When I began reading Michael Moreci’s latest instalment in the Black Star Renegades saga, I certainly didn’t imagine I would begin my review with a quote from Shakespeare’s celebrated tale of forbidden love. However, while the eponymous Juliet may have been referring to the warring houses of Montague and Capulet, her meaning is applicable to what lies at the heart of the story of We are Mayhem…you are who you are, regardless of what you may be called.
Of course, I’ve read enough books and seen enough movies to know that character development and identity is a vital part of any second act (Frodo’s travels with Gollum and, of course, Luke’s training under Yoda on Dagobah immediately spring to mind). We are Mayhem proves that the Black Star Renegades saga is no different. Expanding an already fascinating galaxy, we are introduced to planets, moons, and other weird and wonderful locations that provide a stunning backdrop for his two protagonists’ separate struggles to understand and strengthen their identities. These two concurrently-running narratives provide a fantastic structure for book, as Cade and Kira follow two separate paths (literally and figuratively) that guide them towards understanding themselves and their identity.
Even with We are Mayhem focusing more on character development than its predecessor, we are still treated to a fantastic continuation of an epic saga. While the struggle between Praxis and the Renegades rages on in the wake of the destruction of the War Hammer, the leaders of Praxis face mounting insurrection back on their home planet (Is there a more perfect allegory for an identity crisis than a planet and it’s people in the midst of a civil war?). Not only did I get my wish of learning more of Praxis the planet and the people, but the elaboration of the legend of Wu-Xia was also wonderfully imagined and developed. Indeed, the Chamber of Memories may have been the highlight of the book for me. Furthermore, the many action sequences are all full-throttle, detailed, and heart-pounding throughout. From the frenzied attempt to reclaim the Kundarian trade ship, to the assault on ‘The Crucible’ on the Praxian moon of Olanus, Moreci has upped the action and intensity ten-fold.
Where Black Star Renegades was a fun, popcorn-movie entry to a newly imagined fictional universe, We are Mayhem provides some soul and depth to the saga. Not only that, it does so while also maintaining the blockbuster-style theatrics that made the series so enjoyable and accessible to begin with. In much the same way as its protagonists, the Black Star Renegades has come out of this latest instalment with a stronger, more realised understanding of its identity: a vividly-imagined space saga of truly EPIC proportions.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an ARC