About the Book

Title: Crownchasers (Crownchasers #1)
Published: 2020
Series: Crownchasers
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Starstuff
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Talky Talk: Friendly (Science) Fiction
Bonus Factors: Space Race(s), LGBTQ+, Mysterious Loner Dude Hell Monkey
Anti-Bonus Factor: Death
Relationship Status: Make Room

Content Warning: There are depictions of death and the trauma that comes with—and the substance abuse that also comes with—in Crownchasers that might be tough for some people to read.

Cover Story: Starstuff

I love a good space-themed cover, and this one hits all the right notes. Love the serious look on the girl’s face, and the depiction of a tense moment in the story within her body’s outline. The blue and orange color scheme is pretty unique, too. This is the kind of book that no science fiction fan would be ashamed to be seen with. (No one should ever be ashamed to be seen with a book, but you know what I mean.)

The Deal:

Alyssa Faroshti—Captain Farshot to her friends (and enemies)—wants nothing more than to explore the galaxy making discoveries, seeing the sights, and experiencing everything space has to offer. And her family is cool with it … until her uncle, the man who raised her, Emperor Atar Faroshti, unexpectedly dies, and she’s thrust into a tournament with galactic implications. As a crownchaser, Alyssa’s expected to compete with the heirs of the galaxy’s other prominent houses to become the next Emperor or Empress.

There are rules to the competition, of course, one of which is no killing of the other crownchasers. But not everyone in the galaxy is willing to let things just play out as they will.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Alyssa is a total badass and is the exact kind of young woman I would love to be, were I a fictional character: fearless, confident, willing to put her life on the line for the adventure, with a secret soft and romantic side. She knows that she’s not the best candidate for the job of galactic empress, and that’s a hard realization to make—with all the responsibility comes being set (and then some) for life. But she’s willing to take part in the crownchase to make sure that the wrong people don’t get the job. She knows what she wants and who she is. Her loyalty is unshakeable but hard-earned. She’s more liable to ask forgiveness rather than permission, and she often doesn’t bother with the forgiveness part. Basically, she’s Wynonna Earp in space.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Alyssa and her engineer—her sole teammate and only other person on her ship—have a coworkers-with-benefits relationship, but only when Alyssa’s drunk. There are emotions under the surface, as often happens with people in tight quarters and in these types of relationships, and Hell Monkey—yeah, that’s the name he goes by—might be interested in more, but Alyssa, in addition to being a badass, can be a bit obtuse.

Talky Talk: Friendly (Science) Fiction

From the very start of Crownchasers, readers are thrown into a galaxy unlike our own, with its own politics, peoples, and everything that comes with a civilization (or multiple, as the case is in the book). Coffindaffer does a bang-up job of throwing us into the deep end without leaving us to drown; although we’re asked to figure out what’s going on, nothing in the book is too alien (heh) to be understood with a bit of thoughtful attention to the story. Even the characters with horns and wings mostly act like “regular people;” Arrival, this book is not.*

*That’s not a knock. If you haven’t seen Arrival—I do recommend it—the aliens in that movie are near incomprehensible, even though the plot of the film is about trying to comprehend them/communicate with them. The truth of alien life being unimaginably different from our own species is probably more likely than them all being humanoid with human-like societal structures, but I’m not going to complain about being able to understand science fiction books and the cultures within them. /end tangent

Bonus Factor: Space Race(s)

Stars and lights in space

One of the biggest things about science fiction that appeals to me are depictions of interstellar travel. Being able to easily bop around the galaxy, visiting planets in different solar systems with ease, having friends who weren’t born on the same planet as you, is something I really wish I could experience. The crownchase takes Alyssa to a variety of places and has her working with a variety of peoples, and even as I was enjoying reading about her quest, I was seething with jealousy.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+

Pride flag being waved in a parade

Alyssa’s uncle has a husband; Alyssa has dated people who identify as female in the past while hooking up with a guy in the present; one of the other crownchasers has two moms; other characters date people with wings or horns or other non-humanoid features. It’s nice to read about a society in which love is love and none of this is treated with even the slightest raise of an eyebrow.

I mean, it only makes sense—this is a book about an advanced civilization in a different galaxy who I have to hope are much more advanced (in all ways) than humans from Earth—but I will keep mentioning this sort of thing until it’s no longer “not the norm.”

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude Hell Monkey

Jordan Catalano, a hot brooding stoner, in My So-Called Life

Hell Monkey really is one of the stupidest things H.M. (as Alyssa often, thankfully, shortens it) could have called himself, but there’s something about him and his secretive ways that is oh-so-appealing, even with the dumb moniker. I think he’d be less mysterious if the book wasn’t written from Alyssa’s POV—she admittedly doesn’t know much about him and doesn’t attempt to pry, even when she really wants to—but there are instances in the book that I feel are hinting at him being something more than he seems …

Anti-Bonus Factor: Death

A human skull sits on a shiny table in a dark room

When Alyssa’s uncle dies, a part of her dies as well. She doesn’t take it well, and it’s not until much later in the book that she actually makes time to think about the situation. I felt this, deeply, as someone who’s recently had a parent die. I find myself stuck in a strange sort of limbo, especially given *waves around emphatically.* I know there’s no right way to grieve, even in the best of times, but I can’t help feeling like I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. (If only my grief could be wrapped up semi-neatly in 400 pages!)

Relationship Status: Make Room

I know you only need two people to man your ships, Book, but you’re gonna have to find a place to put me because I’m coming aboard. I’ll make myself useful and I promise to get motion sick only in the lav (as much as I can physically control it).

Literary Matchmaking

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1)

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Aurora Cycle is another great scifi adventure series.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)

Check out Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles for another badass young woman who doesn’t want to follow the path laid out for her.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperTeen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Crownchasers is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.