Say the words “Space Opera” and I’m there with the popcorn, ready for the ride. Free Chocolate is everything I could have wanted and more, complete with intricate and dramatic characters, dozens of twisting plot lines that lead to a slam-bang finish, and an absurd resource at the center of all the drama: chocolate. This is an outstanding debut novel in a universe I can’t wait to dive deeper into.
Angry Robot, 2018
5 out of 5 Robots
Semi-famous chocolatier gets drawn into a plot to betray her planet. Intrigue ensues, taking her across worlds and thrusting her into harm’s way. Shots are fired, life-threatening situations pile up, scandals and conspiracies get thrown into the mix, along with a bit of love and romance. Top it off with a space opera ending too perfect for real life.
WHY I LOVED IT
SPACE OPERA MEETS TELENOVELA
I love Space Operas. Slap those words on a book and I’ll buy it immediately. I’ve read quite a few and this one takes the (chocolate) cake. The plot is absurd, and I’m reluctant to discuss too much of it. In my opinion, the fun of a space opera is the constantly evolving plot, winding around corners you never expected, featuring a big reveal and just as quickly throwing it aside for the next bit of drama. This book has all of that in spades, running you through the galaxy following a character who wants to do the right thing but doesn’t know if she is. The drama of space intrigue has a special twist in Free Chocolate as it cozies up to a few key aspects of telenovelas. There are slaps. There are love triangles. There are break-ups and reunions that happen within the same chapter. There are near-death experiences and absurd solutions presented every step of the way. I loved every bit of it.
The best part of this book was the central commodity causing all of the drama. In a nutshell, Chocolate is Earth’s main trade good. They’re obsessed with it and give it the security of a nuclear facility. The main production company is steeped in intrigue, scandals and coverups worthy of a space opera. Earth will do anything to keep chocolate only on Earth, and Bo asks an important question: is that monopoly a good thing? The book is very fast-paced and sweeps you up into the narrative. I laughed many times as I realized how drawn in I was by the drama unfolding around who gets to produce chocolate bars. It’s brilliant.
THE MAIN CHARACTER (BO BENITEZ)
The main character is a perfect mix of a smart fighter influenced by friendship, love, honor and a commitment to family. Her voice is so unique, adding elements of Spanish to every few sentences, along with the combined words so popular in her version of the future. Her voice is well done and believable, and by the end, I felt like I really knew her. She makes good decisions and bad decisions, she’s afraid and brave and at times, just a total mess. She’s very real and I praise the author for creating such a relatable character that readers can really follow.
The settings were brilliantly crafted, spanning across multiple worlds, space ships and wildernesses. The supporting characters were a mix of subdued and outlandish personalities, representing cultures that were fascinating. I, for one, never imagined a culture where eating someone’s arm for spilling a drink was a perfectly acceptable punishment. The technology was well thought out, as well as the governmental structure for the universe and how complicated that structure would be when working alongside so many different cultures and planets. I’m amazed this is a debut novel – the author knocked it out of the park and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year.
Space Opera, Action Adventure, Space Travel, Crime, Espionage, Aliens, Romance
WHERE TO BUY
Royer, Ambar. Free Chocolate. Angry Robot, 2018.