*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*
There were a lot of things to love about this book. An uncommon paranormal creature! Unlikely allies! LGBT+ characters! A disabled character! POC characters! Space adventure! But it ended up being not right for me.
I think the biggest problem was that I was expecting a fun, action-packed space adventure full of shenanigans and misfits, but this was slow-paced for most of the story and more serious and harsh than fun.
Then there were the characters. The blurb makes it sound like Gary is the protagonist, but it felt like Jenny’s story. It seemed like most of the book was her POV, she had the most development, and she was the one who drove the story forward. Unfortunately, I didn’t like her. I couldn’t bring myself to like anyone, aside from Gary and Boges (a dwarf who lived on his ship). The things they had done were too terrible and selfish. Jenny was eventually sorry, but it took her until the end of the book. And although I liked Gary, I never got a feel for his personality. I get that he was disenchanted and traumatized, but I needed something. I never even knew what emotions he was feeling. To be fair though, it is realistic for people to not be sorry, to avoid emotions that make them uncomfortable, to get so beaten down that they just let things happen to them, etc., so while the characters may not have been likeable to me, they were still believable.
I will also give the book credit—if ever there were a team of unlikely allies, this was it. This was as unlikely as unlikely allies can get. But they were maybe too unlikely for me? Jenny and Jim spent years keeping Gary captive and torturing him. I was frustrated with how, upon getting back on his ship with them, he just kind of let them boss him around again and was even willing to put his own safety and freedom at risk to help/save them. And honestly I wasn’t comfortable with Gary becoming friends with Jenny after everything she did to him, even if she had changed.
But hey, something positive now! I liked the half-unicorn aspect! And he was literally half unicorn. He had the upper body of a human, but the legs of a unicorn, plus a horn (or rather, a space on his head where a horn should’ve been, since his was cut off). Unicorns also had their own beliefs and ways of life, and little inclusions of those things were interesting.
I also loved the diversity/inclusivity. Gary was asexual and Indian on his mother’s side. Jenny was a lesbian and used a wheelchair. Ricky was trans. It all seemed like good rep. And although the characters on the ship didn’t always get along, they did respect each other in regards to these things (aside from Jim, who was supposed to be a jerk). Also, the prejudice against the non-human species was a continued theme throughout the book.
Another great thing was the world-building. The areas of space, the planets, the different species, the way way the ship worked, the backstory for how things got to be the way they were, etc. were well thought-out. The stoneship, and how it was a living thing, was especially creative. I also liked that all the alien species weren’t too human-like. Even little details about different types of drinks made the world more interesting.
The writing was good too. I have no complaints there.
I also want to mention that this is the first in a series, so there are story threads left open to continue in future books.
So overall, this didn’t end up being the fun, action-packed book I thought it would be, and it wasn’t quite right for me, but I did like the unicorn aspect, the inclusivity, and the world-building, and I think other people might enjoy it more than I did.
Anyone who likes uncommon paranormal creatures, space/sci-fi world-building, LGBT+/disabled/POC characters, slow-paced stories, and space adventures with a somewhat serious tone.