Author: Michele Khalil
For as long as anyone could remember, there have only been twelve Zodiac Signs. Gifted by the stars with two abilities each, the twelve signs had maintained balance in their world for centuries. Now, a thirteenth sign threatens to upend the balance…
Talah grew up hearing about her ancestral homeland called the Galaxy. Hidden away on Earth from the world her parents had escaped from, she dreamed of becoming a true Zodiac. When her chance finally arrives to compete in the Trials and join her people for good, she is all too eager to prove her place. But beneath the lavish parties and power lies a dark secret their history had forgotten. And with it, a boy she thought she’d never see again.
Firas had spent his whole life training for the Trials to take his true place as the Soulinus heir. But when he is hunted down for the extra abilities he was born with, he has to learn to survive. Now the leader of a people facing genocide, he has to outwit a centuries-old society with powers that rival his own.
Thrust into a forgotten civil war neither truly understand, Talah and Firas must find the balance between tradition and freedom.
Most people are familiar with the twelve signs of the Zodiac. This story takes this premise and builds a universe around it complete with magic. The world building in this story is amazing and you feel you are right there in the middle of each setting. This is a series that has a lot of potential, but it is one where you would need to read the next in order to fully enjoy as the story does not wrap up entirely at the end of this one.
The twelve Zodiac signs are differentiated by the types of elemental powers associated with them. There are the main four elements: fire, earth, air, and water that each of the Zodiac’s possesses that help group them together. Additionally, there are other magic that further complicate the world and were not impossible to keep track of, but it was just more difficult than the basic four. There is a helpful list, though, about which characters have which powers that helped a lot with keeping track of everything. Not every reader will need this “cheat sheet,” but I can sometimes be forgetful so this helped me. The pureblood Zodiacs created their own world called the Galaxy where they now live instead of their old traditional of living together with humans on Earth. It is because of this move, that humans no longer remember that these magical beings exist.
The book’s flow was a little up and down for me as there are parts where I was really invested and others where I did not care as much. The beginning of the novel instantly captivates the reader as it builds up the world and introduces us to the characters and their powers. The plot continues to move forward, while still balancing the details. It does slow down a little in parts, but then it picks back up again, which is expected in a book of this type and, especially, in a series where it tries to keep the reader interested enough to continue on to read the next book.
The Zodiac Trials are essentially an entrance exam to enter The Aphelion University, a prestigious university. Our featured characters are Firas, Talah, and Mazin. As the son of the greatest warrior of the Scorpio clan, but living in a foster home with mixed beings, we have Firas. On Earth, there are Talah and Mazin, her close friend. Talah is a member of the Pisces clan and is the daughter of an influential councilman. Although Talah and Firas meet two years earlier, during a chance encounter during a family trip, they come back together mainly when it is time to sign-up for the Zodiac Trials. Essentially, the story slowly reveals some secrets about some of the characters and events while creating more mysteries that still need to be solved. There are a lot of elements that reminded me of the Hunger Games and the third task of the maze in the Triwizard Tournament. There is a war brewing that comes into play and each of the characters play their role, but they try not to reveal their hidden secrets to each other. This is explored further after the trials take place. You have the rise of the Ambigua army and the outcasts that I hope will have some more details revealed in the follow-up books as I wanted to learn more about their history.
Overall, I absolutely love the premise of this novel and it seems like the start of a great series. The beginning is excellent as everything is set up well. It does drag a bit in the middle, but it could be a preference thing for each reader, so others might not mind. The last part of the book picks up a lot compared to the middle and captivates the reader to become more involved in the story and want to know what will happen next. The novel does end on a cliffhanger to set itself up for the next novel, which might be okay with some readers, but might frustrate others. The world-building is great and I love the Middle Eastern and some Asian influences. The characters are interesting and I feel that they will come into their own more once the series continues. There were moments when I was more invested in them than others, so I hope that the next novel will keep me interested the entire time. I also hope that their maturity levels increase a little as they are supposed to be in their late teens (18+), but based on their thoughts and actions, it felt that they were younger (maybe 13-14). The story intrigued me enough that, even with some of its flaws, I honestly cannot wait to read the next book of the series to see what happens next!
**I give a special thank you to Booksprout, the publisher, and the author for a copy of this book to read. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**