Every morning at seven on the dot, an astrology website sends me an automated email containing my daily horoscope. Rare are the days when my fortune doesn’t begin with a caveat reminding me that, as a Sagittarius, I’m “known for [my] outspoken views and habit of saying exactly what’s on [my] mind,” or that I’m “the one who normally tells it like it is, regardless of others’ sensitivities,” or that “truth arrows are [my] negotiating tools.”
Well, I’d like to think that I’m more conscientious and have better self-control than my team of Internet astrologers seems to suggest, but when it comes to Zodiac by Romina Russell, I can’t help but be blunt. So, here’s a truth arrow for you: Zodiac is breathtaking. And its debut author, Romina Russell, is a force to be reckoned with. The first novel in an epic YA series that reimagines the twelve zodiac signs as a galaxy divided into twelve distinct solar systems, Zodiac takes everything I love about astrology–the fun personality tidbits and dishy discussions about good fortune, bad omens, and romantic pairings both heaven-sent and disastrous–and marries it to thrilling sci-fi suspense and drama of big-screen blockbuster proportions. Add a quirky, charismatic cast of characters who hail from gleaming courts of Libra to the hot and happening streets of Aries, a mystifying villain, and a crazy-swoon-worthy yet completely out-of-the-box love story, and I’m in the biggest, coziest wingchair in Editor’s Heaven.
There’s so much that I, an unabashed astrology nerd with a weakness for adventures set in space, love about the Zodiac concept, but my favorite aspect of Romina’s stellar debut has got to be its heroine: the complex, compassionate, and exquisitely fallible Rho, a sixteen-year-old Acolyte from House Cancer. Rho has an unusual way of reading the stars–instead of calculating their positions to make practical predictions about her world, she looks to them the way a poet might, weaving stories out of the swishes of comet tails and using stardust patterns and pulsars to tell fortunes for her friends.
A true representative of House Cancer, which embodies such traits as nurturing, intuition, and loyalty, Rho thinks with her heart and acts from love. She’s a generous and open-minded friend (her bestie is an outgoing firecracker from House Sagittarius), and would do anything to help her home and her people. Still, softie though she is, Rho harbors haunting memories of a childhood marred by the sudden and unexplained departure of her mother. So instead of wearing her heart on her sleeve like the rest of her kind, she’s formed a shell to protect her sensitive soul–just like the Crab that rules her constellation. But when the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend returns to exact revenge on the Galaxy, the stars call upon Rho to lead House Cancer, and our girl rises to the occasion, hunting down evil with passion rather than wrath; instinct instead of instruction manuals. And guess what? In the end, she messes up. She messes up big time, and boy are there are consequences, and if I were to say more I would need to insert a big red SPOILER ALERT right about here. All I can say is that that Rho–a naïve and fallible dreamer from the most conflict-averse constellation in the Galaxy–is not your average heroine.
And then there is Romina. Romina and I actually first met as undergrads at Harvard, in a huge lecture class that may as well have been called “Math for English Majors,” back when Zodiac was still just one tiny twinkle in the constellation of Great Novel Ideas. Out of the couple hundred kids in that class, Romina–an infectiously charming and completely adorable young woman with a big smile and a razor-sharp wit–was randomly assigned to be my partner for a final group research project. We instantly hit it off, and it didn’t take long to decide on the irresistibly juicy human interest topic of Trends in Online Dating. And it turned out, we made a great team. Romina, a meticulous and ultra-organized Virgo, was the yin to my shoot-from-the-hip, incurably optimistic Sagittarian yang, and as we spent hours together interviewing couples, recording their personality types and measuring their predicted compatibility scores against their actual compatibility scores, a beautiful friendship was born.
Several years later, a beautiful book was born. Romina presented me, armed as always with my quiver of truth arrows, with a stunning story about a girl from the galaxy of my dreams. And then something in the universe just clicked.
Start Reading an excerpt from Zodiac by Romina Russell!