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Asking for Trouble: 07/30/22
Asking for Trouble by Sarah Prineas (2022) is the sequel and conclusion to Trouble in the Stars (2021). Trouble is now the proud older sibling to another changling he's named Donut. While he can change into animals, Donut can only do inanimate objects. Recognizing Donut in their various shapes has become a problem for the rest of the crew of the Hindsight.
Trouble's life takes a huge detour when the Hindsight discovers a ship that went missing twelve years earlier at the edge of a blackhole. The crew is missing and deep space creatures are huddled around the hull, clearly scared of something. Thus Prineas sets up a mood similar to The Blackhole (1979).
The missing ship, though, also holds clues to a massive political pivot on the part of the Star League. The Star League was set up as the villain in the last book — as a militaristic society, similar to the Peacekeepers in Farscape (1999-2003). With new information there is a larger mystery: what made them go from peaceful explorers to a ruthless military regime?
Finally there is one more mystery: kidnapped children. Sometime after the incident on the ship, the Star League took a bunch of children and began their child soldier program. As Trouble's human form is about that of a twelve year old, he's the perfect person to go after the conscripted children.
The bulk of the book, then, is Trouble's attempt to get the children reunited with their parents. That means becoming a cadet and trying to live as a human away from people who know he's not.
Although this is a short book, it's a densely packed one. There's lots of world building, lots of history, mystery and adventure. It's quite the page turner. The ending, though hinted at since the very first book, still took me by surprise. Instead of a Blackhole ending, we get something similar to The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas (2017).
One note: in the previous book, Trouble is self described as non-binary and thus I used they/them pronouns in my review. In this book, though, he has settled comfortably on his male, human form and he/him pronouns. This review reflects that change.
Like the first book, Asking for Trouble sits on the Road Narrative Spectrum. This time, since Trouble is traveling with Donut throughout the novel, the travelers are siblings (CC). Their destination is uhoria — namely in the form of understanding what happened twelve years earlier (CC). Their route there is the labyrinth (99), symbolized by the spinning blackhole at the inciting event. Metaphorically, though, the events of this book lead to a physical transformation for both Trouble and Donut. Thus this novel can be summarized as being about siblings traveling to uhoria via the labyrinth (CCCC99).