Showing posts with label SFR. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SFR. Show all posts

Sunday, June 22, 2014

… On Shield of Winter (Psy/Changeling #13) by Nalini Singh

Shield of Winter is a transitional book in this long series by Nalini Singh. A much needed one with many threads to follow. First we have the overall story arc which drives all the other sub-plots, including the romance.

Overall Story Arc Summary: Silence has fallen and the Psy world in the midst of chaos. Kaleb Krychek has his hands full trying to avoid total destruction as the dark virus in the PsyNet spreads and threatens the world with violent psychotic breaks from the Psy and ultimately mass death for his people. Many are relieved that Silence is gone, but Krychek also has to deal with those who still want Silence or don't know what to do without it.

Kaleb can't afford to sit on his hands. He knows the Net is in danger of collapsing and that designation E Psys may make the saving difference. He entrusts his Arrows with a list of mature empaths that with some quick training may be able to help. He brings in the Changelings as allies by asking them for safe training ground in their territory. Krycheck goes further by investigating other possibilities and bringing in other allies, including the Forgotten, as well as Nikita and Anthony. It's all very political but surprisingly humane as Krycheck, Arrows, empaths, and allies take desperate measures to contain what could become a disaster of massive proportions.

Empaths: Singh brings in a new group of Psy characters who either have been hiding their empathic abilities their whole lives or were not aware of them. Their mission is to explore and expand abilities they hardly understand to fight darkness, corruption and madness on a psychic level as quickly as possible. Singh begins to further explore designation E and gives depth to her characters by making them individuals, introducing background stories and going as far as sub-dividing psychic abilities within the designation. I believe that a deeper exploration of empaths, one where they finally come into their own, will come along with Alice's story.

Arrows: The mysterious world of Arrows as trained assassins and soldiers is also fully explored. The Arrows are assigned to guard Es with their lives on a one-on-one basis. Their collective coldness and personal isolation serves as a big contrast to the colorful and emotional world of the empaths. Singh deeply explores the brutal, violent, inhumane training, as well as the Arrows' history of survival after fighting those who used their abilities to gain power, through Vasic and Aden's characters. There's a thought provoking quality to this sub-plot that comes from the soldier at war perspective that I believe Singh may continue to explore through other story lines with Arrows as main characters, i.e., Aden, but that I believe was truly well done in Shield of Winter.

Zie Zen, Aiden, and Secondary Characters: Through the Zie Zen character/thread, Singh brings into the open the history and magnitude of the Psy rebellion, and through Aden, the immensity of the Arrows's loyalty to one another. These two characters, although different in the way they show love, provide some of the most touching, emotionally connected moments in this installment. Judd and Sascha are also quite influential -- Judd with his care and loyalty for the Arrows, and Sascha with hers for the empaths. And who can resist Ivy's dog Rabbit?

The Romance: I need to make this point first. Vasic and Ivy are not carbon copies of Judd (Arrow in Caressed by Ice) and Sascha(Empath in Slave to Sensation). Singh doesn't repeat herself and I am very happy that she didn't do that with Vasic and Ivy. Who wants to read about the same characters with the same conflicts over and over again? I don't! In that respect, I am not disappointed.

Ivy doesn't know she's an empath and has been through a form of rehabilitation to fix her. But she's not broken, instead Ivy is a joyful, hopeful woman who has benefitted from being loved by her parents throughout her life. Vasic's coldness and emotional isolation call to her empathic senses and it doesn't take long before she's longing to warm up the Arrow assigned as her personal guard. Vasic cant feel anything. He's on the edge and almost broken from guilt and despair. Ivy gets under his skin. He has never met anyone like her and doesn't know what to do when Ivy begins to push his boundaries. As the two battle the Net and the madness affecting the Psy, Vasic's cold walls begin to crumble in the face of Ivy's loving warmth. But can she walk with him in his personal darkness? Will she understand his past actions? Will she survive the onslaught of the Net's Dark Mind?

