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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

"Hunt for Hydra: Jupiter Pirates 1" by Jason Fry (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

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OVERVIEW: In this swashbuckling new sci-fi adventure series from New York Times bestselling author Jason Fry, three siblings in a family of privateers must compete to decide who will be the next ship captain, all while battling space pirates, Earth diplomats, and even treachery from within the family.

The relationship between Tycho Hashoone, his twin sister, Yana, and their older brother, Carlo, isn't your average sibling rivalry. They might be crew members together aboard the Shadow Comet, but only one of them can be the next ship captain. So when the Hashoones find themselves in the midst of a dangerous conspiracy, each sibling is desperate to prove his or her worth. The only trouble is if they don't work together, none of them may make it out alive.

Perfect for fans of fantasy adventures like Ranger's Apprentice and such space-age epics as Star Wars, The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra is a wholly original saga about a galaxy on the brink of war and one unforgettable family caught in the cross fire.

FORMAT: Hunt for Hydra is the first book in the Jupiter Pirates series. It is a middle grade sci-fi/space opera novel that is filled with pirates, space adventures, and mystery. It stands at 256 pages and was published December 23, 2013 by HarperCollins.

ANALYSIS: In recent years, there has been a serious lack of space opera or science fiction novels that are written for children. There seems to be a heavy emphasis on magical wizards, fairy tale retellings, and of course dystopian tales. Those books that do make an attempt at a children's sci-fi novel, do so in a way that is almost watered down or gloss over the true aspect of the genre. That is why Jason Fry's novel is such a relief.

Jason Fry paves the way for the future by introducing the middle grade audience to the genre by producing an adventurous and engaging tale. Of course, it isn't just a story that appeals to younger children, but one that many adults will find themselves enjoying too.

Hunt for Hydra is the first book in a proposed series known as The Jupiter Pirates. It follows a family of privateers (the politically correct term for space pirates) as they venture throughout space in an effort to uphold peace amongst the planets, as well as fight off evil space pirates.

In this first novel, the Hashoones are hard at work intercepting and taking over other ships. That is until they intercept a ship with an individual on board who is claiming to have diplomatic immunity. Something doesn't seem right with the claim, which leads the Hashoones to take the ship, and the diplomat, back to Ceres to await an official ruling from the government. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg and unveils a huge conspiracy that could put The Jovian Union (made up of the three moons) and Earth's careful alliance in jeopardy.

What is truly amazing about Hunt for the Hydra is the relationships between all the characters. First, there are adults who are actively involved with their children's lives. The parents know what is going on, are sought for help with problems, and truly care about the well-being of their children. There is even a 'kooky' grandpa who is part robot, who seems a little out there, but can be counted on at times to tell it like it is and listen to the main character when he needs to talk about issues.

Parental figures tend to be downplayed in middle grade fiction in an effort to appeal to the target audience. It was nice to see active, involved parents who aren't hoovering over the main characters, but are there to support, guide, and nurture them.

Another amazing character aspect is the relationship between the siblings. All three of the siblings are competing in an effort to be named the next captain of the Shadow Comet. The problem is no one sibling is the clear choice for captain. Each of them is lacking in a certain skill area. Together they make a great team, but alone they have major weaknesses that could prove dangerous.

Instead of having all the siblings involved in a 'cut throat' competition, Fry shows how each of the characters learns from each other. And in times of trouble, they are able to put their differences aside and truly come up with a solution to help. It was refreshing to see such a close bond with the characters, yet at times the siblings did fight and squabble. It seemed very real.

An aspect of Hunt for Hydra that I really enjoyed was the mix of adventure and mystery. The novel had a very fast pace to it, but it didn't feel rushed. This may have been because of the mysterious element to it. I kept trying to figure out where the conspiracy was, what would happen, and how the characters would work through it. 

Another aspect I personally enjoyed was Tycho. The story is told from his POV, but I liked that he isn't perfect. He makes mistakes. He is picked on sometimes by his siblings. He doubts himself in tough situations. In some ways, he knows he will never be captain of the ship, yet he still wants to give it his all and learn what he can about being a captain. I liked that he was so real and I just had an instant bond with him. 

I'll admit if you are a die-hard science fiction fan, there are probably things that could be picked apart about Hunt for Hydra. The ship structure and world building isn't overly detailed or overly complex, but it works for its target audience. Many times sci-fi books overwork the science aspect or the technical aspect, which intimidates some readers. I didn't see that happening here. Everything seemed age appropriate and not dumbed down at all.

If you are looking for a quick book that is filled with adventure, mystery, and a close-knit family filled with detailed characters, Hunt for Hydra is for you. It really is a great introduction to the genre and I hope this is just the start of many wonderful sci-fi books for the middle grade sector.


Ms. Yingling said...

There has been an increase in science fiction adventure books in the last two years or so. Gibbs' Space Camp, Searles' Lost Planet series, Brian Faulkner's work. It's good to see more and more out there, since it always circulates well.


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