Agent Jonathan Gray is in a dark place. After the events of the past few months, he’s questioning everything he once stood for. He believed in the Commonwealth, but now he sees it as pointless. When an opportunity presents itself, Jonathan takes a chance, goes against protocol, and heads out on an unsanctioned mission. And just because Xin is the one who brought it to him doesn’t mean anything.
Once hired by Agent Gray to find a wayward MMI, or wizard in the vernacular, Xin has now gone to Jonathan for help. He has another MMI in his custody, though Ebba is far from good. But Xin believes her when she tells him of Parima, the planet that wasn’t destroyed when the Singularity tried to wipe out humanity more than 150 years ago. But he needs Jonathan’s help if he intends to get there. Their intense sexual attraction has nothing to do with it.
But things go wrong, and Xin and Jonathan are stranded with nothing but each other and Jonathan’s survival knowledge to keep them alive. They have a plan to get back to the village that cast them out, but it will take time. And Jonathan’s despair, and his lack of regard for his own life, plagues them. When Xin finally gets him to open up, things begin to take a better turn. As the two of them rely on each other for survival, their feelings deepen and grow.
Jonathan and Xin make it out, but things aren’t quite as they left them. It’s so much more complicated than they thought. But they’ve been saving each other since they were stranded, and they continue to do so, even when it seems like it will do no good. The love they’ve found with each other will see them through whatever life brings them.
I was excited for this third installment in the Mind + Machine series, having loved the first two. Dare continues to show prowess, the narrative is tight, the plot perfectly paced, and the characters shine as they grow and change. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one, as both the MCs have shown up previously and I couldn’t quite see how the law abiding agent could work with the charming, law breaking bounty hunter. But Dare works magic with these characters and plot, and I was wholly invested from the beginning. I will say that this book, more than the other two, stands alone well. At first I was having to search my memory for the plots of the first two in order to fill in the blanks in the very beginning. But I quickly realized that it didn’t matter overly much, because as I said, this one stands alone. However I will say this entire series is great, and having read them all definitely gives it a little something extra.
When we first meet Jonathan in the other books, we see him as a strict rule follower who tows the company line. We see that here as well, but we also see how haunted he is. Though we aren’t privy to the reasoning at first, the author does a fantastic job of showing us exactly where Jonathan’s mental state is. It was clear he needs help, and equally as clear that Xin, with his charm and outlook, is exactly the person to help him.
Xin is more complex than he first appears, but at the same time, what you see is what you get. He’s been surviving for a long time, even thriving, and he’s got a great attitude about it all. I mean that sincerely. He’s well aware of what his situation is and how life is out in space, and he is adept at taking care of himself. He is, perhaps, a bit selfish, but one needs to be to survive in the places he frequents. But he also has a heart, particularly where Jonathan is concerned, and I loved the way these guys worked together.
There’s a good deal of forced proximity in this book, and I’ll be honest and say it’s one of my favorite tropes when done well. Dare handles it with a deft hand and I was fully engaged with the MCs as they were stranded and alone. Of course, they catch feelings while in this situation, but again, it was so believable that they would take the next step. Their chemistry and compatibility is off the charts
So there’s a lot going on in this book, but it was paced so well that it flowed seamlessly. I don’t want to say too much in regards to the plot, both because it would be impossible to cover it all in a review and because giving too much away would ruin things. Instead, I will just say that there are a lot of layers, some of which were begun in earlier books, but that are fully developed here. The world this author has created continues to shine and develop, adding another layer to this story.
All in all, this one was another winner for me. The bleakness of life in space, the hope it can engender, and the reality of the situation all play their part. Not to mention, we have two great characters who change and grow throughout the story, all while falling in love. This book, and this series, is definitely a recommended read.