Friday, November 2, 2012

The Fall of the Altairan Empire

The Fall of the Altairan Empire. Book One: Book Two: Priestess of the Eggstone

In full disclosure I won the second book in this series in a Goodreads giveaway.

Nexus Point

Synopsis: Dace crashlands on a primitive planet.It is strictly off-limits to unauthorized personal and a non-ininterference policy is enforced. The natives believe she is a demon from the sky and attempt to kill her, at least some of the undercover agents on the planet are smuggling drugs off the planet and will kill Dace to keep her quiet. Her only hope is convincing a Patrol agent that she really is innocent and that she can help him catch the real criminals.

Review: The story itself is good, it is not a typical sci-fi story but it’s not totally original either. You can see the influences from traditional sci-fi shows such as Star Wars and Star Trek.

The language is fairly simple, that’s not to say it is bad, just not elegant or elaborate and we are only told the bare facts and not any additional information. While it makes the book less stimulating it also makes it a quick and easy read.

There were a few times where the story would jump forward in time suddenly, this could be a little confusing and also made me feel like I had missed out on something. SPOILER: The most prominent of these was a time Dace is captured while she was sleeping at the Inn with Tayvis, Dace simply goes to sleep, then wakes up imprisoned. END OF SPOILER

Dace was an okay main character, my main problem was that she spends most of the book being carried and pushed around (both literally and figuratively) by all the other characters in the book. She will get picked up by one group, who are either mean or nice to her, then something will happen (typically an attack), Dace will then use the opportunity to escape (if the group was mean to her) or gets separated (if they were friendly), she will wander around lost for a while, then she will get found by another group and the whole sequence starts over again, and this goes on for about two-thirds of the book.

Another problem was that she was almost useless; she doesn’t do much to help herself or her friends. It’s not until about half way through the book that she actually does something useful, then it is only to play a minor part of helping her and Tayvis escape, she then goes back to being useless. I find it hard to fully support a character like this.
Once we get to about two-thirds of the way through she starts to be stronger and she starts to do things. While it is great to see her much stronger and more interesting, unfortunately it does happen quite suddenly making it unbelievable. I did like the character she became.

She has a smart mouth on her throughout the whole book, and it was enjoyable reading some of the things she would say or think.

On two occasions the bad guys leave Dace tied up in an “inescapable” trap and leave her there completely unguarded (there is also a third occasion that she is tied up, and there are guards but they are not very well placed). All of this felt rather cheesey like the old Batman TV show where the villain would leave the hero in a trap and leave him alone to escape.

There were a few plot holes or places where characters would do something that was unbelievable, while not enough to break the story it was annoying. SPOILERS When Tayvis thought Dace had betrayed him, why would he stay at the Inn? If the academy gives well rounded training that could prepare the students for anything, why is Dace so useless for much of the book? Worst of all why would someone who accidently crash onto a quarantine planet face prison time, but someone who takes over leadership during a violent coup not face charges if they are successful? While not strictly a plot hole I did think people shifted their alliances too easily and suddenly. It was also a little convient that the Patrol had no way to contact reinforcement before Dace rescued Tayvis, then after she did he had easy access to communications after they escaped.

The final battle was a little confusing as there were a lot of names of characters that came in and out quickly and it made it hard to remember who was who, this is partly brought on by the fact there was several bad guys, most of whom have similar personalities.

I did enjoy the final part of the book where we find out what happens after the last dramatic part of the story; it was a perfect balance of tidying up the story and bringing the conclusion, while setting up the future of the series without dragging on for too long.

Despite having some problems, the story was still enjoyable.

Book Two: The Priestess of the Eggstone

Synopsis: Dace is finding trouble again, or perhaps more accurately it is finding her. She is now a transport pilot for Beliff Inc. With the opportunity of owning the ship at the end of her contract her dream of being an independent pilot is once again alive.
Dace hires Jerimon to be her co-pilot he seems better than her last one, but when they get boarded by Sessimoniss, eight foot tall lizard aliens who are demanding the return of their God in the form of an Eggstone it turns out that he is trouble after all.
Dace's problems don't end there, it turns out the company she works for is a front for the Targon Crime Syndicate and Dace has been transporting illegal weapons for them.
Their various activities soon bring them to the attention of the Patrol and our heroes are on the run from the law as well.
Dace and Jerimon are now on the run from Targon, the Patrol and the Sessimoniss in a desperate attempt to trace the Eggstone before one of the groups catch up with them.
Meanwhile Tayvis is trying to track down Dace, he still has feelings for her, but he is under orders to convince her to join the Patrol on a mission that will return her to her dreaded homeworld.

Review: I thought the writing was a lot stronger than the first book. There was much more detail included. Not only the depth of detail but how often we are giving the details. This makes the story much easier to follow and easier to visualize the world.

One small detail was lacking, and that was recapping of who characters were. A couple of people were introduced early in the book, not talked about for most of the book, when they turn up near the end of the story, I found it hard to remember who they were. It took me a couple of pages to remember who Luagin was, and I still have no idea where Leon was in the story.

There were less unwritten jumps in this book compared to the first one, when the story jumps forward in time we are given a short summary of what happens. This made the story easier to follow and didn’t leave me feeling like I missed something.

There weren’t any big plot holes in this book, and just a couple of hard to believe plot points SPOILER Dace simply being able to walk away from the Sessimoniss during the ceremony seemed unlikely. END OF SPOILER

One thing I really liked was just how dirty and grungy the world is. The characters are regularly in the engine room, getting covered in grease, scrapping their knuckles, hair covered in filth and getting bruises over their body. This makes the world see real, it reminded me of shows like Battlestar Galatica and Star Wars.

It was great seeing the various worlds in the book and they were all diverse and interesting. The Sessimoniss world was particularly interesting.

The story was a bit too romancey for me. It was also fairly clichéd; she has a fluttering heart over the men, thinks about what it would be like to kiss them, she also internalizes things rather than talk about them and plays the “guess why I am annoyed with you” game with the men.

There was a bit more humour in this book. It worked nicely adding something but without over doing it or making bad jokes.

Dace is a stronger character in this book, similar to how she ended in book one. She doesn’t get pushed around and stands up for herself. She still has a smart mouth on her. Although I thought she spent too much time thinking about kissing the guys and her emotions about them.

There were a few secondary characters and this time they stuck with Dace for most of the book. This allowed the reader to learn their personality and get to get attached to them. Jerimon was an interesting character to begin with and the dynamics between him and Dace was entertaining, although he lost something once he fell in love with her. Jasyn was an excellent character and provided a great sister role for Dace. Lady Rina was a fun character as well, a real firecracker of an old lady. One of my favourite characters was the Eggstone itself, the way it talked seemed so alien.

There were several nods to the first book, such as the fact Dace now has a fear of fire or not having boots. It would probably be a good idea to read the first book before this one as it would be easier to follow the story although it probably isn’t essential.

The cover for this book is much better and more appropriate for the genre.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, the story and characters are excellent, the writing style is much stronger than the first book. It was a little bit too romancey for my tastes. I am really looking forward to the next book.

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