a deceased famous fighter. Alongside Tina, we have my favourite character Rachael, an introverted artist, Damini, adrenaline junkie and puzzle solver, Yiwei, into music and robotics, Keziah, a genius physicist, and Elza, a snarky hacker. I always love the found-family trope and their bond didn’t disappoint.

The novel explores destiny versus forging your own path, as well as the oppression and genocide of a number of species and cultures. I found the villain Marrant to be a little flat and would have appreciated his character being fleshed out more so I could understand his motives. The story ends with an even larger threat looming and sets the scene for book two.

If you’re looking for pure escapism then you can’t go wrong with this space adventure. It’s perfect for all the sci-fi nerds who’ll appreciate its vast world-building and diversity of alien life.
Was this review helpful?
This book was off to a very strong start for me. It initially reminded me of Guardians of the Galaxy, with the alien dropped off on earth plotline, and it introduced a fun cast of characters. Later on though, it fizzled out for me a little. It was an enjoyable adventure, but there wasn't enough character depth and development for me to really stay engaged in it.
Was this review helpful?
This was such an incredibly fun book to read. Take Charlie Jane Anders’ smart science fiction for adults, cross it with the ridiculousness of Doctor Who and add a good pinch of queer found family. I loved the cast of human teen misfits being drafted aboard a space ship to try and save the galaxy, led by Tina, a legendary general reborn. It’s hard to pick favourites – Tina, slowly getting memory back from her past life and turning into a huge purple alien, Rachael, the ‘ordinary friend’ who has to deal with anxiety on top of being in space, or Elza, Brazilian badass with bonding issues, among others. I just want to hug them all and reassure them.

This book is full of diversity, both on surface level, but also deeper down. Rachael’s issues with anxiety are described with nuance and resonated a lot with me. Most characters introduce themselves with their pronouns immediately, and many choose to use neopronouns. Victories Greater Than Death has queerness in its bones, and I love it. I also really appreciated how, in her acknowledgements, Charlie Jane mentions multiple sensitivity readers for different aspects of the book. It shows the care and effort that she put into this.

All of this is packaged in a big-scale space adventure, both thrilling and fun. And yes, the teens are more skilled and powerful than they have any right to be, but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. The enemy operates with a weapon that changes the perception of its victims in the eyes of their friends and allies, and if that’s not scary I don’t know what is. It’s brilliant escapism, think Firefly-style shenanigans but with a misfit gang of teens. Read it.
Was this review helpful?
4.5 Stars

This is such a fun book! Such a fast-paced romp across space that just sweeps you the galaxy with a rag-tag found family. The writing style is really engaging. I particularly loved the various call and response greetings of the Royal fleet, they had a real humour and slight pragmatism to them that I really enjoyed. There was a real license to be creative with the universe and I think Anders really built something fun, exciting and beautiful.

While the main character's ARC is a little lack lustre, essentially boiling down to learning not to try am please everyone's inflated expectations of you, the side arc, universe building and relationships within the book were really entertaining. I loved the normalization of asking to physically interact with another being that wasn't seen as 'alien' but also perpetuated by the human characters too. I love a good found family and this one is just filled with such awesome characters. There is a subtly to the diversity, which is beautiful. The diversity of characters is there all the humans from different countries, ethnic backgrounds, sexualities, neurodiversity, all communicating in there own languages relying on translators (that don't always work -due to slang) to communicate. Then you have the Alien species which run wild in descriptions of all kinds. Yet it doesn't feel forced or like a tick box exercise that some YA books can feel like. These characters have dimension to them and the collection of them into this crowd feels natural. 

The book itself can get a little info-dumpy with its worldbuilding which is a little disappointing as at times it turns the main character, and narrator, into a bit of a walking talking Wikipedia (which the book even jokes about), but that worldbuilding is interesting, creative and relevant to the story.  So while a little off putting at times can be forgiven once you are immersed in the story. 

This is a light and bubbly, feel-good space opera that just leave you with that fuzzy warm feeling of reading a fun adventure. Its about finding yourself, finding a place to belong and owning who you are, all while defeating evil space villains on a tin can of a space ship. Its really fun. I will definitely continue with this series.
Was this review helpful?
Victories Greater Than Death is a science fiction story that embraces the weirder and more outlandish areas of the genre, a book that isn't afraid to throw readers into huge interplanetary conflict between dozens of species with little to no context, and allows the fast moving pace to sweep you up into things.