This romance is woven into the overall story arc and Vasic and Ivy spend a lot of their time in danger, battling and working on strategies to defeat the darkness. Their intimate time together is beautiful, and I like that as individuals they don't play games about how they feel about each other. I think that is because neither is capable of hiding. But those beautiful times are limited, and other, more significant sub-plots and characters, take the focus away from Vasic and Ivy. So in the end, although I love what there is of Vasic and Ivy together, the romance becomes another sub-plot in this installment, albeit, one where the two characters are an integral part of that all-important overall story arc.

Epilogue: Epilogues can be great or they can damage a great read. In this case I loved it. The Psys are evolving and the whole world will have to evolve with them. There have been changes in Singh's Psy/Changeling world and there are more changes to come -- dangerous enemies, chaos and instability to overcome, but there's hope and love too. Now we wait for the next book. :)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Heaven's Queen (Paradox #3) by Rachel Bach

In Heaven's Queen, the last book of Rachel Bach's Paradox trilogy, the romance between Devi and Rupert is fully developed while the action continues and Bach ties up the loose ends.

Heaven's Queen begins exactly where Honor's Knight ends, just as after Devi and Rupert finish off Ripper's xith'cal clan and jump into hyperspace, with Calsdwell and the surviving crew jumping to a different, unknown location. Unfortunately, they've lost a whole year during the jump and that everyone thinks Rupert and Devi, along with the phantom-killing-virus plaguing her, are dead. Devi and Rupert land on an a faraway agricultural moon, but don't have much time to relax or enjoy their anonymity before Devi's old friend and long-time Paradoxian lover Anthony shows up at their hiding place making demands on her emotions and ordering her to go home. Devi's not about to put up with that, so she furiously and rather callously dismisses Anthony. His discovery, however, means she and Rupert need to run fast because the Eyes won't be far behind and who knows if Caldswell is around to honor their deal to save the daughters and not make a lab rat out of Devi?
"Smart or not, embarrassing or not, the truth was that I still had feelings for Rupert. In my defense, though, what was not to love? He was handsome, thoughtful, a fantastic fighter who respected my abilities, a good cook, and a great kisser. He was also a sly operative, something I deeply respected because I was anything but, and he was so, so loving."
This is where Bach further develops Devi and Rupert's romance by having them spend time alone. Devi analyses her feelings for Rupert which I found repetitive as she continues to go back and forth between love and distrust. But, the intimacy during this time serves to create a bond and they begin the process of opening up to each other. This is reinforced after the Eyes briefly catch up with them and after Rupert gets hurt, Devi comes clean with him, finally cementing a strong relationship. The two of them are basically in this "alone" state until about page 163 when they seek help and all hell breaks loose again.

Both Devi and Rupert go through big changes throughout this series. There is marked character growth for both, but neither loses what made them attractive in the first place, particularly Devi. She continues to be the cocky (I-can-do-anything-better-than-you, move-out-of-my-way) Paradoxian soldier who runs into battle and kills without hesitation, but has a code of honor and, most importantly, a conscience. She also continues to be a concrete thinker and poor at solving puzzles or mysteries, but I love that by taking the direct approach, somehow, Devi gets her answers. After all, she is the hero of this piece. Rupert has to make some tough decisions, and although when necessary he is still the cold killer, we see more of the vulnerable man in this last installment. I believe that those who love a healthy dose of romance with action packed science fiction will definitely enjoy this turn of events.
"I obeyed two authorities: my officers and my king. I was a loyal subject and a good soldier, but I was no one's slave, and like hell was I going to let this virus make me one."
Since this is the end of the series, there is much going on with the overall storyarc. Like saving the universe by solving the big mystery, figuring out what to do with the deadly virus infecting Devi, saving the daughters, dealing with crazy Maat, the Eyes, and all those aliens -- the phantoms, lelgls, and xith'cal. Bach ties these threads together with surprising alacrity. Also surprising are the actions of key secondary characters, which provide this last installment with a bit of unexpected excitement and intrigue. The pacing in this installment, however, is not as fast as in the first two, with the real action coming in toward the last third of the book.

