The third and, alas, final book in the Dalí Tamereia Mission series, picks up some time after the second book ended. Dalí, Rion, and the rest of the Thunder Child’s crew have been assigned to Mars to help track down highly illegal and addictive drugs being smuggled into Sol Fed. While it’s good and necessary work, it’s also frustrating. In the past three years since terrorists caused the death of Dalí’s husband and wife, they find themselves no closer to an answer. Skadi, the person who is currently the most likely cause of all of their pain and grief, has slipped through every net cast out to catch her and remains at large. And they’re here, chasing down drug dealers, getting drunk and wasting time.
When an assassin sent to kill Dalí and their local partner recognizes Dalí — more than that, recognizes them as a Remoliad secret agent —it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a lead, however faint, and while their cover has been blown, they can now, hopefully, get back to what needs to be done. Finding and killing Skadi.
But tracking Skadi down means returning to Luna, where their family died. To old friends and old memories, to ghosts of pain and loss and madness. This time, Dalí isn’t alone. They have a crew — friends, really — and Rion Sumner. Rion who is an empathic null; Rion who Dalí can’t read with their empathic gift. Rion who Dalí might just be falling in love with.
I have loved every book in this series. Dalí’s struggle with rage, grief, and loss; their kindness and compassion to the Shontavians; and their unflinching honesty is on full display in this book. For the longest time, Dalí drowned themselves in anything that would numb their mind and heart. Drugs, drinking, sex, pain. But on Thunder Child they’ve found acceptance, patience, and healing. Friends, who know the feeling of loss; friends who are there for the tears and the laughter. They don’t replace what Dalí lost; nothing can do that. But they can be there. And they are.
Dalí is a third gender, someone with no set physical gender. If their partner wants female sexual organs, Dalí can do that, shifting their body to present breasts and a vulva. If their partner wants male sexual organs, Dalí can do that, too. In times of stress, their body can grow more muscle, shift for greater flexibility and strength. Add to that their empathic gift, and Dalí is an extraordinary lover, able to conform to and respond to what their partner wants, able to be what their partner wants. With Rion, though, it’s different. As a null, Dalí can’t read Rion at all.
“I don’t want to be just another one of your sex partners. I want more, and I don’t know what you’re able to give.”
It stung, but he was right. “What do we do about it?”
“Take it a step at a time. Most people talk when they need to know something.” He gave me a half-smile. “I’m sorry you can’t cheat and see what I feel, but I guess that gives us even footing to start.”
The sensation in my chest was close to terror, tangled in loneliness and want and all the messy, unsorted emotions still littering the floor of my psyche. “It might be tricky.”
“Complicated,” he agreed. “I don’t want to jeopardize our working relationship or the team’s dynamic.”
“And there’s a price on my head.”
“Now you’re just making excuses.”
For the first time, Dalí will have to deal with a lover they can’t “cheat” with. And a lover whose passion won’t shape Dalí’s own. For the first time, it’s up to Dalí what shape to take; for the first time, Dalí can focus on their own passion, their own honest and true feelings for the man without anything of Rion’s own emotions coloring their own. It’s as frightening as it is enthralling. With Rion — in bed and out — Dalí can only be Dalí, with all their snark, sass, asshollishness, and martyrdom. With all their wit, compassion, humor, and love. And it’s only part of what sells this book.
The story is a tangled weave of politics, calling back to previous books where everything Dalí said and did comes back, the good and the bad. A moment of cruelty or dismissiveness here, a thoughtless comment there, a sacrifice, a smile, all of it repaid in interesting ways. The plotting is tight and character driven, the writing is just so good, and the world and world building are so strong that I honestly regret the author won’t be continuing this as a full series (though they did mention the possibility of novellas.)
This book really needs to be read as a complete trilogy. I promise you, it’s worth it. This series is one I’ll probably revisit when I’m in the mood for a dramatic space opera, with heroic rescues, evil villains, and charismatic heroes. This final book in the series was worth the wait and I hope you give it a try. Oh, and expect to see this book again in my year end Best of 2022 list!