Thirteen Rising, the fourth and final book in Romina Russell’s Zodiac series, comes out at the end of August, and we felt like you *might* need a bit of a refresher of the first three. Luckily, Romina offered to write up a totally amazing, totally spoilery, totally gif-filled recap that’s sure to refresh your memory in time for 8/29!
[WARNING: Spoilers for Zodiac, Wandering Star, and Black Moon below…]
Book One: Zodiac
The Twelve Houses of the Zodiac Solar System orbit Helios, the galactic sun. Each House is its own sovereign world, with government, culture, transportation, technology, spiritual views, foods, and fashion all influenced by the traits of that sign. Every House has a Guardian, the spiritual leader of his or her world, and the Guardians are charged with overseeing their House’s Zodai and with reading the stars to protect their people.
Sixteen-year-old Rhoma Grace is an Acolyte at the Zodai Academy on one of Cancer’s moons, and along with her best friends Nishiko Sai of Sagittarius and Deke Moreten of Cancer, she’s awaiting her admittance decision from Zodai University. The three of them are in a band—Drowning Diamonds—and on the night of their biggest concert, House Cancer is obliterated from the sky.
The Cancrian Guardian is killed in the attack, and to the universe’s shock, the stars choose Rho to replace her.
As Holy Mother of House Cancer, Rho must read the stars to find out why the attack happened, and she soon discovers a threat to the entire Zodiac: Ophiuchus, the exiled Guardian of the long-forgotten Thirteenth Constellation, has returned—and he’s ready to exact his revenge.
The Cancrian government doesn’t trust Rho’s reading, but there’s no time to convince them—Rho sees a warning that Virgo and Gemini will be next, and she has to save them. So on the night of her Guardianship Ceremony, she orders her Guide, Lodestar Mathias Thais, to requisition a ship to transport them to the other Houses. Mathias is skeptical, but he does what Rho says.
The ship Mathias hijacks is Equinox, which belongs to diplomatic envoy Hysan Dax of House Libra. Even though Rho isn’t sure whether Hysan is trustworthy, he is the only person—besides Nishi—who believes the threats she’s Seen in the stars. When they visit Libra to warn Hysan’s people, Rho uncovers the Libran’s most important secret: He is the real Guardian of House Libra.
Just like the Cancrian government, the Guardians of House Gemini—Holy Twins Rubidum and Caaseum—don’t trust Rho’s reading, but Caasy decides to join her journey for mischievous reasons of his own. Virgo’s Empress Moira doesn’t trust Rho either, and when she tries to prove Rho wrong, Ophiuchus attacks Virgo and the main planet must be evacuated. Moira is wounded in the attack, but before succumbing to her injuries, she tells Rho to go to the Planetary Plenum on Aries and testify before all the Houses.
Rho does as Moira asks, and yet just like the others, the Plenum doesn’t trust Rho. As hopelessness darkens her horizon, Rho draws closer to Hysan, the only person who believes in her. Even though a long-standing Taboo makes it illegal for Guardians to be romantically involved, the two can’t help their attraction. Hysan agrees to fly Rho to the location where the Thirteen House used to be so that she can find proof Ophiuchus is real to convince the other Houses.
But then Ophiuchus attacks Gemini, killing Caasy along with thousands of Geminin. With this third fatal strike, the Plenum can no longer deny that the attacks are connected, and soon they let their fear and fury sway them into waging war. Finally taking heed of Rho’s warnings, the Plenum names her the leader of a galactic armada that will fly to House Ophiuchus to destroy its Guardian.
The armada is a catastrophe, though, and most Zodai are murdered—including Mathias, who had just confessed his feelings to Rho, leaving her more pained and confused than ever.
It turns out Ophiuchus was only a distraction. While the Zodai were busy fighting, the real enemy came out of hiding: The Marad, a terrorist army with hundreds of thousands of teen troops—led by a powerful Master who’s been secretly pulling the strings all along.
Given the armada’s epic failure, Rho is forced to step down as Guardian. She is exiled from the Plenum in disgrace.
Book Two: Wandering Star
A month after the events of ZODIAC, Rho is reunited with her brother, Stanton, on House Capricorn. They’re helping with the Cancrian refugee settlement, and they’ve made a new friend, Aryll, who saved Stan’s life while the two were working on Gemini.
Nishi and Deke invite Rho to Sagittarius, where they are leading a group of activists who want to warn others about Ophiuchus, but Rho has resolved to live life in the private sphere, so she turns them down.
Then the Marad stages a series of synchronized terrorist strikes, threatening to attack Sagittarius next. Rho realizes she can’t abandon her friends—so she decides to join Nishi and Deke. Aryll agrees to go with her.
The day before Rho and Aryll’s trip, Ophiuchus reaches out to Rho to offer a truce. He says that he’ll help her hunt down the unknown Master, and as proof of his change of heart, he reveals that Sagittarius is a decoy and the real target is Capricorn. Yet after the millions of people Ophiuchus murdered, Rho doesn’t trust him. So she joins her friends on Sagittarius.
Then the Marad strikes Capricorn.
Humiliated and humbled, Rho finally agrees to hear Ophiuchus out. He’s tracked down the quadrant of Space where the Marad is headquartered, and he concocts a plan for Rho and her friends to fly there as bait. Guardians Brynda of Sagittarius and Rubi of Gemini will be tracking their flight so they can follow the trail to the Master.
When Rho and her friends reach the right coordinates, a trio of Marad soldiers boards their ship—and Rho realizes the entire army is made up of imbalanced Risers. A Riser is a person who starts to physically and mentally shift signs, which can happen at any age. Balanced Risers only shift once or twice, but imbalanced ones keep shifting throughout their lives, eventually losing their earliest memories. Sometimes it turns them into monsters.
