I very much enjoyed the first book in this series (AIs! Aliens! And a dash of romance!) so of course I immediately borrowed the next one. It’s both very similar and very different from the first book, but I still had a great time reading it.
Grih battleship captain Hal is not having a good day. After pursuing a Krik raiding party onto a Garmman trading ship, they discover another human – though thankfully this one doesn’t seem to come with a Class 5 like Rose. Fiona’s been kidnapped, enslaved and abused, and the chance to be rescued by people who sort of look human almost seems too good to be true. And it sort of is, as Hal doesn’t waste any time making it clear that he doesn’t trust Fiona’s story. But the forces that abducted her – and then abandoned her – are taking notice of Fiona again, and it’s going to take both Hal and Fiona (and some help from another quarter) to prevent war from erupting between the Grih and the Tecran.
“Rose McKenzie had not landed, cringing against a wall, into Grihan life. She’d brought a banned thinking system into the Grih fold, sparked a power shift in Battle Center, and stirred up the balance of power on the United Council.
Fiona Russell was hopefully going to be a lot less trouble.”
I already mentioned that it’s very similar and very different to the first book in the series. In terms of similarities, Fiona – Fee – is a survivor, just like Rose, and she’s also been through a lot of traumatic experiences in a very short amount of time. There’s another handsome Grih captain, more Tecran bad guys, and, as I’m sure you can guess from the series name, another Class 5. But while a chunk of the plotline does follow the same beats, there’s also quite a few unexpected twists that ramped up the tension.
“I have a choice. I can whine about things that have happened, and can’t be undone, or I can make the best of the situation I’m in.”
Part of the differences also explained why I didn’t like this book quite as much as the first. While Rose was picked up by an exploration ship, Hal’s ship is a Grihan battleship and they’re very wary of what another kidnapped human means and whether Fee can be trusted. There’s none of the cautious friendships that Rose developed, though Fee is still grateful to be anywhere else than the Garmman ship. Fee has a very “seize the day” sort of personality so she’s not the sort to dwell on the past, and she bounces back a lot faster from shocks than I would expect. While she’s not entirely sure about the Grih in general, she realizes pretty quickly that Hal is a protector, someone with a very strong commitment to doing the right thing, and she can’t help but respect him for that… even when it means that he rebuffs her advances on him because of a conflict of interest (hey, at least someone is professional *cough* Dav *cough*).
“It doesn’t matter what he would do. It matters what I do. If I behave in a certain way because of how others would behave toward me, then I’m not living life on my own terms. I’m allowing other people to dictate my life to me.”
It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that Fee does end up meeting another Class 5, Eazi, and though their relationship was a lot newer than Rose and Sazo’s, it was still one of my favorite parts of the book. I liked Fee’s “How to Subvert Authority” guide she was “writing” with Eazi as a way for him to understand how he’d been mistreated and how to do things in, uh, non-lethal ways.
Overall, while not as good as the first, it’s still a very readable and very fun book. There’s a lot more action and a lot more revealed about what exactly the Tecran have been doing, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes!