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REVIEW:  Slip Point by Karalynn Lee

REVIEW: Slip Point by Karalynn Lee


From childhood, Shay had one dream–to join the Space Corps with her best friend and sweetheart, Jayce. When the Space Corps reveals that the father she thought was dead is actually an infamous pirate and rejects her application, the dream dies and she leaves the planet without saying a word to Jayce.

Ten years later, Shay is a pirate herself. She captains her own ship and has earned a reputation as one of the slipperiest pilots around. That’s why she’s recruited for a dangerous secret government mission. But the cargo she’s assigned to smuggle turns out to be a woman with a government bodyguard–Jayce.

Jayce never thought he’d see Shay again, and when the mission forces them together on her ship, he isn’t sure he can forgive her for deserting him; but their desire for each other is stronger than ever. Jayce knows he wants to be with Shay, but how can he trust a woman who’s both a pirate and the girl who broke his heart?

Dear Ms. Lee,

I was in the mood for something different and thought, “Now what haven’t I read in a while?” The answer was SF and doing some more thinking I remembered that I had one last novella of yours I’d bought but not read. “Slip Point” it is. I’m still looking for the magic of “Back Across the River Styx” to bewitch me again but this one is pretty darn good.

It starts by giving me a good immediate feeling for the characters, time and place. I can sense their frustration at being stuck on backwater world and of wanting off – kind of like any teenager stuck in one horse town waiting on their 18th birthday and Grayhound bus out of there. Only Shay and Jayce want the stars and the new worlds they’ll find there.

I can understand why Shay is blindsided by her true heritage and also why she raced out of the recruitment center with no word to her best friend as to why she’s leaving him. Her pride is wounded, she’s reeling from what she’s learned and she only wants to lick her wounds in peace. I was kind of looking for the mystery of how her father and mother hooked up to be explained but can see why she doesn’t want to go back to question her mother and unable to ask her father – what with everything else she has to suddenly learn.

It’s a quick defection for Shay from a potential future in the Corps to life of crime but this is a novella with a limited word count. Once she goes, she goes fast and goes after what she wants with intelligence, determination and flair. I admired her for that.

The whole set up for the scenario that brings Shay and Jayce back together is held together with cobwebs of understanding that I could follow as it was being laid out but which got convoluted the more it went on. After a while I just went with the whole thing and didn’t try to think too much about it. Both Jayce and Shay display quick thinking which I would expect from a man in the military and a woman who’s run from that military and captained her own ship for ten years.

The SF speak/tech seems believable to me but then I’m not a SF geek so YMMV. It sounds good anyway. The sprinkling of things like clones and Shay’s awe at the unknown mysteries of the aliens helped me believe in this world too. And it’s got humor as well. When Jayce and Shay infiltrate a medical center and Shay kicks some ass, Jayce seems a little stunned at her capability.

The orderly made strangled noises as her leg buckled, and she staggered. Shayalin allowed their combined weight to carry them backward a couple of steps. Then she twisted around and slammed the woman’s head into the back wall.
The orderly slid to the floor. Shayalin stood over her, panting hard. The woman didn’t move. No, there—her chest rose in a shallow breath, and Shayalin felt a rush of relief. Besides, she reminded herself, they were in a top-class medical facility. Cuoramin would patch her up.
Jayce said after a moment, “Can I kick her? Just to feel like I was part of the fight.” Beneath the attempt at humor, she could tell he really was taken aback.

The timing of the sex scene actually made some sense as the two of them were going up against the whole Corps with no guarantee of success. The LOL here helped too.

After she dropped the last article on the floor she stretched out on the bed. She was cold, naked. Goosebumps spread across her skin and her nipples hardened from the chill. He still stood by the doorway, and she propped herself up on one elbow to look at him. “Jayce?”
He crossed the room like a sleepwalker, slow but unerring. “I’ve dreamed this before,” he murmured.
“And did you let my dream-self freeze to death?”

The whole story zips along to the end. Shay and Jayce save the human world – yah! – and then finally get their own HEA due in part to Shay’s keen negotiating skills. Win/win all around. B


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GUEST REVIEW: Ten Ruby Trick by Julia Knight

GUEST REVIEW: Ten Ruby Trick by Julia Knight

A while ago I mentioned some troubles with a DRMed book I got at Diesel Books in one of Dear Author’s open threads for readers. I tried everything in my power to open it but failed, the nice people at Diesel Customer Service weren’t able to help me, so I just gave up on it. A little later I got contacted both by Julia Knight and Carina Press, offering me a working copy of Ten Ruby Trick, to compensate for the one I couldn’t open.

Since I think this speaks well for Carina Press’ customer service, but mostly because I liked the book so much, I asked Jane if I could do a guest review, to make the circle round. And here we are!

Dear Mrs. Knight,

Ten Ruby Trick Julia KnightAfter the trouble with opening your book, I gave up. You were a new author to me, and I didn’t feel motivated anymore to pursue it. I was pleasantly surprised when you contacted me, but also a little worried I wouldn’t like the book after all these troubles. Lucky, the opposite was true. I loved it.

