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Empire of Light by Gary Gibson

Empire of LightSource: Borrowed from a friend
Format: Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

The nova war has begun to spread as the Emissaries wage a fierce and reckless campaign, encroaching on the area of space occupied by humanity and forcing the Shoal into a desperate retreat. While Dakota goes in search of the entity responsible for creating the Maker caches, Corso, left in charge of a fleet of human-piloted Magi ships, finds his authority crumbling in the face of assassination attempts and politically-motivated sabotage. If any hope exists at all, it lies in an abandoned asteroid a thousand light-years beyond the Consortium’s borders, and with Ty Whitecloud, the only man alive with the skill to decipher the messages left behind by an ancient race of star travellers. Unfortunately Whitecloud is locked in a prison cell aboard a dying coreship adrift in space, awaiting execution for war crimes against Corso’s own people. But if humanity has any hope of survival, Corso is going to have to find some way to keep him alive – and that’s only if Dakota doesn’t kill him first.

If the previous two books were pretty large in terms of scale and scope, well, the series just got bigger with this one. This time Corso and Dakota are on the trail of the Mos Hadroch, some type of weapon that should stop the nova war between the Shoal and the Emissaries. And to get hold of it, they need one of the few humans who know anything at all about the Mos Hadroch, namely Ty Whitecloud. What’s so special about him, you wonder? Like Corso, he’s a scientist, or perhaps more of an anthropologist in this case. And he has heard of the Mos Hadroch, which immediately makes him invaluable. He’s also part of the reason Dakota ended up killing Corso’s people on behalf of the Uchidans… which puts him on both their hit lists. Enter suspicion and tension.

I liked the way Gibson brought Whitecloud into the story and enabled me to get to know him. He had my sympathy from the beginning – even knowing his history as a Uchidan. Trader once again features – but perhaps not quite so much as in the previous two stories. Or perhaps even more than one realises. I will admit to being a little disappointed that one of the main devices Gibson used in this story was a repeat of that used in Stealing Light. Nevertheless, he did up the ante on this one, and as a whole the story was very satisfying.

This book is the complete page-turner. I find it uncanny how, with almost clockwork regularity, I can gulp down eight pages at a time without barely noticing, then discover on checking that I am eight pages on from where I last took note of the page number. This is one of the things I really love about Gibson’s books: I devour them. And it’s a testament to how well he writes, allowing the story to flow without being hampered by words and extraneous images.

A must read for those who like hard scifi with nasty aliens.

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Farewell Andromeda by Laurie A. Green

Farewell to AndromedaSource: Own collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Fresh off a painful jilting, the last thing deep space pilot Tiharra Bell needs is another romantic entanglement. Certainly not with the galaxy’s most famous astronomer-who also happens to be single, inconveniently handsome, and a resident of the remote Andromeda Station. But Tiharra soon discovers two terrible truths about Dr. Dante “Donner” Dane 1) he’s not the man he appears to be and 2) he doesn’t have long to live. Before her fourteen day layover is complete, she’ll put her life and career on the line to protect his heartbreaking secret.

I usually come down hard on books that are written in first person; there are very few authors whose first-person works I like. This book totally snuck under my radar. It was only when a friend mentioned it post-read that I had to go back and check that yes, the book was indeed written in first person. Well done on that.

I really enjoyed the scifi elements in the book. The ancient civilisation take, the astronomer’s secret (nope, no spoilers here), and also the conception of the deep space pilots – that was fascinating in itself. A dangerous career, that!

The plot is simple, which makes this a pleasant quick read, and the resolution is very clever – and well concealed.

Prophecy by Lea Kirk

Prophecy

Source: ARC from author.
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

One normal day turns into a nightmare when Earth is attacked. Now ER nurse Alexandra Bock is imprisoned aboard an alien slave ship with no way out. She deems all aliens untrustworthy, including the handsome blue-skinned Matiran captain who shares her cell.

Zhurrat Reviews received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

One night of betrayal leaves Senior Captain Gryf Helyg a prisoner of his enemies. Because of him, Earth’s indigenous people face extinction and his home world is threatened. But his plans for escape are complicated by his inexplicable draw to the Earth woman imprisoned with him.

