Review: Zodiac (Zodiac #1) by Romina Russell

Title:  Zodiac
Author:  Romina Russell
Series:  Zodiac #1
Publisher:  Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin
Publication Date:  December 9, 2014
Pages:  319
Format/Source:  ARC/From publisher, via BEA  
Age Group/Genre:  Young Adult/Science Fiction, Fantasy

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)

A Different Kind of Review…

When I first started reading Zodiac, I updated my progress on Goodreads, and my friend Kim from On the Wings of Books texted me, wanting to know if she would enjoy the book, because there have been so many mixed reviews on it so far.  She decided to go ahead and read it, and we decided to write a joint review.  So this review is our conversation about Zodiac as we were reading, going back in forth in text form.


Let the Text-Reviewing Commence…


Kim:  Is Zodiac Divergent-like? I’ve heard some comparisons and I’m not sure how I feel about that. If it’s just like Divergent and not like the other two that’s ok, but if it’s kind of like the other two then, ugh. Not sure. I hate being unsure if I want to read a book or not!

Andrea:  It has a few similarities so far. Basically it’s set in space in the future and the galaxy is based off the 12 zodiac signs. Members of each sign live within a constellation in their sign’s shape, with a major planet in that constellation being their home planet. And people who live in those constellations have characteristics that go along with their astrological sign, and they each have a leader, and the members of the sign all kind of prize one quality over the other, like in Divergent.  

Andrea:  There was one other part that reminded me of Divergent so far…Let me check my notes.  

Andrea:  Oh, the main girl, Rho, is a Cancer (they’re called Cancrians) and they prize putting loved ones above themselves. So that reminded me of Abnegation.

Kim:  If that’s all it is, that’s ok. I know it irritated some people, but not me. I like to be entertained and I’m not usually worried about “realistic”. 

Kim:  Unless it’s completely ridiculous of course. Or out of place. Or maybe I’m just in a mood when I read it, lol.

Andrea:  But those are the only Divergent-like things I’ve seen so far.  The hard part for me has been the explanation of the world, and all those vocab words (words that are unique to the story), but once I wrote them down, I feel like I understand it now.  And once the action kicked in I got sucked in.

Andrea:  With me, sci-fi and fantasy are never going to be “realistic”. You’ve got to suspend your disbelief. BUT the things need to seem like they’d work in that world, and the characters need to do realistic things in that world. Like in this, it’s thousands of years after Earth, and she had mentioned Earth, but if she starts mentioning things from our current time period, it probably won’t seem realistic to me.

Kim:  I don’t read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy (though I’m reading more and more) so I’m less picky, but I agree that if it doesn’t take place on Earth or in real-day-time and they mention things, I find that annoying.

Kim:  It’s the future/another world… Make things up!

Kim:  I think I’ll give it a shot, it was my first BEA14 book after all. I will make sure to take some notes!

Andrea:  Yeah, you should give it a shot!

Kim:  Ok. Probably won’t start it until Tues. Too busy watching football :)

Andrea:  Ok :)


Kim:  I am enjoying Zodiac, but it’s starting to feel a bit Star Wars-like… Cancer, the water planet (SW 2? 3? Idk, one of the crappy ones), Libra, the floating city (SW 5), even Gemini reminded me of Coruscant.  Psy = the force. It’s not a problem, so much as an observation.

Andrea:  Ooh, yeah, that’s true. I love SW (except for the crappy ones, of course) so it doesn’t bother me. Sounds like you’re a lot farther than me. I haven’t read much in the past week.

Kim:  Omg so sorry!

Kim:  That’s what I get for assuming you were further!

Andrea:  Lol, it’s ok.  That stuff doesn’t sound like major spoilers so it’s alright.

Kim:  I love SW so it’s ok, I just couldn’t help but notice the similarities, especially when I realized I am waiting for “may the force be with you” lol.

Andrea:  Lol!

Kim:  Well I will keep my mouth shut for now, or at least ask what page you are on first! I didn’t say anything major though, I promise!

Kim:  But I still feel bad.

Kim:  :(

Andrea:  It’s ok, really. Don’t worry about it. I hope to get lots of reading done this week.

Andrea:  I’m on page 64

Kim:  I’m on 135.

Kim:  I was worried cause I’ve seen some not so great reviews, but I am liking it even if it is in space, lol.

Andrea:  Yeah, I was worried for a bit, too, because I know a lot of people have DNF’d it, and the first 10 pages or so were kind of iffy. But once the action picked up, I was hooked!

Kim:  I think too that it has similarities to Divergent and that series left a bitter taste for many people.

Kim:  But I’m hooked now as well.

Andrea:  Yes, that’s very true. So far I do see some similarities to Divergent. But a lot of books have that kind of faction/group thing, like Harry Potter. And when you’re dealing with the zodiac, you kind of have to separate the people like that. But I can see why people would say it’s similar.

Kim:  I agree, and the faction/house/whatever doesn’t bother me at all. I think in the real world like-minded people are attracted to each other, books/movies just take it to the extreme because that’s what you need to do to make it work, whereas in the real world we don’t do that much separation.

