If you visit this blog, you know I love science fiction romance. Every so often I review a book or mention a favorite author, however to date I've not gone out of my way to highlight this genre. It's about time.
A shoutout to Heather from The Galaxy Express, one of my favorite science fiction romance informational blogs. Recently, Heather put together a list of blogs that review science fiction romance books. You KNOW I'll be visiting them! Here's a link to that list in case you're interested.
I'm beginning this feature by highlighting Catherine Spangler's SHIELDER series, a classic science fiction romance favorite. Published by Love Spell beginning in 1998 and ending in 2004, the series is labeled as Futuristic Romance and consists of five titles: Shielder, Shadower, Shamara, Shadow Crosser, and Shadow Fires.
World building: The world building in this series is excellent. Catherine Spangler certainly gets high marks for creativity. The Shielders are a humanoid race who are born with a natural mental shield. The Controllers have taken over most the galaxy by using their mind control abilities and brutal violence against those who oppose them. The Shielders' natural skills makes these two races enemies. The series begins when the Shielders, who have long battled the Controllers for survival, are almost decimated. The Controllers are systematically committing genocide against their race and colonies are being erased from the galaxy by deadly chemical viruses. The series then continues with the battle for survival of the Shielder race by taking the reader through different adventures, planets and ends with Book 4. Shadow Fires, Book 5, is related and involves a Shielder but it's focused on another alien race, the Leors.
Characters: Throughout the series, Spangler doesn't restrict herself to introducing Shielder and Controller characters. Instead, she mixes it up and the reader gets a wonderful view of the different beings and creatures that inhabit this galaxy that she created. Her male protagonists range from ship captains and doctors, to bounty hunters, leaders and aliens. The female protagonists also have different backgrounds and come from different planets, there is a brave Shielder, two smugglers, an Enhancer and a Seer.
Romance vs. Science Fiction: The romances in these books are central to the stories, more so than in most science fiction romance books today. Spangler combines all the ingredients I love in this genre and balances them quite well: the romance, science fiction details and space adventure in this series. The books are older and so is the style and some of them might feel bit dated. For example: the "absolute kick butt" space heroine is not there yet (although you'll find some of that in the books). The first book was published in 1998 and the last book in 2004, so you must take this into consideration when reading the series.
Issues: Spangler addresses different issues throughout her stories. You'll find a feminist thread as well as others through the whole series: how societies treat those who are different and the consequences of ignorance; male centered societies and how they affect females; the struggle for independence and validation, and of course there's more. She takes all of these issues, places them into a science fiction setting and weaves them into her great adventures.
There's plenty of "rescuing the female protagonist" in this series, yet... you'll find that, with the exception of one, most of the females do plenty of rescuing themselves and two of Spangler's heroines are smugglers -- not exactly the "come rescue me" type.
Conclusion: Most of the books have a great balance between the romance and adventure with excellent science fiction details. For the most part they are fast paced reads and the world building is easy to understand and follow. With the exception of one book, this is an excellent science fiction romance series -- a classic.
This is a two part post -- tomorrow's post will have pertinent information on the individual books: the series in order with covers, summaries and some quick personal notes on each book.