The story is centred on Tina, a teenage girl who has grown up knowing a huge secret, that aliens are real, and she's one of them. Tina has been raised with the knowledge that she's the clone of an important captain from some huge interstellar alliance, and that one day something inside her is going to activate and call the aliens down to take her away. Despite this, Tina seems to have grown into a pretty well rounded and adjusted young woman. She doesn't have many friends, but one few she does have she cares for deeply, and she's always driven to try and do good and call out injustice where she sees it.

Instead of having fears of being an impostor, or worrying that her life is just some kind of cover for another person she's looking forward to eventually being taken off into space, and the first few chapters deal with her trying to get the beacon inside her to activate. Once it does, however, she finds herself being swept up in an adventure she never anticipated.

Much like Tina, the readers are dropped into things with very little knowledge, and are having to play a little bit of catch up to begin with. We learn that there is a peacekeeping group, the Royal Fleet, and that Tina is a part of this, thanks to the woman she was cloned from being a captain in it. Unfortunately, there are bad guys out there too. The Compassion are a group of former Royal Fleet members and various villains who've come together to impose their twisted order on the galaxy.

When the Royal Fleet picks up Tina, and her best friend Rachel, she expects Captain Argentian's memories to be unlocked, but things don't go according to plan and Tina gains access to some information but no memories, making her a walking space Wiki. Now she's stuck in the middle of a war where she's struggling to catch up. To try and help out the Royal Fleet recruits a handful of the best and brightest teens from Earth before they have to leave the planet and set out on their mission to stop the Compassion, leaving Tina and her new friends joining the fight as cadets.

Victories Greater Than Death has a lot of cool stuff going on, and there's a lot to discover over the course of this book. Charlie Jane Anders really populated this galaxy, and there are dozens of strange aliens to encounter. Some, like those of the species Tina belongs to, are very human-like, whilst others are odd and interesting humanoids, and others are so different and so alien that they're almost impossible to describe.

Whilst I had a lot of fun discovering much of this there is a lot thrown at the readers, and we get alien names, alien species, alien food, the names of planets, and alien greetings that differ every time and have very specific meanings and responses. This led to me feeling a bit lost at times, and there was more than one occasion where I'd wished I'd made notes of who characters were as I got them confused every now and then. I'd definitely be making a spreadsheet the next time I read through this.

Despite this small issue, the book was really entertaining, and had a lot of very cool things going for it. The aliens that Anders comes up with, and their respective worlds, are all really fascinating, and I always wanted to learn more about everything the characters came across. Not only that, but the human characters were a really interesting an varied group too. There were people of colour, queer people, trans people, people from rich backgrounds and poor ones, people who'd been victims of bullying and abuse. The six human characters (if you count Tina) were a great cross section of diversity and experience, and whilst I'm sure there'll be people complaining about the amount of diversity it was something that I thought made the book a much more enjoyable read.

The book's been described as a Young Adult book, and whilst I can certainly see where that's true I thought the type of YA audience it was being aimed at seemed to vary from time to time. There were moments where the book felt like it was aimed at a younger audience, possibly even getting close to being a Middle Grade book, whilst there were other times it dealt with some quite adult themes. As such, I think it's one of those YA books that's going to appeal to a lot of different people, and will find a wide audience. 

Victories Greater Than Death is a big space opera, a book that takes big, wild concepts and allows them to play out, not necessarily worrying that the audience is going to keep up. It moves with a brisk pace and goes to some interesting and intense places. A book that will definitely appeal to sci-fi fans, but wider audiences too. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next book has in store.
Was this review helpful?
Victories Greater Than Death is a YA (apparently) sci-fi story about Tina who is a clone of an infamous alien Captain who fought, and won, in many battles until she was finally killed by an enemy. The aliens decided to clone her and place her on Earth hidden inside a human body until the time came when they would activate her beacon and call her back to them to continue to fight in the space war.
I won't lie, I struggled with this book. My first struggle was with figuring out the intended age of the audience because it's being classed as YA yet aside from the occasional swear word, the few references to sex, and then the mild sex(?) scene at the end it felt VERY middle grade. My second struggle was with the quality of the writing. This is not what I expected at all from this author which left me disappointed. The writing felt very clunky and awkward. The lack of details, the plot jumping from one thing to another and totally unrealistic things happening again led me to feel like I was reading middle grade. And that isn't a problem, I like reading middle grade but the problem is that I would have the right mindset from the start and would rate it accordingly. So Victories Greater Than Death left me confused as to where to pitch my expectations and how to rate it.
I really liked the total diverse range of characters and the fact that they identified themselves in lots of different ways gender wise and sexuality wise. But the placement of it felt very stiff. For example, every single character in the book introduces themselves as "I am xxx and my pronoun is xxx" which just didn't feel natural at all in the context of what was happening in the scenes.
This book is super fast paced so a lot does happen, which kept me turning the pages. And it was an easy enough read due to the level it's written at. I just had to stop myself from rolling my eyes, sit back and go along for the ride. I genuinely thought I was going to love this book but ended up just feeling meh about it.
Was this review helpful?
Victories Greater Than Death is a wild and chaotic ride. There is a lot happening all the time, we are thrown from one plot element to the next with little explanation; you definitely have to just be open and along for the ride to enjoy this book. But if you do lean back with curiosity, you might be rewarded. But be sure you buckle up because Victories Greater Than Death moves at a breakneck speed.

