When I first heard about this book in 2014, I was ecstatic! I read and loved the synopsis. I loved the cover art. And I just knew there was an amazing world waiting for me in those pages. Well, I wasn’t entirely disappointed. Zodiac is a good book, although it sticks close to many of the tropes I’ve already seen in other books like Harry Potter, Divergent and the Hunger Games. And despite the love triangle, I still found something to enjoy in the book.
Zodiac tells the story of Rhoma (Rho) Grace, a soon to be 17 year girl living in the Cancer House. According to the story’s lore, Earth as we know it, was no longer hospitable, so humanity traveled to another universe (it’s never really clarified) and lived in 12 different constellations or House. Each House, named after one of the twelve zodiac signs, is protected by their respective Guardian, who is a figure that reads the stars for any impeding danger. During her final star-reading exam, Rho sees a black mass engulfing part of the Zodiac. This vision leads Rho on a quest to not only save her House and the Zodiac, but also uncover the secrets surrounding the seemingly mythical 13th House.
Romina Russell put so much into this universe. Each House feels and looks distinct from one another. I could hear and smell the Cancer Sea. I could see the cherub-like figures from Gemini. I felt the tense and professional atmosphere of Virgo. Honestly, some of the best sections were just vivid descriptions of the different planets and the people who inhabited them. And since Rho had never step foot out of the Cancer constellation before the start of the story it was fun to catch a glimpse of her excitement and wonder of being in a foreign place. There wasn’t a lot of action in this book which was a little disappointing, but I was able to forgive it because Russell gave plenty of passages with vivid landscape descriptions. Had Russell focused more on the world around Rho, then I would have given this book four or maybe even five stars. But what took away from the overall story was the love triangle.
I hate when authors use a love triangle as a source of tension. And while I was bothered by the presence of a love triangle in the story, I was more upset with the conclusion of the love triangle arc. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who plans on reading this, but I will say that there was no major confrontation between Rho, Mathias and Hysan. It was dealt with in a pretty convenient way and it gave Rho a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. I realize Zodiac is the first book in a series, so I’m hoping Russell will deal with the love triangle in a later book. But if not, then it will just further prove my point that love triangles are almost, always unnecessary in a story. A love triangle didn’t belong in this story because it dealt with tough subjects like terrorism and losing loved ones and fighting a threat that you can’t see. Millions of people die in this book, but most of Rho’s thoughts center around Mathias and Hysan. She spends more time thinking about these two guys than she does thinking about her brother and father, who she hasn’t seen since before the start of the story. That’s pretty appalling behavior for a Cancer, which is a sign that loves and adores the family above all else.
I also want to talk about Rho. I was expecting and hoping for a badass, strong female character in this book. There were some moments where Rho would put her foot down and she was assertive. But then, there were other times, many times really, where she would cower and lose her voice. Rho gave herself the task of speaking up and exposing a terrible secret, which, I believe, is something many women can relate to since society still tries to silence and invalidate us when it can. In all stories, the main character should have a change, whether it’s a good or bad change. Rho stays the same. She witnesses some horrific events and she lost people around her, but she is far from the unifying leader the Zodiac needs. I don’t expect her to change overnight, but I would have liked her metamorphosis to start in the first book.
The second book in the series was released last month and I do plan on reading it because I am genuinely curious to see how Rho manages to survive. Like any good story in a book series, Rho experienced a wrong in the beginning that hasn’t been completely righted by the end. I hope that Russell push the love triangle to the back and focus more on the world around Rho. I want to see more of the Zodiac and I want to know more about the Zodiac’s history. I also want Rho to gain a backbone and speak up more. She lets others speak for her, not realizing that by doing that she is essentially losing her own voice. Rho is in a position to change the Zodiac and defeat the main threat, the 13th House and Occhus. But she certainly can’t do that if all her thoughts center around who she should love.