Continuation of Freemartin’s (The Currents of Scorpio: The Zodiac Mysteries Book 3, 2014) Zodiac Mystery series featuring the Cuspians, women reviled for having been born on the cusp of two zodiac signs.
After fleeing the pampered, glamorous world of her two adoptive fathers, former perfume designer Nina Solaris is trying to build a new, meaningful life for herself in Fiamma on an Earth-like planet called Astrogea. Zeven, one of her fathers, had discovered Nina and her unusual gift for detecting and identifying odors, then put her to work creating scents; but after seeing the accomplishments of her Cuspian friends, Nina believes hers are empty. Alienated and isolated due to her Cuspian status—in her case, having been born on the cusp between Leo and Virgo (as good a reason as any to discriminate in dystopian 2045 Astrogea)—Nina is attempting to initiate chemical warfare by developing and distributing pheromone tabs which will alter the behaviors—and, seemingly, the astrological signs—of those who consume them: “Nina smiled and wondered how the brash and haughty Aries would feel when strangers started thinking of her as a water sign, when her friends and family looked at her in confusion, ill at ease.” On the brink of the new year, however, additional threats are developing against Fiamma as charismatic Winn Noble’s Cult of Leo infiltrates the fabric of the city. Nina enlists the help of her five Cuspian friends—Vivian, Margo, Jade, Iris, and Brooke—each with her own talents and shortcomings. Even (especially) among her dearest friends, Nina’s old feelings of inadequacy rise to the surface, making her vulnerable to Winn’s charisma. At the same time, she realizes she can’t trust her new ally, Cedric, nor her old and new lovers (Lionel Savage and Luc Windham, respectively). Adding to the expanding conflict is the unpredictable behavior of Cuspians as well as Paragons—astrological purists, who have political sway—resulting from intentional or unintentional consumption of the pheromone tabs Nina herself created. Rather than making a positive contribution to her society’s plight, Nina suspects she is contributing to its downfall. A dizzying number of characters and subplots makes this otherwise straightforward dystopian novel confusing, although probably less so for devotees of the entire series. While Nina and her friends attempt to foil Winn’s ambitions, they leave an intriguing number of unresolved issues to guarantee the perpetuation of the series.
A fresh addition to an enjoyable series.