I read a wonderful review for this book and decided to cross my fingers and take a chance on it. So glad that I did.
I am coming to truly enjoy and appreciate the world building of a well written and developed Sci-Fi Romance. This one was so well balanced between many incredibly well written components- world building, plot and pace, characterizations and the romance. Not one of the components over-powered the others so what I was left with was a very satisfying read that I relished to the end and left me wishing to stay firmly planted in Neena Jaydon’s world.
The story is told from several viewpoints along with a dissecting and intersecting line when the characters part and come together at various times. But fortunately (for me, because I just loved being with them) most of it is told through the two main heroes’ eyes.
Villam Elding has just made Commander in the Empire’s space fleet. He is a true blue hardworking by the book military career man. He believes in what he does and he’s loyal to the core. He worships his Empress and adores the mentor who taught him everything he knows. Villam is tough, but fair to those under him. But right after he has this happiest moment of receiving his new rank and having his adored mentor there to see him get it, a routine mission goes horribly wrong. A conspiracy within the ranks causes Villam to be the target of a paid mercenary who attempts to capture him, but Villam’s action force them to crash land their shuttle on an uninhabited world where it is just he and his mercenary enemy who have survived. They quickly agree that they must work together if they wish to keep on living since neither have any hope of rescue since neither of their people will come looking for them.
Luke, Villam’s would-be kidnapper, comes from a vastly different background from the starchy imperial man he is assigned to get out of the way. Luke comes from a harsh independent society of people that are on the outer edges of the Empire. His people lead a hand to mouth existence and he was sent to a religious institution by his family so he’d be one less mouth to feed. There he learned the skills to work as a mercenary taking his assignments without question from his religious authorities.
He agrees to cooperate with the commander because he sees the benefits too. This cooperation will be limited though and he has no plans to let it become more than a weak tie created for survival. But as the days pass, everything about Villam challenges his thinking and former life. Compromise and companionship become something he learns to tentatively welcome and allow to grow.
And up with the stars, Villam’s former companions learn of his death and set out to discover the truth behind it. There is so much intrigue afoot in the Imperial military and treachery for a mysterious reason is at the heart of it. While Villam might have been the heroic type, most of the military folk are out to advance using whatever means possible. And one of these in particular falls under the scrutiny of Villam’s former valet who goes to Villam’s mentor to work together to root out this traitor.
The plot was awesome in a two pronged way. There is the whole survival thing going on down on the planet for Villam and Luke while the General and the Ensign conduct intrigue in space. The multiple backdrops of the military space crafts and the primitive world along with the worlds that Villam and Luke come from were so exotically different and fun to learn about without bogging down the storyline and being boring. I loved how there were surprises around each turn. There were so many close heart-thumping moments of near-death experiences and adventure that were interlaced with gentle character growth moments. I loved how I had no idea many times what was going to happen next or if I did, how it was going to be achieved.
The love story is one that really takes its time and grows in a cautious and tender way. I could keep gushing adjectives about the relationship between these two men. There were no warm fuzzy words or declarations even for most of the book, but some how it became patently obvious that there was a deep abiding love and friendship that would sacrifice for each other by the time these two were truly tested. Hey, even their pet names for each other were insulting. Luke called Villam an Imperial goat.
So- this one was a definite hit out of the park for me and I highly recommend it to those who enjoy M/M Sci-Fi Romance.