At its core, Victories Greater Than Death is a story of found family, legacy and making the right choices, even when it’s hard. What makes it special, however, is the world-building. Charlie Jane Anders throws us into a universe that makes the weirdness of Doctor Who pale in comparison. The amount of different alien species we meet is astonishing, I couldn’t keep up 80% of the time. This world is so vibrant and weird, the best way I can describe it is this: Anders’ world feels like all our childhood imaginations and crayon drawings of aliens and space heroes rolled into one. It is colourful and vibrant and absolutely insane, in the best way possible.

There’s weird and gross alien food, lots of new space tech and a lot of alien names to remember. A detail that brought me a lot of joy: everybody introduces themselves with their pronouns!

Like I said, you definitely have to be open to a messy plot and way too much information to take in. It’s not about remembering everything, it’s about experiencing it. I felt that I was right there with Tina and her friends, in this new and confusing but equally exciting world. However, I wished that every once in a while the book had slowed down just a little to let its story (and me) catch a breath. The fast pacing is a lot at times and definitely has the potential to make you just check out because it’s all too much. I wanted to linger in moments, so I could get to know the characters better.

The book also touches on more serious issues like racism, transphobia and eugenics. Sadly, I feel like because of the pacing and the general speed of the story, there was little room to give these issues the attention I think they deserve. 

 
The characters were definitely my favourite aspect of Victories Greater Than Death. I am a sucker for found family dynamics and immediately fell in love with the Earthlings, as the human teenagers refer to themselves at some point.

Again, I would’ve liked to spend more time with them but nevertheless, they’re very close to my heart. I am especially fond of Rachael, Tina’s best friend and artist extraordinaire. I relate a lot to her quiet nature (even though I don’t seem like a quiet person, I know) and she provided a sense of space and breath to Tina’s more chaotic and impulsive character.

Speaking of Tina, her character development surprised me! She easily could’ve just been exactly the kind of hero we expect her to become. Instead, she is more complicated and nuanced than that because the world around her doesn’t need a cookie-cutter hero – it needs a Tina. And as someone who never feels they’re enough and always strives to be something more, her struggle about her identity and legacy hit close to home.

Additionally, her relationship with Elza was incredibly cute. Like everything in this book, it’s messy and complicated but unlike some other threads, we actually get some quiet moments between the two. I especially appreciated how respectful they are with each other’s boundaries. They communicate clearly and most importantly: they always ask for consent. Those interactions sadly aren’t as common in most fictional romances I have encountered, which made me even happier I found them in this book.

Overall, Victories Greater Than Death was a very fun book that was just slightly too fast for me.
Was this review helpful?
In many a book, the main character is the Chosen One with a special destiny which they are often unaware of and thrown into the plot with confusion and complaints of ‘Why me?‘ I’ve always wanted to read a story where the protagonist DIDN’T resist the Call To Adventure and embraced it whole-heartedly like many of the sci-fi nerds among us would if given the chance. Victories Greater Than Death gives me that story I’ve been waiting for with a great subversion where our Chosen One Tina is well-aware that she’s a clone of an alien commander just biding her time growing up hidden on Earth until she’s old enough to rejoin the war. Far from railing against her fate, we meet her impatiently testing out ways of activating the beacon inside her which will summon the aliens to reclaim her!

Of course when Tina is eventually folded back into the conflict between the Royal Fleet and The Compassion (don’t be fooled by the friendly-sounding name, those are the bad guys), she finds herself way in over her head and things do NOT go according to plan. She’s left to inadequately try to fill in the shoes of the bold, indomitable Captain Argentian surrounded by Argentian’s former friends and crewmates who have unrealistically high expectations of her which are rapidly adjusted to resigned disappointment, feeling that Tina will never measure up.

Thankfully when she was taken aboard the spaceship, her best friend Rachael came along for the ride and is a staunch source of support throughout their many perilous adventures. A diverse group of teenage genius recruits from Earth also join the ship to bolster their thinning ranks and train as back-ups for crucial positions. The Earthlings, as they cornily name themselves, form close bonds over the course of the story and become a tight-knit group who would do anything for each other, plus there are a couple romantic relationships brewing in the background for additional drama!