Andrea:  Very true!


Andrea:  So I’m still not very far (p. 110) but I’m seeing some of the Star Wars similarities you mentioned.  The Psy is a lot like the Force, and Hysan reminds me of Han Solo, and his ship is kinda like the Millennium Falcon.  And at this point, Rho thinks Mathias thinks of her as a sister, so here’s kind of a Luke/Leia thing going on.

Kim:  Yes! We should totally do a joint review on this.

Andrea:  Ooh, good idea!


Andrea:  Not enjoying the love triangle in Zodiac. Why must there always be a love triangle???

Kim:  Ugh, I was worried this would be a love triangle and I’m sad to know that it is.

Kim:  I am so over love triangles. There are enough things going on, why do you need to have another?

Andrea:  Yeah, they’re so overdone. I think they CAN be done well, but most of the time they’re not done well. It’s just a lazy way to make conflict for the main character. I personally like my stories very light on romance so I’m not happy this is taking up a large part of the plot.  I think you’re still ahead of me. I’m on p. 159.

Kim:  I’m on p. 186, so it’s not a full-fledged triangle yet, but I can feel it. I do like a lot of romance in my books but I do not like lame love triangles, and let’s face it, 95% of them are lame and not even a “real” triangle, more like a Twilight triangle, which was so not a triangle!

Andrea:  And a lot of the time, there’s an obvious choice for the person. Like maybe it’s not my personal type of guy, but it’s obviously the one who is better suited to that character. Or even if it’s not a “better” choice, the main character has obviously picked one over the other, and that other person has no reason to be there. Ahem, Jacob.

Kim:  Lol, jinx!

Andrea:  Lol! Exactly! Most love triangles are just like that Twilight triangle. Just stupid.

Kim:  That was quite possibly the worst love triangle in the history of love triangles.

Andrea:  Yes, quite possibly.

Andrea:  And with this one in Zodiac, I feel like I can understand why there’s a triangle at first, because she obviously has had feelings for Mathias for a while, and now has feelings for Hysan, but Mathias is driving me nuts! He doesn’t believe her, doesn’t trust her, tells her what to do all the time, and he’s frankly quite boring. He’s great as an older brother character, but not as a love interest!

Kim:  I think Hysan is better only because I think she is more infatuated with Mathias than anything else and needs a different choice. And you’re right he is much more older brother than love interest right now.


Andrea:  I really like Hysan. And I figured he was the one who was “deceiving” her, like Caasy said, and I’m glad it wasn’t a big deception. Although I feel like she should have had an “Aha!” moment when she found out his truth, something where she thought to herself, “Is this what Caasy meant by someone deceiving me?” I mean, obviously there still could be someone else deceiving her, too, but that should have at least gone through her mind.

Andrea:  I do still feel like there might be more to Hysan, and I definitely feel like Mathias is going to have this big moment where he tells her he’s been in love with her forever, too, blah blah blah, but I don’t care. I also feel like there could be someone who’s really deceiving her, who’s working for Ochus. I kind of want that to happen, too, because I love those kinds of twists.

Kim:  There has to be someone closeish to her working for Ochus. Has to because he knows too much. And there was a thing that happened but I can’t remember what page so maybe you don’t know, but I was not at all surprised about the thing.

Andrea:  I think there may be something more to Caasy, too.  Also: have you seen Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

Kim:  Which I know makes no sense unless you know but I don’t know if you know lol.

Kim:  I have not seen Hitchhiker

Andrea:  I’m not sure if I know the thing you’re referring to. They just got to Virgo where I am, so maybe not?

Andrea:  You really should see Hitchhiker’s Guide, it’s great! But the reason I ask is because there are these two child-looking characters in it who are actually very old and very smart and I totally think of them when I think of Caasy and his sister.  I’m trying to find a picture of them…

Kim:  Just checked, you didn’t hit the thing I was talking about yet.

Kim:  But when it happens hopefully you will understand my text lol.

Andrea:  I’m sure I’ll get it once I get to that point.

Andrea:  Here they are. But you’d have to see the movie, probably, to understand why I picture them as Caasy and Rubi.

Kim:  Ok, this is alarmingly close to how I picture them in my head.

Andrea:  Well that’s awesome then!!

Kim:  I picture them porcelain doll-like, with a futuristic twist.

Andrea:  Yeah, I can see that. Although the Caasy and Rubi in my head may look innocent, but a lot of the time they have a devilish look on their faces.


Andrea:  So were you referring to Caasy stealing the black opal? I’m still not quite caught up to you, I’m on 172.

Kim:  Yes

Andrea:  Yeah, I wasn’t surprised by that either. He’s totally not an honest guy. I like him as a character, though.

Andrea:  Ahh, so the black opal wasn’t just an ephemeris, and Caasy knew that, and now he has more power because he has more than one talisman. That scoundrel! (I still like him though, and I hope he’s just a greedy, power-hungry guy and not working for/with Ochus.)