Ten Ruby Trick is a wonderful mix of fantasy, swashbuckling adventure and romance. I think it’s more a fantasy with strong romantic elements than a true fantasy romance, mostly because the romance doesn’t follow standard romance tropes at all. We meet Van Gast and Josie in the middle of their relationship, and we know that Van loves her from the first chapter on. The love he feels for her (and his insecurity about her feelings) is definitely one of the moving forces in the story, but it isn’t the plot. Likewise, while there’s a Happy Ending, it has to do with the main plotline (which I don’t want to spoil here, because discovering what it’s all about is one of the appealing things about this book), and the romantic conflict is solved fairly quickly.

It was very refreshing to read a novel from the hero’s POV, and a hero who admits his feelings to himself at that. Van Gast is a racketeer famous for his way with the ladies, his success at pirating, and his little-magicks that warn him of trouble. He was a delightful hero thanks to his view on life, his devotion to his love for Josie, and his joy in being a racketeer. The sections where he had to run, best an adversary or fight where amongst the most enjoyable parts of the book.

If there was a choice between the sensible-but-dull thing and the stupid-but-exciting thing, Van Gast would say “fuck it” and do the stupid thing every time. Life was too short for dull and sensible when exciting was so much more fun.

He’s also known for his hatred of Josie, and their fights are famous amongst all racketeers. Only that hatred is a scam invented by the both of them, which results Van being unable to confess his feelings to anyone. It doesn’t help that Josie is a very elusive woman, always slipping away, and very guarded with her emotions.

 She grinned her lopsided grin at him, the one that always made his stomach flip. The one that meant she was going to kill you, rob you or take you to bed. He was never sure, from one moment to the next, which it would be.

Josie was the stupid-but-exciting thing, the never-quite-in-his-grasp thing that always kept him coming back for more, kept him from taking the tumbles of others, even though freely offered, even though it was expected of him, of any racketeer.

Josie is strong willed, courageous and brave, a little scarred by her past, but very, very loyal. You can’t help but feel anything but admiration for her during her struggles. Even though I loved reading from Van’s POV, I wouldn’t have minded to see more of her POV at all.

When Josie goes missing there’s no one Van Gast can turn to, since he’s supposed to rejoice about it, and it makes for a very interesting conflict.

The blurb doesn’t do this book justice at all. Everything that’s in it is true, but it fails to point out the book’s strong points, like how awesome and strong Josie is. But worst of all, it barely mentions the original (and OH SO CREEPY) magic system, which is responsible for one of the meatier antagonists I’ve read in a while. In fact, he’s more of a anti-hero than a true villain, and I think it’s strange Holden isn’t mentioned in the blurb.

From the opening scene on, his situation turns your stomach, and you can’t help but root for his freedom and the destruction of the mage-bound that binds him to do as told. Even when that freedom comes at the cost of Van Gast and Josie’s life. It’s been a while since I’ve been as torn up as a reader who to root for, and just like the characters, I didn’t see a way out where everyone would be alive and free. I think that takes great skill as a storyteller, and I’m in awe of what you did here.

Holden’s storyline is responsible for the more emotional part of the book. Sympathy, pity, despair, betrayal, and a whole lot of anger; Holden caused quite the roller-coaster of emotions, and at one point I really felt suckerpunched.

The side characters were well established as well. The Master, the true villain of the book, was incredibly creepy and despicable, covered in shiny crystals he might be. Skrymir was a great sidekick, and I wouldn’t mind reading more about the Gan, who seemed like a cross between Vikings and George Martins’ Dothraki. Likewise, a story about Quint, the information gathering pimp woman would definitely interest me as well. I just haven’t had enough of this world.

There are a couple of things that kept this from an A rating. I wouldn’t have minded an epilogue – the resolution of the romantic conflict, while fitting to the characters, wasn’t entirely satisfying, it was a little too quick for that. The editing wasn’t as tight as it could have been at some places, there were a couple of sentences here and there that felt strange to me. I smelled one particular plotline from miles away, so that twist wasn’t a surprise for me as much as it was for Van Gast. And I can’t help but prefer love stories with a little more steam.

(Did love the strong language and blood-spilling though, you didn’t hold back on those points at all, and it fitted the story and characters perfectly)

Ten Ruby Trick might seem a typical swashbuckling romance at first, but it’s so much more. It’s a story about first love, old lovers and new lovers. It’s as much a story about freedom and what you would do for it as a story about what you would do for love. It’s a story about free choice and the dangers of Utopian societies. About trust and betrayal and a tiny bit of revenge.

There’s typhoons, bar fights, explosions, cannonfights, a whole lot of bloodloss – on the side of the good guys, bad guys and innocent bystanders. There’s whores, magicians, ambitious crew members with a personal agenda and a whole bunch of slaves who are forced to do what they don’t want to do. It’s wonderful, thrilling and exciting, and yet touched on some more serious themes between all the adventure.

I’m very grateful you contacted me and made me read it after all, because I loved it, and really want to read more books set in this marvelous world.

So thanks Julie Knight and Carina Press!


~Jan Oda

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