Hey Space Cadets, I hope this blog post finds you well. I’m doing well – still working on getting healthy. I am also dragging my boys with me. I am still working on my super-secret project with J. R. Ward.
I wanted to repost this book review of a series I really enjoyed. I hope you enjoy it.
Title: The Renegade Star Series
Author: J.N. Chaney
Narrator: Luke Daniels
eBook Price: $48.87 US (for all 13) When none are on sale
Audiobook Price: $174.95 US or 5 Credits (Books 1-10 only)
Obtained: I bought these with Audible credits
Pages: 3,844 Pages
Hours: 52 hours 14 minutes
Rating: 5/5 Grenades
First, let me say that none of what I’ll say in this section couldn’t be found on the back copy of the novel. Heck, I cribbed this summary from the back, and then I added my own twist! And not even much of one, since most of the books I read have kick butt descriptions (aka blurbs). If the blurb doesn’t catch my eye, then I tend to skip the book unless a friend recommends it. Generally speaking, my goal is to provide a spoiler-free review, so here goes nothing!
They say the Earth is just a myth. Something to tell your children when you put them to sleep, the lost homeworld of humanity. Everyone knows it isn’t real, though. It can’t be. But when Captain Jace Hughes encounters a nun with a mysterious piece of cargo and a bold secret, he soon discovers that everything he thought he knew about Earth is wrong. So very, very wrong.
Climb aboard The Renegade Star and assemble a crew, follow the clues, uncover the truth, and, most importantly, try to stay alive. Experience the sprawling galactic tale in The Renegade Star series. If you’re a fan of Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, or Indiana Jones, you’ll love this epic, space opera thrill ride.
Warning: This book contains action, cussing, and general badassery. Read at your own risk.
This series of novels had four main characters, at least that’s how I interpreted the books. There were so many secondary characters that I got dizzy from the constant breeze from them exiting stage right. But I really liked the secondary characters, so it was like a cool draft on a sweltering day. The main characters, however, were entertaining enough to make it worth the hassle; Captain Jace Hughes, Abigail Prior, Lex and Sigmund “Ziggy” the AI for the Renegade Star. Like most novels with multiple POVs, each one served a unique purpose in the evolution of the plot. Each of these characters was well written, and you could feel enough depth to make them believable.
Captain Jace Hughes: He’s a renegade, or pirate, operating in the Dead Lands who takes odd jobs that aren’t strictly legal. He does have his standards, operating in a sort of grey area of the law in a lawless land. He was a likable enough man, though his constant slurping on hard candy in the audio format got a bit annoying. It felt overdone, though this was more to do with how Luke Daniels developed his persona. After the 3rd book, it did blend into the background, and in all fairness, this could be my own personal tick. What I really enjoyed was watching his character grow from a loner rogue into the sort of man you’d want on your side in a pinch. He wasn’t a perfect character, even in the last book, but he was believable! Overall, he’s the kind of guy you’d drink a beer with. He was a well-rounded character who was sympathetic and believable, precisely what you’d expect from a beloved main character.
Abigail Prior: She’s a secretive nun from an obscure religious order, The Church of the Homeland. She was a mix between a lovable maternal assassin and a devoted zen monk, which made her a lot of fun to read about. She was an easy woman to like, though I suspect that to be done by design. She served to balance out the rough edges of Jace, and she did it well. She was also mothered Lex, the albino girl with the strange tattoos. In the time before book one started, Abigail went on the mission into a secure Union military research facility, and even hearing about her exploits second hand, you know she’s a badass. I dig that about her. Overall, I found her to be a lovable and believable character. She was well rounded with a fleshed-out back story that we learn as the series progresses.
Lex: She is an albino girl with strange tattoos and an even more unusual and mysterious past. We learn more about her as the series unfolds. Still, she was everything you’d expect in a character who’s probably only ten years old. I don’t remember if they said her exact age so that I could be off by a year or two either way. She was definitely more girl than woman. As the series progresses, we watch her grow up and learn more about her, but I can’t say more without spoilers. Overall, she’s easily one of my favorite characters and was well written.