Kim:  Lol, I like him as a character, just not as a good guy. I don’t feel like he is the one working with Ochus, that feels too easy.

Kim:  It’s someone we’ve met I’m sure, but I don’t think it’s him, or Mathias or Hysan. Or what’s her face. Her friend.

Andrea:  Oh yeah, Caasy’s definitely not a good guy, but I like him as a bad guy. But you’re right, it would be too easy for him to be working with Ochus. At this point I’m leaning toward Mathias. (Maybe possibly because he makes me so angry!)

Andrea:  Do you mean Nishiko?

Kim:  I don’t think it is Mathias, but I admit it would be awesome if it was him, but authors don’t tend to do things like that so…

Kim:  Yes, her friend Nishiko.

Andrea:  I’m hoping it’s Mathias. Because that would be bad ass, simply because of the fact that authors don’t tend do do things like that, like you said. But I agree, it’s a long shot. But the only others I could see it being is her 3 other main advisors. But they haven’t been with her since she started traveling. Maybe they’re tracking the ship or something, but I feel like that would be a disappointing twist.

Kim:  I completely agree that that would be bad ass, but like you said, I don’t see that happening. Probably is an advisor, unless there is someone we haven’t met yet or just briefly seen that is involved, but I don’t like it when books (tv/movies/etc) pick some random character you’ve barely even noticed as the bad guy.

Andrea:  Yeah, it’s very annoying.

Kim:  Unless there’s no one involved and it’s just Ochus.

Kim:  But that would be even more lame.

Andrea:  I guess it could just be him, but yeah, lame

Kim:  Really, there is just too much going on for it to be him, otherwise he would have done this before, right?

Andrea:  Yeah, probably. Why now? I mean, when he attacked Moira it was like he knew her, but yet she couldn’t have been Guardian of Libra when the 13th House was still around, because it has been so long that everyone thinks it’s just a myth.

Kim:  Oooh that’s a good point! Someone else is probably behind him, using him.

Andrea:  I mean Virgo. Moira is the Guardian of Virgo, not Libra.

Kim:  Lol, I haven’t read the book in a week, didn’t even notice.


Andrea:  Man, stuff is getting crazy now! I’m on 211

Kim:  Excellent! Not there yet, I got caught up in school stuff but hope to be this weekend!


Andrea:  I finished, finally!

Kim:  I’m just finishing entering in a few grades and I should be finished tonight!

Kim:  Ok so I’m happy it’s Hysan and all, but seems a bit sudden to just jump into sex like that.

Andrea:  Lol, yeah. It was kind of out of the blue.

Kim:  Exactly. There is this big potential intergalactic war that might be happening, but sure, let’s have sex.

Andrea:  Yeah, it was like the editor said, “Umm, we need her to kind of choose between the two boys here, and maybe have some sexy times? Like right before the war, that’s a good spot! Because her mind isn’t on anything else…”

Kim:  Close to finishing but I just want to point out that I don’t think you can free fall in space.

Kim:  Finally finished. We can share thoughts tomorrow but I will say now that one person in a love triangle is lame, but I feel like he’s not really dead given that this is book one. I can totally see Mathias being magically alive in the next one.

Andrea:  Lol, I said that same thing when that part came up. Free falling would not happen in space. I said it out loud to myself and the book. :) But I guess she was still within the gravity of the planet?

Andrea:  I hope Mathias doesn’t turn up alive, but yeah, I can see that happening because that shit happens in books. And I was hoping she would just be free to date Hysan now, but now she’s pushing him away because she feels guilty over Mathias. But now that she’s not a Guardian anymore, she can legally date Hysan. So maybe she’ll come around in book 2.


Kim:  Maybe she was within gravity, idk. I just know that you can’t fall with no gravity!

Kim:  I will be PISSED if Mathias shows up alive. I hate when books are all, j/k they survived. Not cool. I also hate how she pushed Hysan away, especially all that he has done for her. I’m glad she got knocked out of power though, I think it will make things easier for her to accomplish her goals as no one wants to listen to a 17 year old.

Kim:  I was a bit disappointed to see that the Caasy thing never really added up to anything, but I so bad want to know who is behind Ochus, because it has to be someone.

Andrea:  Yeah, there’s got to be someone behind Ochus. He even said at the end that his master has more up his sleeves or something like that.

So our texts ended there, and I think that although Kim and I had issues with parts of the story, we both ended up enjoying Zodiac a lot.

My rating for Zodiac by Romina Russell:

5 stars!  It took me a little while to get into the story, and I ended up taking 39 pages of notes, and writing down 54 of what I call “vocab words”, but I really liked the plot, and the fact that there were so many twists.  We still really don’t know who or what is behind Ochus and if he really exists and I really love that ambiguity going into the next book!

Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Penguin Books

You may also enjoy: GlowCinder

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher, via Book Expo America, in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review.

1 Comment

  1. Brandi Kosiner

    January 9, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Haven't heard a lot about this but the star wars refs and the triangle will make me stay away. Thanks for the review though!

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