Two very different civilizations—one bathed in bright sunlight and the other veiled in shadow.
Bad decisions, declining resources, and a king on the brink of madness force Prince Varo Kutchif, third son of the royal family and a starship captain, to attempt the impossible: barter for Black Phospolrock, an energy source the mysterious Helkan Kingdom has in abundance. Varo opens a line of communication with Adlar, an intriguing Helkan who seems to reciprocate Varo’s interest. He hopes so, because if negotiations collapse, Varo has orders to attack.
The Helkans preside over a planet shrouded in perpetual darkness. Several species have tried to exploit its natural resources through trade with them, but all have failed. Adlar Mondur is the older brother to the Helkan ruler. An assassin of the highest order, he’ll do anything to protect his king and his people—including tracking down the Yesri prince who crash-lands on their planet, leaving an ugly scar across its untouched beauty.
Thus begins a journey where two men from disparate civilizations grow from enemies to lovers.
This book was wonderful. Ms. Church writes many genres but my favorite is her science fiction, outer space, created-her-own-planet-and-alien-race books. So much thought and effort goes in to creating this whole world with politics and implications, I get completely lost there and want to stay forever. I adored the emotion as I read. Watching Varo and Adlar grow together and how their feelings changed the longer they were together. The scenery was vivid and amazingly described. I felt like I was there on Helkan with them. I was enthralled the entire time I read and couldn’t put the book down.
Varo was someone that you could tell was conflicted right from the beginning of the book. His upbringing that was devoid of warmth and love shaped his responses throughout the story. His inner conflict was so clear in the story I felt it with him. The moment he realized he loved Adlar had my heart pounding. Though the best scene was where he and Adlar had first meal in bed for the first time.
Adlar was such a dynamic character. He was an assassin that didn’t take crap from anyone. But was also so tender and not afraid to show his emotions when warranted. The way he seduced Varo right from the beginning all the way through to the end of the story was so dang sexy. I adored seeing Adlar grow throughout the story. His priorities change and his outlook on friendships evolves the longer he knows Varo.
I loved the world Ms. Church created. I got lost here and desperately want to go back. I really want to see more stories with these characters and some of them to get their own happy endings. There’s so much going on between the worlds and on each of the planets that I could easily spend multiple books here and be happy.
The way the relationship between Varo and Adlar developed was amazing. It wasn’t quite a slow burn, more of a medium burn. But you cold see it building and both of their feelings growing slowly. By the end you could tell they’d make it long term. They’d both do everything in their power to overcome any obstacles in their path.
Four and a half
A low moan came from Varo.
“Come on, then, open your eyes.” Adlar lowered Varo to the ground.
Varo’s eyes twitched, then he slowly blinked them open. “Who… who…?”
Adlar saw the confusion. His grin was as sharp as a knife’s blade as he stared into brown eyes—big, beautifully rich brown eyes. There was no doubt now this was the same Yesri he’d spoken with earlier during negotiations. By some odd twist in genetics, the males of the ruling Yesri family had brown eyes. They were the only ones. All other Yesris either had green or blue eyes.
Adlar waited until Varo focused on him. “Greetings, Prince Varo Kutchif of Yesri.”
“Wh-what? Why am I lying down? You’re using the Universal Language Standard to speak to me, right? You sound funny. Or is it me? And how… how do you know my…. You look like…. Who are you?”
“I’m Adlar Mondur, leader of the D’noir and older brother to King Omori, ruler of Helkan.”
“Helkan? But… how’d I get here?” Varo sat up.
Adlar grasped Varo’s chin. “My dear princeling, you crash-landed on my planet, remember?”
“I… I… yes?” Varo clenched his eyes shut and then opened them again. “Yes, that’s right. I had to make…. Oh goddess! You! I remember you.”
“Excellent. I claim you as my prisoner.”
“P-p-prisoner?” Varo stuttered.
He watched as the confusion cleared and… was that fear in those eyes? How delightful. “I’m sure you know my people do not release our prisoners.”
Adlar smiled at Varo, letting his fangs show. He’d prepared himself for many reactions; he wasn’t ready for Varo to headbutt him. The force of the blow rocked him backward, breaking his grip on Varo.
“Oh frack!” Adlar yelled as he sprawled on the ground. Pain exploded in his face, spreading quickly.
Varo was on his feet and running.
From off to the side, he heard a rolling chuff. He lifted his hand and gently touched the tender, swollen area. He bet a bruise was already forming. He glared at Dar. “Too busy laughing at me to help, I take it?”
Dar yawned, showing off huge canines. He licked his lips, his whiskers twitching as he stared in the direction Varo fled. Then he laid his head between his paws.
Well, he had his answer. “Fine!” Snarling, Adlar launched to his feet and stumbled slightly as he followed Varo. Maybe his head wasn’t as hard as he thought.
Even with the pounding in his ears, he could still hear the harsh breathing of Varo as he crashed through the jungle. And crash he did since Varo couldn’t see as well as Adlar could. Adlar needed to end this before Varo broke a leg or something.
“Stop!” Adlar yelled. Then a new thought hit him. “All this noise will draw predators straight to you!”
Receiving no answer, he dug deep, pushing his body to move faster. That was his prey, and when he caught Varo, he was going to…. A sudden flash of purple streaked past him. Oh, so now the temperamental batar decided to help?
Adlar growled as Dar’s long strides ate up the ground as he closed in on Varo… then flew past him. He didn’t bother to question why Dar bypassed Varo—the irritating feline must have a reason.
M.A. Church is a true Southern belle who spent many years in the elementary education sector. Now she spends her days lost in fantasy worlds, arguing with hardheaded aliens on far-off planets, herding her numerous shifters, or trying to tempt her country boys away from their fishing poles. It’s a full time job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it!
When not writing, she’s on the back porch tending to the demanding wildlife around the pond in the backyard. The ducks are very outspoken. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and they have two grown children.
She is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
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