The main thing to know first of all is that the writing and story beats feel aimed at a younger YA crowd, as it is sometimes rather simplistic and glosses over some tension and conflicts that could’ve been explored. Once I adjusted my expectations, I enjoyed this a whole lot more as a sci-fi lite soap opera which has stakes of intergalactic importance, but keeps its focus mainly on Tina’s journey of self-discovery as she wrestles with her failure to live up Captain Argentian’s legacy and has to make do with her own wits, courage and integrity.

My favorite thing about the book is the friendship between Tina and Rachael with their great banter, wordless understanding and unconditional love for each other, and a long history together which is referenced with silly or touching stories from their childhood. They may have the occasional argument or silly misunderstanding, and love interests are introduced for the girls, but the book is based on the rock-solid foundation of their friendship and it makes me so happy to have female BFFs shine like this.

Of course I’m also hugely invested in sapphic romance so I was keen on the developing relationship between Tina and Elza, though it did feel a bit rushed. It’s believable for teenagers to crush on each other at first sight and have their flirtations, but I wish their interactions had been fleshed out more. Elza was delightfully prickly and had her walls up so high, yet allowed herself to be vulnerable to Tina way too quickly.

While I enjoyed the varying representation and diversity afforded by the four Earth teens, I didn’t think they were given enough page-time to be developed properly. There is so much going on in terms of world-building and action and conflict that some of these characters faded into the background and I had trouble distinguishing between them. It also didn’t seem realistic how they settled into life on the spaceship so easily and weren’t ever home-sick; one of the kids came from an abusive family background so of course he was relieved to have escaped, but the others left their lives, loved ones and ambitions behind, and as cool as space is, it didn’t ring true that we didn’t hear about any angst or regrets at joining the mission. I felt it was a bit of a missed opportunity to have interactions with the alien crew, personally I would’ve preferred for the Earth trio of Tina, Rachael and Elza to have formed a unit with a couple of space cadets instead so it wasn’t so human-centric.

Back to judging the book on what it DID provide – thrilling action adventure that is elevated by a villain who has the horrifying power to turn everyone’s memories of a person from affection to revulsion once he touches them. I’ve never encountered that idea in fiction before and it is something that’s stuck with me since I finished reading this; it isn’t bad enough that Marrant kills people, but he removes the ability for their loved ones to mourn for them by tainting their memory! It’s such an insidious mental violation and it made me more afraid for the main characters because even if I didn’t believe the author would kill any of them, there was this other terrible possibility.

In general, I had a blast reading this book – I invested whole-heartedly in Tina’s struggle, I adored the female friendship, all the diversity was fantastic and the plot felt very unique. I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel when it’s released!
Was this review helpful?
*3.75 Stars*

Tina has always known she was an alien and a clone. She has been waiting for her beacon to light up so she can join a spaceship and get on with her life in space. It's definitely not so easy though as she's also being chased by an organisation looking to kill her.

This was a little disappointing to me. The writing felt weird to me, like it was spotty? It seemed rushed at times and it didn't go in depth enough on relationships and friendships. I don't know, it felt a little two dimensional and it jumped too fast in between big moments.
Still, I loved the found family and the characters were pretty cool.
I do really like science fiction...
Was this review helpful?
Victories Greater Than Death is a YA space opera with such a fun premise. Tina is the human clone of an alien commander. In an unusual twist, she is fully aware of this and just waiting for (and sometimes willing!) her destiny to arrive. This main storyline didn't go where I was expecting, and I appreciated that. This was a very human, teenage story of friendship and love with a diverse and delightfully queer cast.

There's some serious high-stakes plot going on, with dramatic battles and epic adventures... but unfortunately, it just didn't click for me. It is almost too fast-paced. The story jumped around a lot, and never gave me enough time to get invested in the characters or what was going on. It's such a shame, because on the surface the cast was brilliant and I SO wanted to feel connected to these bad ass, intelligent, unashamedly themselves characters. I think there is a lot of potential here, and if the series continues, perhaps this will give a chance to revisit these characters and form more attachments.