Sigmund, aka “Ziggy”: He’s the AI for the Renegade Star, the ship that gave this series its name and where most of the action takes place. He’s the sort of character who’s full of sass, all piss, and vinegar… if it was dipped in a coat of droll British humor. I really liked reading about this character, he was seriously a lot of fun. Because he was an AI, there wasn’t a lot of character growth, allowing him to serve as an anchor to keep you grounded among the other characters who go on a wild ride of growth and development.
Like most of the space opera and military fiction, I love to read, and this was an action-packed series of novels. Seriously, it had me hooked, and I didn’t remember that I was supposed to be writing book reviews until the series was finished! The overarching arc of this series was about a crew who were on the run from the government and were looking into the secrets of the universe. A sort of origin story for a post-Terra galaxy where Earth is a myth, something from the time of legend. Except, what if it was real? The series had a very Dan Brown The Da Vinci Code vibe to it, except it’s set in space! This was all expertly done in a way that was easy to follow. It never really lagged for me; the adventure was non-stop but with enough lulls, in the fun for the reader to catch their breath. I was able to suspend my disbelief and buy into the entirety of the premise, so I’d call that a win for JN Chaney. Overall, the premise was interesting, and the set-up was well executed. I couldn’t ask for anything more; an excellent premise, perfect execution, and fantastic pacing! The series shined brighter than a nova, and the premise was everything you didn’t know you always wanted. Definitely 5 out of 5 grenades!
This is one area where I have mixed feelings. I think that author JN Chaney created a world that was a lot of fun, with hints at depth, but I was constantly frustrated because there was so much left unexplored. That said, his universe did feel real to me, and it was so gripping that I dove in. This series had a very consistent canon that made sense and sucked you in. As an example, we always heard about the blaster that the main character, Jace Hughes, carried. However, we were never really told what it looked like. I know this is a modern trend, however, is one I do not like. For all, I know his blaster looks like a banana and shot up protoplasm. I realize that’s ridiculous on its face, but I’m a details guy who likes hearing about all of the intricacies of the world. Obviously, you could do too much of this, but I really like it when those details are there. If you’ve read my other reviews, you’ll know this is a constant refrain, so I’ll leave it where it is. On a positive note, I never felt like I was missing critical bits of information, though I do feel like this is a universe where there’s room to expand and flush out the canon. Okay, I’m hinting here, in case Chaney is reading this, but I wanted more. More books, more characters, and more details. Overall, the world-building was done well, and I was sold on the way it happened. What was there felt believable, and the characters fit within the universe the author created. It was a fun ride, which is the goal of action/adventure authors! For me, this is one place where I felt let down and why this series was rated as a 4 instead of 5 grenade series.
This series had just enough visualization to get the job done, enough that you could imagine yourself in this world. Except if you wanted to know what the characters looked like. What he did describe, JN Chaney hit the entirety of the sensory spectrum; sights, sounds, smells, and even how the world felt. Except, there wasn’t enough for me. Again, I know that there’s a trend where less is more for descriptions, and I hate it. For me, this is one place where I felt let down and why this series was rated as a 4 instead of 5 grenade series.