Heaven's Queen is a solid ending to the Paradox trilogy. There is a definite focus on the romance, which goes on the "pro" column for me personally, specifically because I don't feel that this aspect of the story takes away from Bach's execution of the overall storyarc. The slower pacing toward the beginning served as a build-up to the action, and the ending was Devi-fabulous. What is sorely missing from this series? Paradox, the planet for which this series is named. None of the action takes place there and I was left wanting a more solid view and understanding of the Paradoxian culture and its people. Having said that, this series as a whole is a thoroughly entertaining, delicious space adventure, with a great female as the hero or central character and an overall storyarc that begins light and fun but gains strength as the trilogy moves along. Recommended to both science fiction readers who enjoy fun action, adventure, monsters, aliens, and a little romance.

Category: Science Fiction/Action Adventure
Series: Paradox
Publisher/Release Date: Orbit/April 22, 2014
Grade: B

Visit Rachel Bach here.

Trilogy -- Overall Grade: B (Click on titles to read reviews)
Fortune's Pawn #1
Honor's Knight #2
Heaven's Queen #3

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Honor's Knight (Paradox #2) by Rachel Bach

Honor's Knight by Rachel Bach was an even better read for me than Fortune's Pawn, and I enjoyed that book. I wasn't expecting that, because second books are usually known as the meaty but tame ones in a trilogy and often leave you hanging -- but not this one.

Honor's Knight begins exactly where Fortune's Pawn ended, with Devi digging a grave for her security partner Cotter and still suffering from the mind-wipe that was performed on her, not remembering any of the events that caused his death, left her mortally injured, and the Glorious Fool so damaged they need two days of repairs before taking off. Devi has also developed an aversion for the cook whose name she can't seem to remember and whose face she can't stand to look at without feeling revulsion and bouts of nausea.

The mind-wipe left holes in her memory that slowly begin to bug her, but it also leads her to cling to Captain Caldswell and act like a good little soldier who follows directions to a "t." And although reluctant, she even considers telling him about the glowing bugs she sees floating around the ship and the blackness that spreads over her fingers and sometimes her whole hands like ink. This state of affairs goes on for a while, with Caldswell hiring another experienced merc to help Devi with security. During this time Rupert and Devi share moments filled with angst and tenderness. They both suffer because she can't even stand to look at him or for him to look at her. She doesn't understand the aversion and constant awareness she feels around the man, or the fact she sometimes wants to hug him. It's really sweet and I felt for Rupert . . .

All that changes when the ship is attacked and it becomes clear that an attempt was made to kidnap Devi. Why? The mind-wipe is reversed and once she remembers everything we get our gloriously brave, impulsive Devi back -- and she is furious! Thank goodness because I couldn't stand that tame rather lost girl. And . . . let's just say that a furious, fully armored, and armed Devi is not a good thing for those involved, particularly after she reveals what really happened to her before she was injured. At this point, Caldswell's decisions and Rupert's actions force Devi to get away from the Glorious Fool. When she finally discovers the whole truth, she realizes that her life will never be the same and sadly, her dreams may be lost forever.

It is undeniable that Devi is the center of the overall story and she is a fantastic central character who keeps the reader's attention. That continues in Honor's Knight as her adventures expand away from Glorious Fool into unknown territory, allowing Rachel Bach to introduce new characters, expand her world and slowly reveal political undercurrents, hidden agendas and the terrible monsters (nature's monsters and those created by men) hiding "under the bed." The monsters that Devi may have to deal with since she has become the "savior of the universe" to some, and "a weapon" to others. A lot happens in this book, with the xith'cal, lelgis, Terrans, Paradoxians, the mysterious phantoms, the secret Eye organization and the "daughters" getting involved.

Honor's Knight is all about world-building through revelations, as Devi and the reader discover everything together. Many of those details that were painted with broad strokes in Fortune's Pawn are detailed in Honor's Knight, and most of the questions are answered satisfactorily. The fun adventure, the great dialog, excellent action and pacing, the romance, and those relationships with questionable characters that come in all different shades of gray that I so enjoyed in the first book, are still very much part of this book, with the addition of a couple of provocative threads addressing moral choices. And, if you like exciting, action-packed endings with an emotional impact, well, Honor's Knight has that too.

With so many revelations in Honor's Knight, now I can't wait to find out how everything is resolved in Heaven's Queen (Paradox #3). With Devi in the middle of everything, things will not be easy, and I'm absolutely rooting for Rupert and Devi. I'm just glad that I won't have to wait too long to find the final answers!

