I received an ARC copy of this book, but this in no way affects my review. This review is voluntary.
Elemental Conflict takes a different approach than Steel’s previous works. This book focuses almost entirely on Ilan and Anst as the events from the previous two books start coming to a head. The action switches between them and two other characters from Elemental Affinity. I enjoyed the increased focus on Anst and Ilan, and the switch between them and the Affinity characters was done well.
This book does a decent job of explaining what happened in the earlier novels and how it relates to Ilan’s current situation, but there are a few small holes. Reading the earlier books in the series does make things clearer. Plus, they’re good books and you should read them anyway.
Since much of the story revolves around Ilan and Anst learning to deal with and coming to terms with what’s happened to them, it’s important that the interplay between the two works. Elemental Conflict delivers on that front. Neither character overshadows the other, and they have good chemistry together. Anst does fade into the background a little from time to time, but he definitely gets his moments.
The pace does change a little abruptly near the end. Presumably, this sets up the next story, but the sudden shift back into cloak-and-dagger politics at the end felt a bit out of place after the climactic event of the story.
Overall, Steel’s newest release was a great read. ∞
J.C. Steel’s second novel in her Cortii series takes everything that made Through the Hostage good and improves on it: pacing, characters, everything. Through the Hostage was a good book, but Fighting Shadows shines.
The story returns to Khyria Ilan and Wildcat Cortia. Now no longer trainees, Khyria has to rebuild her depleted unit while still fending off her enemies both political and physical. The political machinations of the various Cortii and their ruling body is a little impenetrable at first, but everything starts falling into place quickly. The story itself divides into 3 points of view: Khyria and her subordinates Anst and Taiva, each with their own quirks of personality and flavor. Doing this always creates the risk that one storyline will rise above the others, but that didn’t happen here. Each line is personal enough to be unique, but none outshine any of the others.
The relationships between the characters are brought into more focus with this entry. The seeds sown in Through the Hostage start bearing fruit here. We get some more glimpses into Khyria’s past, her relationships with her subordinates and her rivals, and fellow POV characters Taiva and Anst get similar building. There are a few foibles: I personally found Taiva’s hard-headedness more irritating than endearing (admittedly this is just my opinion and to each their own) and somewhere Khyria developed a Batman-like ability to always be standing in shadows before stepping into the light. I personally found Anst’s more espionage-esque story the most engaging, but I was never bored with any of them.
Between the main story arc and the individual arcs of the characters, Fighting Shadows weaves a very good story. I heartily recommend taking a look if you’re in the market for some new sci-fi. ∞
A mystery tale with a number of twists, Unravelled takes you into the point of view of just about everyone involved: the victim, the stalker, a brief glimpse into the police, everyone. It’s a welcome change from stories that just focus on one or the other even if it can be difficult to get into the shoes of some of the parties.
The perfect life of the story’s victim felt a little oversold at times, but that will vary from reader to reader. But it does help to drive home just how much Jennifer has lost as the stalking takes hold.
The early part of the story is somewhat slow, but the story really finds its legs at around the halfway point. The motivations of all the characters start to crystallize there, and we can see where the story is going and just why things are developing the way they are. That’s where all the seeds of this story start to come together into one and things start getting very interesting.
While the text could’ve used another polishing run to smooth things out, the story kept me guessing and the twists and turns kept things very interesting. ∞
Overall, I enjoyed Through the Hostage, but it occasionally suffers from a lack of context. The story hangs together very well, and it creates an interesting look into at this group of mercenaries during the long stretches of story that deal with a single plot element, like the Cortia’s first mission and their final training mission. But in the in-between, things don’t always seem to click together quite like they should. There were times when I found myself asking why this event or that one was important. I knew why the event was happening, but found myself wondering where these people came from and in one or two instances why they cared so much.
The characters were well-developed and interesting to follow, though I would have liked a little more background on the main character. She starts off the story self-destructive, but we’re only given glimpses of how she got there and we’re left to puzzle out the rest.
The setting is richly detailed with constant glimpses at a galaxy full of entities and peoples often at odds with one another. It’s great incentive to explore more. Overall the story has its ups and downs, but with markedly more ups. It’s a worthwhile read for someone looking for a quick sci-fi jaunt and or for delving into a new series. And I’m interested to see where Steel takes Book 2. ∞