I’ve exclusively read this series as an audiobook. This series was narrated by Luke Daniel, which was a little strange for me because he’ll always be the voice of The Ember Wars Series by Richard Fox. However, I quickly overcame that eerie feeling that you get when the universe cracks open, and your favorite star appears in the wrong sitcom. Once I dug into the series, I was able to forget Luke’s past affiliations with other universes. This performance was equally as amazing as his others, Luke is a consummate professional. He’s one of the “why hasn’t he won more awards” kind of performer! The narration was well done; the accents were consistent, and I didn’t want to rip my ears off. There wasn’t a whole lot of range from the character accents, but the narrator did good! His audiobook was of a professional quality, so I had nothing to complain about. Well, except for the slurping sound of Jace sucking on the hard candies. It was a character tick in the main character, but it did get a little annoying. This could just be my idiosyncrasies; it might not bug you. Regardless, it was enough to be annoying, but not so much that I turned the book off. Most importantly, he didn’t commit the Cardinal Sin, which is my only real requirement; he didn’t sound like a robot, he didn’t bore me, and he didn’t use accents that annoy the bejeezus out of me! Overall, I give him 5 out of 5 grenades for his performance.
Okay, this is one area where I am floored by this series. The current covers for these books are amazing. They had just the right blend of space fleet action and space marine goodness. There as spaceship ass everywhere and plenty of PEW PEW. I loved the body armor the characters wore, and the color scheme for the covers was colorful and set the perfect tone for a fun adventure story! The author’s name and the book title were colored in such a way that they stood out, but at the same time blended in with the painting used for this cover. Obviously, I loved it, and I would seriously put a print of this on my wall if my wife would let me! I give these covers 10 out of 5 grenades, they’re that good!
Okay, let’s get into the weeds on this one! I’ve organized my overall assessment by putting the stuff I didn’t like first so we can end on a high note. I also want to be clear that I really loved this series overall, it’s why I plowed through the audiobooks so quickly that I had to write a series review instead of an individual one for each of the six novels that make up The Renegade Star Series.
Alright, let’s rip off the band-aide and dive in. There were many parts that I wasn’t thrilled with in this series. First, the lack of details about the world was disheartening. I’m a guy who prefers all of the details, and I wasn’t given that in this series. This is a different type of book than I usually read, more pulp than anything, so some of that can generally be addressed by the fact that I’m not his ideal audience. However, I wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention that this was something I didn’t particularly like.
Another issue with the books was the profanity. I’m aware that the books description out a warning about the crude language. That normally bothers me, however, when you’re hooked on the fast-paced story, you want to listen every chance you get. I couldn’t do that if my kids were around, so this is more of an annoyance than anything because I went in with eyes wide open. Again, it wasn’t the profanity itself so much as the way that limited my ability to listen to the audiobooks. Luckily, this book is in the Kindle Unlimited program, and you can read it for free if you hit a patch where your rug rats won’t give you room to breathe.
I chose this book because the covers and the premise sounded entertaining, and I wasn’t disappointed. However, this book was very much a pulp novel and didn’t give me a lot to sink my teeth into. As many of you know, I’m the kind of reader that wants all the details in the novels I read. Some of this is just my own oddities, but I really like the little descriptions of the world that flush it out for me. I don’t just want to know that the character fired a blaster, I want the make and model. Again, some of this is just my preference, so this lack of detail was annoying, but not so much that I couldn’t keep reading because I obviously blazed through the series.
Another minor announcement I had was the lack of proper naval terminology. The main character calls the bulkheads walls and calls the decks a floor. I grew up in a Navy town, so hearing vessels using proper terminology always catches my attention. However, these traditions could change in the future, so this is really just nitpicking for the sake of my review.
My one major complaint about the story, aside from like details, was the character’s lack of reaction to killing. I’ve been in situations where you were required in someone else’s life, thank you Iraq, and there is always an emotional response to the action. I did not feel like the main character, Jace Hughes, ever felt remorse for the people he killed. It was just the thing he did, and then he’s callously shrugged it off. The combat veteran, this bugs me, but I’m sure most readers would never notice this.
Alright, now let’s talk about the happy things! One of the things that I liked about the series was the way characters grew as the story developed across the 13 novels. This is an area where the author grew as a creator, and it showed. I can’t really say anything else about the specific category because that would give spoilers, but trust me, it’s worth waiting for the big reveal later in the series.
