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Jess Granger

REVIEW:  Beyond the Shadows by Jess Granger

REVIEW: Beyond the Shadows by Jess Granger

Beyond the Shadows by Jess GrangerDear Ms. Granger,

Let’s face it: I love romance in space, having to do with space, or having the element of the alien (and I don’t mean Sigourney Weaver Alien). Nowadays it seems particularly hard to get past all of the vamps and shifters and move off (or into the future/alternate past/Star Wars) of this planet. Beyond the Shadows starts out in just the right place: a bar in a spaceport with a pissed off woman used to being in command:

“I am not going to pay some rankock-licking Earthlen scum for passage on a junked-together freight hauler that doesn't even look capable of flying through the atmosphere shield. When will another ship arrive?"

If Commander Yara wasn’t quite so desperate to get back to her home planet Azra, she probably would have given more than a passing thought to the fact that a major base only had one trade ship docked. However, Yara is next in line for the throne of Azra, a position she’s been training for from birth, and is willing to take whatever transport is available. She’s on a mission to prevent a war from breaking out on Azra, and Cyn is on a mission to get a war started.

Along with the other Azralen rebels, Cyn is determined to see change come to his home planet. He’s disgusted with the ruling Elite and their treatment of the lower classes. Disguised as an Earthlen trader, Cyn’s job is to keep Yara from Azra just long enough for the revolution to start. He’s immediately attracted to Yara but delights in playing the uncaring Earthlen trader that doesn’t need or want to respect her authority.

"Listen, you . . ."
"Rankock-licking Earthlen scum?" He tilted his head as he watched her. "I'll concede the Earthlen scum bit, but I draw the line at rankock licking. Licking rankocks isn't my idea of a good time, Pix."
[...] "I don't know who you think you are, but I am still a commander on this base. You will address me as such or I'll watch you rot in confinement for a week."
The corner of his mouth twitched as he took another drink. "Yes, sir."
He placed the glass back on the table, never once breaking his eye contact. "I'm sorry. I don't take on passengers. You're out of luck." He leaned back into the shadows, giving her a reprieve from his gaze.
"Everyone has a price," she hissed, unable to contain her ire. Did he think he could just dismiss her? "Name yours."

Yara and Cyn’s tension-filled exchanges don’t stop at the spaceport. They constantly grapple for the upper hand, and Cyn comes to respect Yara in a way he didn’t expect, making his deception even more difficult than it already was. As they go on a space-roadtrip of sorts, the worldbuilding is incredibly strong, with shady (and disgusting) slave traders operating outside of Union boundaries, secondary characters that I can’t wait to read more about (I’m thinking of you Xan and Maxen) and richly drawn and described planets.

I don’t want to give too much away for those that are planning on reading this, the plotline builds strongly from each step in the story. Yara is an incredibly strong character, but she’s naïve in nearly everything but the world of the Azralen Elite. The trip back to Azra opens her eyes to the universe around her, but doesn’t diminish her character or personality. Cyn is in a mess of his own making. Unable to reveal who he is to Yara, but unwilling to stay away from her, he realizes that she isn’t the Elite machine he believed her to be. To prevent Azra from collapsing under its own weight, Cyn knows that there must be change, and that change could end up costing lives.

The emotional and plot-based twists and turns in the last third of the book had me questioning how all of the issues were going to be resolved. There is no simple bow tied up on an “I love you”; while a few things are left by the wayside (perhaps to be picked up in the next book in the series), all of the major issues are addressed head-on and the end is as exciting as one could hope for a futuristic space opera. I am going back to read Beyond the Rain, the first in the series. B+

~Shuzluva

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This is a trade paperback published by Berkley. It is not available in digital form that I can find except for in the iBookstore.

Dear Author

REVIEW: Beyond the Rain by Jess Granger

Dear Ms. Granger:

I didn’t have Beyond the Rain as a recommended read this month just becauseit was a science fiction romance but it did play a part.   There are few of these types of books published within the genre.   You did a great job of creating not just one different culture but two and allowing those two cultures to provide the conflict for the romance.

Captain Cyani is on her final mission for the Union. She is to rescue the Union soldiers and when she returns to her planet, Azra, she can resign and live a life of isolated meditation. Yet even as Cyani longs for peace, she is conflicted about being alone.   The portrayal of Cyani as a loner was a bit odd given that she had been part of an elite military team and had devoted troops under her.   “She’d done her best to keep them safe in the five years they’d fought together.”   Did she not consider her comrades as friends, brothers and sisters in arms?

As Captain Cyani gathers up the soldiers, one other unknown prisoner is found in the compound by her pet and scout, a fox named Vicca.   Cyani can’t leave until she gets Vicca because Vicca’s collar holds sensitive information.   Upon entering the far part of the compound, Cyani finds a naked man chained to the wall, obviously the subject of great torture.   She finds that she cannot leave him there to suffer further torture at the hands of the Garulen.   According to her com, the life form is a Byralen.   The com has sketchy information for her.   Byralen have dark stripes on their shoulders and arms and have hair streaked with different shades.   Contact is to be avoided if possible because prolonged contact with a Byralen can lead to “altered states of consciousness.”

Soren was captured years ago, so long that he cannot remember, and held prisoner of the Garulen.   He has been drugged with stimulants, almost constantly, so that a hormone that his body produces can be harvested. The hormone is the basis of a drug the Garulen manufacture, a highly addictive drug.   The Byralen produce this hormone when in physical contact with their spouse or mate. It makes them fertile and is part of their natural reproduction methods.   Because Soren has been drugged and unnaturally producing the hormone, without the drug, Soren’s Byralen body will fail him.

More is learned about the Byralens as we progress into the book. In fact, part of the mystery is who and what they are and how Soren came to be abducted.

World building strongly affected the conflict.   Cyani was from a warring nation but a peacekeeper, nonetheless. Her lifestyle was completely different than Soren’s, a people of nurturers, healing, and growth.   Cultural differences are great sources of discord and can provide both emotional tension but also comic relief.   Her advanced technology tells Cyani a few things about the Byralen people including that their eyes can hypnotize you and that they emit sexual pheromones that contain highly addictive properties.   When Cyani begins to have a sexual response to Soren, something she’s never felt before, she believes it is because of his pheromones and when she can’t stop thinking about his body and the way that he feels, she believes that she is becoming addicted to him.   It was interesting and amusing to see how the incomplete intelligence her people had on the Byralen kept leading her to wrong assumptions (and convenient excuses). It also showed how incomplete intelligence could create massive misunderstandings between disparate cultures in a much more dangerous way.

There are only a few sex scenes in the book but I really loved how intricately they were intertwined with the storyline.   The first sex scene was quite beautiful given that it is a revelatory experience for Cyani who had not experienced the loving touch of another being for so long.

I did think that the book moved a bit slow at times as you carefully detailed the world.   I would have liked a bit more action and less introspection.   While I appreciated the specificity of the different cultures, I think it was almost too descriptive at times. Further, toward the end, a secondary character was introduced and this tangent was clearly for sequel building.

I was disappointed at the ending.   She had been a warrior and I know that she sought peace and tranquility after years of fighting but I felt that she was defanged a bit.   This was due, in part, to the fact that her desire for peace and a life away from battle wasn’t emphasized enough in the latter chapters. That goal that seemed prominent in the introduction fell away with part of the suspense and seemed at odds with her instinctive desire to protect and defend, particularly given the revelations that come to light.

This is an accessible science fiction romance and for those who love in depth world building centered around a romance, it’s a good read.   I wish it weren’t in trade so that it would be financially more accessible to others.   B-

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon. No ebook yet.