Category: Science Fiction/Action Adventure
Series: Paradox
Publisher/Release Date: Orbit/February 25, 2014
Grade: B+

Visit Rachel Bach here

Fortune's Pawn, #1
Honor's Knight, #2
Heaven's Queen, #3 (Releasing April 22, 2014) 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fortune's Pawn (Paradox #1) by Rachel Bach

Deviana Morris is an armored combat mercenary obsessed with becoming the best in her home planet Paradox. To her, that means becoming part of the elite Devastator unit guarding the Sainted Paradoxian king. To achieve her goal, Devi takes a short cut by signing a one year contract as security in The Glorious Fool, a beat-up space ship rumored to be cursed where security officers rarely finish contracts because they die on the job.

Devi quickly finds out that this is true as the ship is attacked by either pirates or aliens almost everywhere they go. But what really intrigues her is the secrecy surrounding the ship's crew, particularly Captain Caldwell, his daughter Ren, and Rupert, the drool-worthy cook. Who are they, really? Devi's goes on a solo fact-finding mission to find out, but as she fights aliens, including the dangerous and dreaded xith'cal, ends up injured several times and later bitten, she begins to find some astonishing answers that place her bright future in jeopardy and her life in mortal danger from unexpected enemies.

Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach is the first installment in her Paradox military science fiction series. I'm not going to lie, I had a few problems with a few "science" details that did not make sense to me throughout this story. Yet, I couldn't help but devour the book in one sitting, and my issues with those details didn't stop me from running to preorder the second book, Honor's Knight. Why is that?

Well, Fortune's Pawn is a fun space adventure. Fun with a capital "F." The pacing is fantastic with excellent action that's almost non-stop, it has an ongoing romance that I'm enjoying, there are great aliens with a few gruesome scenes to spice things up, and the overall mystery is so good that by the end my curiosity to find out what was really going on was killing me!

The other reason is the cast of crazy characters, in particular Deviana Morris. Devi is one of those strong, cocky, heroines with lots of swagger fueled by self-confidence and ambition, who displays her sensuality openly. Mind you, she's not a great detective, Devi's too obsessed with blood-lust, her expensive armor which she named Lady Gray, guns Sasha and Mia, and blade Phoebe, to really concentrate on the details. Somehow, though, she keeps it together long enough to find the facts. Devi is also a cold, fearless warrior, but she's not heartless. Actually, Devi is a piece of work! I loved her!

Rachel Bach's world is full of mystery. Earth has collapsed, but before that happened, humans colonized quite a few planets, and we know that at some point Terrans were at war with Paradox and their colonized planets. Also inhabiting this world are the feared and detested xith'cal, a lizard-like alien species, and the mysterious lelgis, beautiful transparent squid-like creatures made up mostly of a substance called plasmex.

Whatever Captain Caldswell, Ren, and Rupert are doing is dangerous work involving these different species and governments. That much we know. But, what are they doing? And why? Who are the mysterious humanoid alien-like beings that keep attacking the Fool, and are stronger than even Devi's armor. And, what are those little transparent bugs Devi keeps seeing all over the ship? There are many questions, some answered and others left to be answered in future installments.

This is not heavy military science-fiction filled with strategy as its central theme. This is a light, fun, space-opera (or space romp) with an excellent central character. Additionally, there's an intriguing and subtle political undercurrent to it, and the excellent mystery and great action adventure takes center stage. In Fortune's Pawn, there are a few revelations that wet the reader's appetite about the mystery and there is a satisfying conclusion. But, my goodness, it also leaves the reader gasping and wanting more. This series promises to be pure, unadulterated fun, (hey, it has a romance!) and I'm not going to miss it! I know it is just going to get better. :)

Category: Science Fiction/Action-Adventure
Series: Paradox Series
Publisher/Release date: Orbit/November 5, 2013
Grade: B

Visit Rachel Bach here.

Fortune's Pawn, Book #1
Honor's Knight, Book #2 - Released February 25, 2014
Heaven's Queen, Book #3 - Releasing April 22, 2014