Albion is a human colony that’s under attack from an alien race called the Maess that seem to use cybernetic enhancements to become better warriors. Humanity’s fighting a losing war. To prevent defeat, accurate intel is needed. Enter Bennet, a Shield Captain, who must go behind enemy lines into enemy territory to steal valuable information about the Maess movements. And he has to remain unseen for the plan to work.
Bennet has a kind of a long-distance relationship with his long-term boyfriend Joss who is not part of Shield and is a lot older than him. Part of that, I think, is explained by Bennet’s complicated daddy issues. In any case, due to their long separations Bennet and Joss have a sort of an understanding. Enter Flynn, the finest pilot on the Gyrfalcon—which also happens to be Bennet’s father’s ship. Bennet is ordered there to finish his intel-gathering mission.
First and foremost, this is less a gay romance or even a ménage a trois than this is an epic science fiction story. In fact, if I were to classify this into one genre, I’d choose sci fi epic where the main characters just happen to be gay. Also of important note is that this ends in a cliffhanger, as this is only the first in a series. So if you’re patient, by all means read this now; if you want to engage in the full series, you might have to wait a while. Even relationship-wise this is more a HFN than a HEA, as Bennet and Flynn come together at a time and place that is not conducive to their romance. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a romance, but rather a casual fling that could become more but stronger forces pull the two men apart before they can figure stuff out.
This tale has more good than bad, but it does have both. Let’s get the negative out of the way first. A lot is left to the imagination, such as why humans fled from Earth to Albion or how faster-than light space travel works. The first is not a big problem, though I did want to know way more than was given. The second is a sci fi staple and therefore should have definitely warranted an explanation or two, even if for a line or a paragraph. That omission, though there are spaceships, made this feel less sci fi than it was. Some world-building details just shouldn’t be overlooked. There are also some odd dialogue choices, like “he said” and “said he” spoken in one paragraph after another. One seems old-fashioned, the other modern. One way should have been chosen beforehand and then the writing should have stuck with it. But that’s a subjective peeve. Plus, as I mentioned before, there’s the cliffhanger ending, which some might find a turn-off.
Shield, the organization to which Bennet belongs, is like a mashup of a variety of familiar groups, like the Navy Seals and other commandos, and even resistance fighters. Since Star Wars, anyone can make the connection to rebel forces against a terrible foe. The ranks are all explained, but some of the military jargon doesn’t always ring true, such as time being referred to as a.m. and p.m. instead, like, 0900 hours and such. As for the enemies, no one has ever really seen the Maess up close and personal, but their robots are well-known. I really wanted to know a lot more about them considering they’re humanity’s greatest enemy. Maybe in future stories we’ll get there.
As for characterization. Bennet is courageous, smart, more than a bit crazy in the daredevil department, but also a bit lacking in certain aspects. For example, he’s having a hard time breaking up with Joss who lives a life of luxury far from the war and wishes for Bennet to join him. Bennet can’t seem to cut the ties. The other man in the picture, Flynn, is a pilot and just as brash and wild, wicked smart, and capable as Bennet. It’s easy to see they’d be well-suited for one another—if they only manage to survive the mission. Flynn is that lovable rogue character who gambles, fights, and has sex whenever he can, and his type can be placed in any genre and make it work, while Bennet is the strong, silent type who is under the strain of his secret mission and his conflicting relationships with his father and his lover, Joss. Note: Bennet and Flynn’s affair is hot and heavy but it’s done behind Joss’s back, so if you consider this cheating, then this isn’t for you.
A continuing underlying thread in the story is the relationship between father and son. Bennet chose a long time ago to defy his father’s wishes and follow his own path. Add to that his homosexuality, and a rift was complete. Now, with Bennet’s mission on the Gyrfalcon, the two are forced to work together. And that in forces them to make new choices, if not quite making up for lost time. Nonetheless, this parent-sibling relationship was and continues to be a source for interesting storylines, especially considering the father’s harsh attitudes toward homosexuality.
There’s plenty of action and intrigue in the storyline. The plot twists revolve around Bennet’s mission. The first part of the story is a kind of an info-dump; there’s a lot of tech-babble and information about the Fleet and the Shield, plus quite a few people are introduced early on. But once Bennet gets onboard the Gyrfalcon, the plot pace quickens and the side characters come into play. They’re all their own personalities, and they all serve the plot by aiding Bennet in completing his mission. In fact, the majority of the story revolves around planning for the mission and figuring out who to trust to take along to the mission, and so forth. Since this mission could turn the tide of war and because this is only the first book in the series, it’s understandable that so much time is spent on it and that though the mission itself will get completed, the war still rages on.
Overall, the story is quite compelling and draws you in to this fascinating world. If you like lots of different kinds of spaceships in your sci fi stories, then this is absolutely for you. If you like realistic, relatable characters that will make you laugh, curse, and sob for them, then this is definitely for you. The writing is engrossing to the point you feel immersed into this dangerous world. The battle and fight descriptions are particularly well shown, but I did want to learn a lot more about the Maess. As is, this is a wonderful start to a new, apparently quite long sci fi series with a lot to offer. Anna Butler is an author whose writing I’ve come to like and appreciate, and I’ve got my eye on her future works.