This book blew me away. I loved it from the first page and was thrilled to be reading something so richly creative and engaging. I definitely want to spend more time with the characters and delve deeper into their world in the sequel.
The story starts on another planet, complete with strange animals and a hi tech closet, but soon brings us down to earth. Someone knocked Venus out, blackened her name and sent her off in a space ship but luckily her handsome guard, Zaren saw her leaving and followed in another ship. He has known her since she was tiny but his care extends beyond that demanded by his role, not that Venus notices.
I loved Venus with all her confusion. She has both strength and vulnerability and an endearing innocence in all things love related. She also has an awesome pair of hi tech boots (or is it magic?).
Her first interaction with Michael, the boy she is supposed to help, makes him (despite his good looks) seem like a total creep, but once she gets into his mind when he’s dreaming, she realises that he’s had a tough life. Given the abuse he’s suffered, it’s amazing that he has any heart left at all. Michael is confused about love and so is Venus. On earth she’s experiencing feelings and desires she’s never had before for both Zaren and Micheal.
She releases Zaren from his role as guard, so that if she dies he can return home without her, but that frees him to develop a different kind of relationship with her. He tries to help her understand what these feelings are and that there are different kinds of love. He doesn’t take advantage of her either, which he could have. Zaren is one of those noble characters that I love. According to the story, loyalty, leadership and love are the qualities that every princess should acquire and this story gives Venus the opportunities she needs to develop these qualities. At the same time Zaren models them all.
As Venus learns about love, the nasties close in and the story becomes a battle for survival. Dervinius, another exile from her planet, has been asked to kill her by his scheming boss back home, but he is a complex character, and won’t kill her himself. But he doesn’t need to, because he has a gang of humans who assist him in horrific ritual murders who he can command to do it for him. (I was pleased that there were only two instances of these sickening murders.) Then Michael’s abusive father turns up, searching for the alien causing the murders. He knows he’s chasing the wrong one, but he doesn’t care, he just wants one under his scalpel.
With Zaren gone to plead with the gods to save her life, Michael is the only one who can help her, but will he? You’ll have to read the book to find out. The ending is perfect. It ties up the two main threads, but leaves some questions unanswered and challenges still to be met in the sequel.
I give Exiled 5 stars and recommend it for everyone. It’s really a ‘must read’ if you’re into young adult fantasy /sci fi.
(reviewed 28 days after purchase)