Honor Among Thieves: Honors, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Honor Among Thieves: Honors, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Strong female characters conquer space in intriguing sci-fi.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A future-set read must suppose how technology has surpassed what we have now: there are colonies on Mars, medic robots, realistic fighting simulations, car seats and rooms that read and alter human anxiety levels. Different kinds of stars and the energy they emit are talked about as well as the rise and fall of civilizations and what brings about their destruction.

Positive Messages

Bravery, trusting those close to you, and finding the truth at all costs are keys to survival.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Zara makes a huge change from street thief who supplies drugs to her addicted boyfriend to one of the chosen elite for space travel. She uses her scrappiness to protect herself and adapt to many problems she faces on the living ship, Nadim. She also learns to trust others, especially Nadim and Beatriz, her fellow travelers. Characters are diverse and main characters are female. Zara has brown skin, and Beatriz is Brazilian. Another important character is a strong-willed woman of Chinese descent.

Violence

On Earth, a man is impaled and killed in a fight, another dies in an explosion, and main character is almost strangled. In space, many near-death moments, injuries: They're gassed, imprisoned, attacked by drones and other creatures, almost run out of air. The robot medic on board treats the main character for severe burns, nerve damage in her hands, and exhaustion. The ship, a living thing, is beaten near to death. Aftermath of a ship and passenger massacre encountered. Mentions that Zara was beaten, tortured by her father for having terrible headaches, starting at age 6.

Sex

Mention that main character witnessed people having sex in front of her while on Earth.

Language

A few uses of "f---ing" and many uses of just about everything else.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Boyfriend on Earth addicted to drugs and usually high. Zara gives him drugs she finds and buys him moonshine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Honor Among Thieves is the first book in a sci-fi series by the author team of Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires series) and Ann Aguirre (the Immortal Game series). It pulls a thief from the streets, Zara, into an elite world of Honors, those chosen to fly into space for a year with living ships called Leviathan. Before Zara leaves for space, she kills someone in a fight by accident, almost gets strangled to death, and witnesses the aftermath of an explosion that kills someone. In space, she gets injured and nearly loses her life many times in fights with drones and other creatures, and her ship is beaten up badly by another ship. There are mentions that her father abused her from an early age. There's drug use on Earth -- Zara's boyfriend is addicted -- and Zara buys moonshine. Strong language is heavily sprinkled throughout, with "f---ing" not as common as all the others. Characters are diverse and main characters are all female -- unless you count the ship, who goes by "he." Zara makes a huge change from her world of crime and homelessness to become a capable leader on a ship. Her ability to pry the truth out of those in authority saves her life.

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What's the story?

In HONOR AMONG THIEVES, Zara thinks her days are numbered when she steals a purse from the wrong person: the daughter of a mob boss. After a hit man comes after her and ends up accidentally killed in the fight, she tries to hide in a rehab facility only to be found by the most unlikely group of people: the Honors Selection Committee. One hundred people are chosen a year as Honors to fly into space with a living ship called a Leviathan. After a year, they can decide whether they want to go on a mysterious trip called the Journey and never come back to Earth. Zara has no idea why she was selected when the program is for elite scholars, but she has little choice about going with her life still at risk. After training, Zara rockets up to her Leviathan, a ship named Nadim. She will live inside Nadim with a lone human companion, a talented and straight-laced Brazilian named Beatriz. From the start, Bea is very focused on following her mandated to-do list. Zara? Not so much. When Zara is given a building task that looks like a weapon, she has lots of questions for Nadim. Why would he need a weapon? Weren't Leviathan peaceful creatures? What are the Leviathan hiding from all of humanity?

Is it any good?

There's much to enjoy in this sci-fi space story: strong female characters kicking butt, a protective living ship, and an alien race full of secrets about themselves and the whole universe. Authors Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre don't always keep the pacing even -- especially in the sudden rush to leave Earth -- but they do juggle the many elements of the story well. At the heart of Honor Among Thieves is a deep personal story about an abused woman finding her place and finding out just how skilled her rough life has made her. Her challenges are many out in space, but they're made bearable by the growing relationship she has with Nadim, the ship. Her moments of bravery to protect this new life and the beings in it drive the story's action and purpose.

One of the best parts about the story is that the reader never knows whose side to take. How much should we fear the aliens and what they aren't saying? How much should we distrust the Elder Leviathan and despise him for his cruelty? Whose side are the graduated Honors really on? Are they brainwashed or complicit? All this adds an intriguing layer that will keep the story fresh in readers' minds until the next installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the future world of Honor Among Thieves. Do you think our Earth would accept technology from an alien species? How did it benefit people in the book?

  • Would you want to be an Honor? Would you want to know as much as Zara does or would you rather train for a year and then go home?

  • Will you read the next in the Honors series? What do you think is in store for Zara?

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