Recommended for fans of YA space opera. Although it did not quite work for me, that doesn't take away from the great, creative worldbuilding and unique characters. I fully expect this book to tick a lot of boxes for some readers, especially teens. I've read a lot of sci fi and fantasy, particularly YA, but this definitely brings something new.
Was this review helpful?
The opening is familiar enough: a kid, stranded in the here and now (or at any rate, its pre-pandemic but still unlovely stage)*, dreams of the day her real people will come and take her away from all this to be a chosen one in space. The slightly unusual bit is that her best friend and her adoptive mum believe her; they know she really does have a beacon which will activate one day, and a destiny beyond Earth. But the bit I really appreciated was that the mum isn't just there as a convenient prop; Anders has thought through how that must feel for her, knowing even more than most parents that one day your child will go away, as in really away. Such that as the day nears, she swings between trying to make new friends ahead of the aloneness, trying to make some last lovely memories of Earth together, and just sadly drinking alone. In general, the novel is very good at adding these little practical notes - so when the beacon turns on, the starmap looks glorious, but also makes driving really tricky. Alas, as the story progresses through the inevitable checkpoints, increasingly it feels all sizzle, no steak**. The protagonist regains memories of how the interstellar world works, but not the personal memories of her prior self - which can be how amnesia works, but still makes for a very convenient flawed chosen one. The other human kids brought along for the ride are, as per convention, recruited via a game - it may be an app now, but this is still very familiar stuff (though again, a little twist almost rescues the too-familiar material: everyone is given a warning about being whisked off to a life-or-death struggle in space, but they all ignore it, because that's what everyone does with terms and conditions, isn't it?).

Alas, if anything I started to get more annoyed once our heroine gets picked up and the action moves to space. For starters: the aliens all introduce themselves with name and then pronoun. I can understand the appeal of this to readers who, like the lead, have been growing up in some mean hick town with no model for such stuff, but it always makes me itchy when genre fiction, rather than taking the wider opportunity to show how recent Western gender norms aren't the only possibility across the whole sweep of space and time, instead imposes a norm of its own by assuming that everyone everywhere decent will do exactly what early 21st century progressive Westerners do. As such I found myself instantly fond of the Zyzyians - "It's a huge insult to use any kind of pronoun to refer to Zyzyians – like, a battle-to-the-death level insult." But then, further to all this, I realised - these people are all using universal translators. Surely, if they're communicating between species from entirely different worlds, with whole different biological and conceptual frameworks, those should be able to handle pronouns too? Unless they have a pronoun glitch? Do universal translators have a silent '-phobia' in the middle of 'translator'? This even gets lampshaded when one of the Earth kids talks about how weird it sounds in Mandarin, but I was already too bugged by then to accept this as more than handwaving. And equally, it's nice that everyone asks before touching anyone else, that the lead's former self had "husbands and wives and partners", that one greeting in the Royal Fleet is "Strong drinks and unexpected friends" – but this is stuff that would have made a nice framework for an event, back when there were events, rather than enough in itself for a story in which I can invest.

As for the antagonists, and I do like that they call themselves the Compassion, well, they're ex-Royal Fleet. "They betrayed all the ideals that we stand for. They should have known better, but they chose to follow a toxic ideology of total genocide." One assumes there must be more to it than that, not least because I'm not sure 'total genocide' even makes sense, but if that was revealed further along, I didn't get to it. I've not abandoned a book since the Event, though heavens know there've been a few where I should have. It's not hard to parse the psychology behind that – holding on to things as so much slips away, determined to see through what I can, et cetera. But here...I think it was the belated realisation that this was the beginning of a trilogy which finally broke my will, that even if I slogged my way to the end, I wasn't guaranteed a proper resolution. I loved Anders' first novel, and her early shorts, which used what could easily have felt like an excess of whimsy to heartbreaking effect. I skipped the second, because it seemed to be a deliberate exercise in not leaning on her established strengths, and even pre-Event, while I could respect the ambition, I wasn't sure I needed to follow a journey into darkness like that. This one...I'm sure there are YA readers who haven't seen this template done to death, and for whom a progressive run-through of the old structure will be a joy. I wish them every happiness of it. But it's not for me.

*Plague aside, the other clue to it being the recent-ish past is that Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel are the sidekick's favourite comics. Well, either that or she genuinely rates the post-Wilson run, which seems far more outlandish than any of the space adventure bit.
**I've been vegetarian for more than 30 years, so this really isn't one of my go-to figures of speech. But isn't it curious how sometimes, only one you normally wouldn't reach for will do?

(Netgalley ARC)
Was this review helpful?
I really liked this book (and not just because there's a character called Rachael which always makes me excited!). Victories Greater than Death put a brilliant spin on the chosen one and found family tropes. I loved how diverse and inclusive this tried to be for example when pronouns were stated as soon as we met characters.
The first few chapters were a bit light on sci-fi elements for me but then the action kicked in. Like other readers, I agree that there were a lot of characters to keep track of though and occasionally it was like reading space Wikipedia with its info dumps. This book would be great for  young adult readers new to the genre. And after that cliffhanger, I really want more of this 'verse.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?