Title: Last of Her Name
Author: Jessica Khoury
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Published: February 26th, 2019 (Scholastic Press)
Synopsis: Sixteen years ago, rebellion swept the galaxy known as the Belt of Jewels. Every member of the royal family was murdered–down to their youngest child, Princess Anya–and the Union government rose in its place. But Stacia doesn’t think much about politics. She spends her days half-wild, rambling her father’s vineyard with her closest friends, Clio and Pol.
That all changes the day a Union ship appears in town, carrying the leader of the Belt himself, the Direktor Eminent. The Direktor claims that Princess Anya is alive, and that Stacia’s sleepy village is a den of empire loyalists, intent on hiding her. When Stacia is identified as the lost princess, her provincial home explodes into a nightmare.
Pol smuggles her away to a hidden escape ship in the chaos, leaving Clio in the hands of the Union. With everything she knows threading away into stars, Stacia sets her heart on a single mission. She will find and rescue Clio, even with the whole galaxy on her trail.
“If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I always press the red button.”
Stacia Androva has lived her whole life in a small village on a remote planet of the Belt. A talented mechanic, Stacia loves spaceships in particular. So when an astronika appears on Amethyne, a Union ship in their little town, she is eager to take a closer look, accompanied by her best friends, Clio and Pol. Everything is turned upside down though, when Stacia is revealed to be Princess Anya Leonova, the last of the royal family who were all thought to be murdered during the rebellion sixteen years ago. In the ensuing chaos, Pol gets her away, intending to make for the loyalist base, but Clio is left behind and taken captive by the Union. Stacia is determined to rescue her at any cost – but that is easier said than done with both the Loyalists and the Union hot on her trail, for the powerful and dangerous secret she holds that she herself does not know.
Now, as is pretty obvious, this is an Anastasia inspired sci-fi retelling set in space which is really what caught my attention, the fall of the Romanovs being yet another of the events that interests me with respect to historical fiction. The technology, the prisms, the different planets, the types of people who live there, action and revolution – my inner sci-fi fan absolutely loved it.
As for the characters, Stacia was more or less the standard YA heroine. Impulsive and reckless, yet fiercely loyal to her friends, she has a significant amount of character growth, from learning her true identity to finally accepting it – decent, but nothing exceptional. Despite the story being in first person POV, I don’t feel like I really know Stacia all that well as a character. Pol…well I actually didn’t like him all that much for the first half of the book, but he grew on me eventually as his loyalty to Stacia outweighed everything else. Clio’s identity was a pretty surprising reveal and definitely out of the blue – I really liked the idea. My personal favourite though was Riyan. The whole concept of tensors is so fascinating, and learning about their society was one of my favourite parts of the book. Riyan’s determination to find his sister, and how he grows to be a firm friend to Stacia is also really well portrayed.
I think the biggest downside of Last of Her Name is that there is too much to take in and too much crammed into one book. There’s tons of world-building – which I normally love, but here, combined with the non-stop action, it was just too overwhelming. This was quite unfortunate in my opinion, as I was very interested in the history of the Belt of Jewels and the reign of the Leonovs. Stacia and Pol’s romance was another aspect affected by this, coming off as a plot point that was there for the sake of being there, as there was no time to properly set it up. A huge round of applause to the author for keeping Riyan out of this though – I simply did not have the patience for a love triangle.
After a while, it felt like a tug of war between plot advancement, world-building and background story, because there wasn’t enough time to do all three. I like standalones when they’re done well, but there was enough material in this story that it could have easily been spaced out into a duology – or atleast another hundred pages or so. While this is the major reason for my low rating, the other would be the ending, which I found less than satisfactory – I was expecting something a little less…easy after that dramatic climax.
A must-read for sci-fi fans, and even if it isn’t your staple genre, this is a creative twist on Anastasia’s tale. Overall, despite my many complaints, Last of Her Name was an action-packed and entertaining read.