Merq and Armise have been called back to the States after their attempts to eliminate all the remaining Committee members. When they return they find things aren’t going as well with the Revolution as they had hoped. The war seems to be taking a toll on the leadership, Neveed and the president in particular. Groups they thought were allies seem to be turning against them, the jacquerie has disappeared and the PsychHAgs have returned, and the Opposition is making more headway in destroying Revolution infrastructure than they had anticipated. Even worse, there seems to be a lack of confidence in the president’s decisions and Merq is left not quite knowing who to trust.
Merq thought the one person he could count on was Armise, but now he is forced to question his lover’s loyalty as well. What if Armise never loved Merq as he claimed, and all of this was part of a plot to empower the Opposition? Merq has finally let his guard down and opened himself up to being more than just a solitary soldier following orders. He has let himself form a bond and a partnership with Armise that has changed the way he looks at the war and his role as a soldier. But if Armise isn’t there for him anymore, Merq may now be left to flounder on his own.
Powerless is the third book in S.A. McAuley’s fascinating The Borders War series, and it fits perfectly as the middle book in this series. While the first two stories built and solidified the relationship between Merq and Armise, here things get changed up again, leaving Merq to question what he has be led to believe about his lover. Things are in turmoil and this story represents a turning point, both within the war and their relationship. This is really a transition story as we see the leadership changing, the mission shifting, and the relationship between the men adapting. I think McAuley really sets things up nicely here to move the series into the final two books.
In Powerless, Merq and Armise find themselves separated for a lot of the book. This isn’t usually something I love in my series, but I think it works well here. Merq really needs time to figure himself out and to understand his feelings, and that is hard to do when Armise is around. This story ends with the guys stronger than ever, but it takes time for them to get there. Once again we are in Merq’s POV and we follow along his journey as he figures out what he wants and slowly learns what is happening around him. I like that this controlled POV means we only really understand the big picture as Merq does, and so we can feel his confusion as he faces these changes and must figure out who to trust. It is something that has worked really well in previous books and I think it adds intensity to the series.
I am really enjoying The Borders War series and I think this is another great installment. This is not an easy series and it requires some thinking to follow along with the twists and turns, and I really like that it can be challenging for the reader. There aren’t many 100% likable characters here, but they are always fascinating, and McAuley does a great job unveiling their feelings and motivations as the story continues. So this is a series I am really enjoying and one I would definitely recommend.