Regi is the only one of his kind outside of Empire-ruled space. His people are xenophobic, tribalistic, highly religious, and among the most advanced technological forces in known space. They also don’t like to share. Ships that cross their border are warned, and then removed. Either they turn around and leave of their own volition, or they are destroyed. So when Regi decided to leave home, he didn’t just leave his parents. He left his people.
Now, working on a Coalition ship as a security officer, Regi finds himself tolerated, disliked, held in some regard, viewed with suspicion, feared, and hated in equal measure. It’s difficult, but he chose to follow Poque, the goddess of wanderers, and he will follow until his goddess puts him on his final path. And it seems like he might be seeing her sooner rather than later as their ship, with its dying engines, is at the edge of a black hole.
It’s a bleak end until it isn’t. Another ship, one that isn’t supposed to be there, has parked itself at the edge of the black hole, and if Regi’s ship can find a way to cannibalize its engines — or take it over completely — there might be a way out of this, yet! But pirates aren’t the only problem. There’s an alien on the pirate ship, one no one has seen before. It has a hand with five digits, four fingers and one toe; it has a fragile breathing system, one in which both nutrients and oxygen both have the same tubes … and it’s been kept as a slave on the pirate ship. It — Dante, rather — is the only surviving member of a species that no one knew existed.
So what happens now?
Lyn Gala has a gift when it comes to writing non-human characters. Regi and the rest of the crew aren’t described in much detail, because, for Regi, they’re not anything interesting. They’re just the people he lives with in the ship he serves on. What is interesting, what does require some description, is the huuman, Dante.
Regi is thoughtful, reasonable, patient, and quick on his feet. He has to be when dealing with Dante, whose language — what filters through the translator — is a mixture of metaphor, biological functions, and hyperbole. There’s a learning curve for Regi, as he tries to make sense of Dante’s language, of how he is likely to react in any situation, and what he needs. Because Regi sees Dante as a fragile, traumatized creature, having been witness to the death of his fellow huumans, having been beaten, having been removed from his home and treated like an animal.
Dante, needless to say, is far from a shrinking violet. In fact, he’s taken to the whole aliens thing pretty well, hiding behind bravado and bluster and a very go-with-the -flow approach to his new life. He’s also aware he’s not likely to ever seem home again, since no one on the ship — no one in the records, either — has ever seen or heard of anything like him. The only one he has anything in common with is Regi. Dante’s mother was Catholic, and while he’s not overly religious, he’s not not a believer, and when talking to Regi, who is deeply religious, Dante is willing to lend an ear. Their friendship grows slowly; the two share a common interest in learning more about each other, though Regi doesn’t get Dante’s humor at all.
The blurb for the book mentions Dante catching feelings, but none of that is in the book, itself. Neither from Regi nor from Dante, so don’t go into this expecting a romance here. Expect, instead, phenomenal world building, an interesting look at religion and culture, excellent writing, tight pacing, and a very astute character in Regi — whose POV we follow through the whole book. Now, this is the first in a series, so the romance may well build up in the next book. Only time will tell.
And time always passes slowly when you’re waiting for the next book in a series! I truly enjoyed this book and for any other sci-fi fans who want a Star Trek feel with philosophy, religion and a look at complex and creative cultures that span galaxies, pick up this book. Then join me for the wait for book two.