Rating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Jon Thomsin was signed over to the Daranii as part of Earth’s surrender. The elf-like captors will torture Jon for three, long, excruciating days full of pain, pain, and nothing but pain. At the end of those days, Jon is free — as free as a prisoner of war can be — to live among the Daranii, never to return home again, never to see his family or even another human again.

Things on the new planet aren’t quite what he expected, though. There’s a house of his own, cooking lessons, books to read, and language lessons with his doctor, Calal, and his friend, Dulan. And even a bit of a romance with Talin, the warrior who oversaw his torture, who — between one day and the next — has learned to forgive Jon for the loss of his parents, the loss of so many Daranii lives, and accept that he and Jon might have a chance at something special between them.

This is the first book in the Daranii Justice series and, to be honest, it feels like a bit of a bait and switch. The blurb mentioned a war between an alien race and Earth, and a captain who managed to score a hit with guerilla attacks, who was a hero for humans and a devil to the Daranii. I expected what the blurb offered. Instead, I was given what felt like an entirely different type of story set in no particular location with no real characters. To start with, the world building is almost completely threadbare. What little there is of the Darenii culture is confused and both poorly explained and poorly put together, with all of the story’s focus being on the two main characters.

Jon doesn’t come across as angry, upset, or possessing much emotion at all throughout the book. He seems to accept being the one and only human prisoner of war and being cast off by Earth much as he accepts eating breakfast or the sun rising. He has no reactions and takes no actions. The plot of the story is something that happens to him, never because of him, and he feels like just a leaf in the wind and without much personality. When he reacts with politeness to his torturers, is it a ploy for their sympathy? Is he reacting to a warrior culture’s idea of honor? Is he using this as a way to keep himself from caving in to pain and fear? We get no real sense of him or his motivation.

Talis, for all that he comes from an alien culture and is a figure of rank and power, is no better. He is a member of the Daranii warrior caste system — I’m guessing here, because I don’t know what Warrior, Artisan, and Hierarchs actually are or what they do or how the Daranii people work. All I know is that there is a council, that they have present-day Earth level technology (and space ships), and look like elves. Talis is a source of exposition, moved around to facilitate the plot without being given much personality. He’s angry because Jon killed his parents when he blew up a ship filled with what I’m guessing are noncombatants? It’s never mentioned beyond the first chapter, so I have no idea if the loss of children on this ship means something to anyone. But then Talis forgives Jon because Jon saves a child from being hit by a car. This mentioned in a passing conversation; the event itself isn’t shown in the story. And then Talis falls in love.

The author’s writing style is spare and simplistic, relying heavily on telling and exposition, which leads to info dumps and conversations with no emotional weight of any kind. Talis and Jon have the same voice, speak in the same style, fall in love in the same second, and I believed none of it. I was unable to feel any connection to the characters, and so when the stakes were raised, I didn’t care what happened to Jon. I was unable to find a touchstone of any kind in this story, any sense of place or genre other than Jon and Talis loved each other because the story is a love story; that they’d die for each other because that’s what people in love with each other do.

This story isn’t one I recommend and I will not be continuing this series.

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