One ancient prophecy holds the key to free Alexandra and Gryf’s war-ravaged worlds. Can two wounded souls who have lost everything learn to trust and forgive in order to fulfill the prophecy, and find a love that will last for eternity?

Wow. Where do I start?

First up, Prophecy is Lea Kirk’s debut novel, and it’s impressive. I think I have a new author to add to my list of ‘must-read’ authors. This novel is ambitious, but it lives up to the challenge. Galactic warfare, planetary near-annihilation, romance, prophecies, intrigue, villains, heroes and heroines, this book has it all. Oh, and a lovely twist on the soul-mate concept. And if you thought you knew all about Atlantis, think again. Kirk spins a tale that’s so believable you might find yourself rewriting the history you remember.

And I’ll say this: this book provided excellent escapist reading on a day when I really needed it.

Well written and vivid, Kirk easily draws the reader in to the world she has created, then traps them there right up till the end.

The King’s Mistress by Rachel Leigh Smith

TKMSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Freedom has a cost. Can A’yen pay it without losing his soul?

Liberation of the enslaved Lokmane begins with the king. A’yen and Fae agree to visit the Hidden, a group of escaped Lokmane, to protect his identity while the Shadows make their move with emancipation acts. But he’s not prepared for the prejudice rampant in the Hidden, or their lack of patience for him. And his new linked bodyguard is unstable to the point A’yen fears for the young man’s sanity.

Upon returning to Titan, A’yen is kidnapped and taken to the largest breeding farm in the galaxy. This time he’ll be himself even if it kills him. His resolve to unite his people grows as he wonders if he’ll live long enough to do it.

With A’yen kidnapped, Fae returns to the Lokmane homeworld seeking the final pieces of what happened two thousand years ago when they were conquered and enslaved. Getting as far away from her father as possible is the only way to keep her from disappearing too.

Separated by light years, A’yen and Fae have to stand alone and fight for their right to live in freedom. No matter the cost.

This book is an excellent read. The universe Smith has created is one I can easily immerse myself in, and remain stuck in there for days after I’ve finished reading one of these books.

The second book in the A’yen’s Legacy series, The King’s Mistress is a continuation of the storyline begun in My Name Is A’yen. We follow A’yen and Fae as they figure out what’s required of them as the next king and queen of the Lokmane, but some new characters are introduced, particularly Da’Ro, mentioned in My Name is A’yen as someone Na’var knows. While the story focuses predominantly on how A’yen can relate to his people, both the enslaved and the free, it also deals very elegantly with the topics of trust and identity.

There are many surprises along the way in this story, and nobody gets away easily. As always, Smith is unafraid to demonstrate the inhumanity of man – at times graphically – but juxtaposes this with an exploration of what it means to be a person, an individual, free. And a very important lesson underpins it all; don’t judge, because you don’t know what a person has been through and who they really are.

Suitable for both YA and adult readers, but deals with issues such as rape, slavery and physical and sexual abuse.

We Come in Peace by TK Toppin

SlayersSource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

slay verb (used with object), slew, slain, slay·ing. 1.to kill by violence. 2. to destroy; extinguish… A Slayer has but one purpose. 7DS Books debuts the newest collection of short stories in SLAYERS. Seven short story missions of your not so typical slayers taking on highly unusual targets. These captivating stories slice through tales of aliens, super slugs, demons, and beyond. Did that say super slugs? Yes. Read something dripping in fresh plots and bizarre characters. Discover your next favorite author with Slayers and 7DS Books.

We Come in Peace is part of the anthology ‘Slayers’. It is told from the point of view of a Hlad – which appears from descriptions to be a beetle-like creature – called Raq. He is a Lieutenant, and is standing security for a welcoming party of dignitaries who have been sent to meet aliens who have crash landed on the Hlad planet.

I felt that this was a very good short story. The perspective is interesting, and due to the alien-ness of the creatures who have crash-landed, nothing is given away until the end. A very well-crafted story indeed.

This story is very different to other works by Toppin, and this is refreshing. Very well done indeed.

Violence is depicted in this story, but is not as graphic as some I’ve read.