The Marad soldiers murder Twain, the Virgo pilot who replaced Hysan.
And then they kill Deke.
The soldier in charge, Corinthe, tortures Rho, and just as everything seems most hopeless, Hysan shows up and takes back Equinox. Along with rescuing Rho, Hysan breaks through the Marad’s technology, allowing them to board Corinthe’s ship—where they find a pair of prisoners. One is an Aquarian named Pandora.
The other is Mathias.
The group travels to Taurus, where the new Plenum session is being held. The Houses’s ambassadors reverse their ruling on Rho and invite her to testify. Hysan shares proof from his ship that backs up Rho’s story, and this time everyone believes her. The Plenum apologizes for how it’s treated her in the past, and they honor Rho with a title that hasn’t been used in a millennium: Wandering Star.
There’s a festival held on the village streets in celebration, and Rho and Hysan share a dance. He pressures her into making a choice between him and Mathias, but Rho only digs deeper into her shell, and Hysan loses his patience. Hurt and confused, Rho visits Mathias, and they kiss. She then works to help him recover from his traumatic experiences, and he remembers something from his time in captivity: He knows where the Marad is hiding one of its most devastating weapons.
Mathias’s recovered memories also lead Rho to another horrifying discovery: Her brother’s new best friend, Aryll, is Marad.
Rho, Mathias, and Stanton search for Aryll, who has taken Hysan hostage. They find them in the Geminin embassy, where Aryll has strapped Hysan to a bomb he bolted to the floor.
Hysan manages to deactivate the bomb before it blows, but they’re not able to stop Aryll. As he’s escaping, Aryll tosses a black seashell at Rho—the same one her long-lost mom used to own.
Once they’re all out of danger, Hysan spots Rho’s lip gloss on Mathias’s mouth and realizes they’ve kissed. He walks away from her then, thinking that Rho has made her choice. Rho returns to Capricorn with her brother, and Ophiuchus reaches out again with one final revelation:
Risers are Ophiuchans who are trying to shift into their true House but can’t. And Rho’s mom is one of them.
Book Three: Black Moon
Two months later, Rho, Stanton, and Mathias are investigating an unfinished Marad weapon on Scorpio. Since the captured Marad soldiers won’t talk—and there hasn’t been a new attack in months—the Plenum decides to declare peace in the Zodiac. But Rho isn’t buying it.
House Pisces suddenly falls victim to an airborne contagion that’s leaving its citizens in comas, and the Houses dispatch teams of Zodai to figure out the cause. Stanton is the only one who’s certain the Master is behind it.
Nishi invites Rho to join her on Aquarius, where she is leading a new political group called the Tomorrow Party, and Rho says she’ll think about it. She then reaches out to Ambassador Crompton of Aquarius and confides in him that her mom is an Aquarian Riser, and she asks him to try to find her. Crompton agrees, and he also invites her to Aquarius.
When they get to Aquarius, Mathias reunites with Pandora, and Rho is forced to admit that the two forged a real connection while they were in captivity together. She also meets Lionheart Blaze Jansun, the head of the Tomorrow Party, and learns his true plans: He’s creating a multi-House settlement on a new planet called Black Moon. A place where all citizens of the Zodiac, regardless of House, can live together in harmony.
The Tomorrow Party hosts a royal ball, and while everyone seems impressed by Blaze and his followers, Stan distrusts the movement, finding it to be elitist. Rho and Mathias share a dance, and she finally lets him go as she comes to terms with the fact that she’s in love with Hysan.
Then Hysan walks into the ballroom with the stunning Skarlet Thorne of Aries on his arm, and Rho is shattered.
When Rho gets a chance to talk to Hysan, though, she finds out he and Skarlet are just friends. Rho and Hysan spend a magical night together, and for the first time, things are looking up.
But by morning, everything falls apart. Rho learns that the Tomorrow Party is everything Stan suspected, and when she confronts Nishi with her concerns, her best friend dismisses her. Then Rho speaks with Ophiuchus and at last hears his side of history, and she pieces together that the Master must be another Original Guardian—and he or she is behind everything that has happened, even the formation of the Tomorrow Party.
Nishi does some digging around of her own, and she and Rho find each other right as Blaze does. He corners them, and then Imogen of Gemini shoots Nishi with her Sumber, a weapon that traps a person within their subconscious. Rho is about to get shot, too, when an Aquarian woman intervenes—it’s Rho’s mom, Kassandra.
It turns out that Hysan has been working with Kassandra and keeping is a secret from Rho. Rho is angry and hurt by this betrayal. There’s no time to dwell, though, and soon Rho and Hysan take off to Pisces to regroup with the other Houses, and Rho is forced to leave Nishi behind, in the hands of Blaze and Imogen.
On Pisces, Rho learns more about the Last Prophecy, a legendary vision that claims the Zodiac will end sometime this millennium when Helios goes dark. It’s the omen Pandora has been Seeing all along, and it turns out Rho’s mom has Seen it, too—that’s why she abandoned her. She had to join the Luminaries, a secret group of seers who are trying to stop the Last Prophecy from happening.
Rho and Hysan are in the middle of figuring out what to do next, when Hysan’s android—a companion named Lord Neith, who is like family to Hysan—is taken over by the Master and attacks them. Hysan stops Neith just in time, but when they race to warn the other Guardians, they’re interrupted by the Master.
It turns out the Master is Ambassador Crompton—and he’s actually the Original Aquarius.
Suddenly, Aryll returns, and he takes Rho’s mom hostage. Stanton tries to save her, and Aryll murders him.
Enraged, Rho shoots Aryll. She aims her weapon at the Master next, and even though there are guns pointed at her, she fires.
And the Zodiac goes dark.
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