Returning to duty following his long recovery from the injuries he sustained during the events recounted in Heart Scarab, Shield Captain Bennet accepts a tour of duty in Fleet as flight captain on a dreadnought. The one saving grace is that it isn’t his father’s ship—bad enough that he can’t yet return to the Shield Regiment, at least he doesn’t have the added stress of commanding former lover Fleet Lieutenant Flynn, knowing the fraternisation regulations will keep them apart.
Working on the material he collected himself on T18 three years before, Bennet decodes enough Maess data to send him behind the lines to Makepeace, once a human colony but under Maess control for more than a century. The mission goes belly up, costing Albion one of her precious, irreplaceable dreadnoughts and bringing political upheaval, acrimony and the threat of public unrest in its wake. But for Bennet, the real nightmare is discovering what the Maess have in store for humanity.
It’s not good. It’s not good at all.
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This story was so powerful. It brings all of the wonderful space opera elements that I love about this series and the science fiction that is so astounding that you can’t help but marvel at the world Ms. Butler created. I love Bennet in this book. He grows immeasurably as a person throughout the story. The witty repartee he and Felix enjoy is a fun diversionary tactic they both take part in to disperse tense moments. I truly enjoy reading them. I was so proud of how Bennet and his father get along better in this story and attempt to understand each other more. The moment when Bennet and Caeden are together in Bennet’s old room at home is so beautiful. It’s a wonderful father/son moment that they both benefitted from. Bennet’s strength at the end in how he plans to handle his father but continue to maintain their peace was commendable. However I do see some bumps in their horizon. The way Bennet treats Makepeace as the delineation of “before” and “after” for himself is appropriate for both the series as a whole and quite a few aspects of Bennet’s life. His love life being the largest one and how he interacts with his family, especially his father, all take a huge turn after what Bennet deals with on Makepeace. I am fascinated to know what happens next for Bennet, in his “after”.
The science in the story was absolutely gruesome but also completely fascinating. The things the Maess are doing make me ever more curious of their motivations and if there’s more to them than the xenophobic creatures hellbent on eradicating non-Maess they appear to be. I adore the way Ms. Butler explains technical and scientific things in a way that will make sense to those that may not know enough about science, but also isn’t so dumbed down those who do understand aren’t bored. She effortlessly takes the science and used it to create plot points that keep you engaged in the story.
I love that Ms. Butler’s writing evokes so many emotions as you’re reading. I felt all of the ups and downs throughout the story. I couldn’t out the book down. My heart broke for Bennet because he was in denial about a few things. But he kept soldiering on and trying to be the best he could be. Rosie hurt my heart the most in this one though. She faced some hard truths but I feel like she’ll ultimately be better off for having figured it out.
The romance aspect of this series took a bit of a backseat. I actually enjoyed how it was more of an undercurrent than open and on page. It wouldn’t have worked any other way for the story and I love the building tension between the main anticipated couple without them ever being together for the entirety of the book. It makes me want them together more.
The ending though! I cannot wait to see how Bennet handles his time back on the Gyrfalcon and his emotions towards specific members of her crew. I absolutely need the next book in the series because I have to know what happens.
Four and a half
The thing, whatever it was, had fallen between two pods. It didn’t move. Unlike the soldier outside, it didn’t kick its legs or drum its heels. It felt nothing. Bennet bent over it, laser at the ready, his shoulders lifting to hunch protectively over his neck. He blew out a soft breath. Thank fuck. Thank fuck.
Not an organic Maess, at least.
Definitely a drone. Possibly a modified EDA? It had the same well articulated hands, the same smooth plasticised skin over the electronics and metal underneath. But the metallic body had a bluish tinge.
The head was different. His first thought was it was translucent, the interior scattered with pinpoint lights. But no. The ovoid was bigger than usual but solid and opaque. Some sort of mesh covered the metal casing, the tiny lights woven into it at varying depths, giving the illusion he could see inside.
Blue lights, the intense sapphire blue of the lights fizzing down the columns into the pods. Whatever this was, it was no ordinary drone.
The lights in its head dimmed. Flickered out.
The thing was deactivated.
It had shaken Haydn out of his previous calm. “What the hell is that?”
T18. Bennet had seen something like this on T18. Just a glimpse. When he’d seen that Thing, the real Maess, surrounded by drones, there had been something else. Something thinner than the usual drones, less bulky. Blue lights were involved, too. The Strategy Unit analysts never had worked out what it was. In the end they’d concluded it had been a problem with his camera, reflecting the lighting inside the base on T18. He’d had no reason to argue.
Well, now he knew it hadn’t been the lighting.
Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.
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Thank you for hosting me here today, and for the wonderful review. It’s very much appreciated!