Another area that struck me with this series was the audio narration. I loved this audiobook, Luke Daniels gave one of his trademarked top-notch performances. My only complaint in this arena was the way the main character socked on hard candy. However, this was more about the author’s characterization and how it translated to audiobooks, but it was about Luke’s performance. However, if especially noticeable in the morning and audiobook format. Despite that one minor complaint, this audiobook was a rollicking good adventure! Seriously, if you weren’t already hooked on Luke, this book would get you there! This was one of the many areas where this series really shined for me.
What did shine was the amazing premise of this book series. This definitely hit on all of the tropes that I love about science fiction, but not in a way that felt derivative. He carried it out in a way that somehow became uniquely his own thing. I found shades of the short-lived Firefly television show and the anime Outlaw Star that inspired it. There was also a Star Wars meets Indiana Jones element to this series, which kept you glued to the edge of your seat, waiting to see what happens next. Oh, and some of the reviewers called the series a mash-up of Andromeda and Battlestar Galactica. I agreed with them, though I didn’t see it at first. Once I read the review, the comparison was obvious!
If I haven’t said it enough, I REALLY loved the basic premise of this series. The concept of a grand adventure, trying to solve the mysteries of the universe, struck the right chord for me. It was very much. The Da Vinci Code in space, which I really liked. The fact that it was written in first person made you much more connected to the adventure, which I really appreciated. All of this combined, and you end up with a series of books that are a lot of fun to read. Seriously, it’s pulpy popcorn comfort food. Except you won’t regret eating it, because it’s calorie-free.
One of the overarching themes of the series that I enjoyed was the classic story of good versus evil. This was your typical David versus Goliath story except you had blaster since the slingshots. While the main character wasn’t quite the everyman, he was close enough that you ended up rooting for him and cheering as the bad guys get taken down a peg or two. There’s a Union officer whose face you want to smash in, but luckily Jace wants to do the same thing, and so you get a vicarious thrill of living for him. Isn’t that why we read fiction in the first place?
Oh, and I really loved the way Chaney explained his science of faster than light travel (FTL). It had just the right amount of Handwavium to keep me happy. Because of the structure of the story, he never felt let down by the lack of a more detailed explanation of how the science works. Instead, you have a character who doesn’t know and so can’t tell you. This is one of the beauties of the first-person narration done right!
Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed the more direct language that the author chose to use. It had a very Tom Clancy-esq vibe with simple words that avoided the tendency towards a pretentious use of big words, whether they were needed or not. It made it possible for Luke Daniels to give the stellar performance that he did with his narration, which I obviously loved. I know this style of writing isn’t for everyone, but it was something that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I wish I could gush more about the series, but I can’t think of ways to do this justice without giving spoilers. So… have I hinted that I enjoyed this universe yet? Good, I want it to be obvious! So, to wrap this bad boy up, I loved this series. Each one of these novels was at least 75,000 words long, about what you expect from the genre. Despite the length, each book felt like a quick read. If you didn’t know how long each novel was, you could almost imagine them as short stories. This is because they were so engrossing that the reader loses track of time while they temporarily live in the story. The author definitely made me want more from this universe, and I’ll definitely be reading the follow-on series that are already available.
In conclusion, I was hooked from the first page/minute! JN Chaney wove the action into this fun space opera romp that made me lose track of time. Basically, he had me hooked from the beginning and kept it going throughout the whole series. These are books that I would happily recommend, and an author I will definitely read again. While I don’t see myself diving more into the pulp side of the house, I don’t regret swimming in this pool of awesomesauce! Buy these novels! But hey, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money! I give these books a 5 out of 5 grenades!
If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out! You won’t regret it! Well, unless it keeps you up all night and you’re late to work… and then your boss fires you because you became a book addict and a rabid JN Chaney fan. And then you track him down and climb into his window in your skivvies, and he shoots you with his phasers set to kill. Okay, the fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you. Be warned, but enjoy the high!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.