Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gabriel's Ghost by Linnea Sinclair

After a decade of piloting interstellar patrol ships, former captain Chasidah Bergren, onetime pride of the Sixth Fleet, finds herself court-martialed for a crime she didn’t commit–and shipped off to a remote prison planet from which no one ever escapes. But when she kills a brutal guard in an act of self-defense, someone even more dangerous emerges from the shadows.

Gabriel Sullivan–alpha mercenary, smuggler, and rogue–is supposed to be dead. Yet now this seductive ghost from Chaz’s past is offering her a ticket to freedom–for a price. Someone in the Empire is secretly breeding jukors: vicious and uncontrollable killing machines that have long been outlawed. Gabriel needs Chaz to help him stop the practice before it decimates Imperial space. The mission means putting their lives on the line–but the tensions that heat up between them may be the riskiest part of all.

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**May contain mild spoilers**

I had mixed reactions to this book. On the one hand, the romance between Chaz and Sully that takes up most of the first 2/3 of the book (and a fair bit of the last 1/3) was really annoying in many ways. On the other, the bigger story that only really came out, or started to come out, in the last 1/3 of the book proved to be interesting and promising for the future books of the series. It's a shame really that it got so eclipsed by the disfunctional romance story for so much of this volume.

We first meet Chasidah Bergren, Chaz, on the prison world of Moabar, where she's just fought off and killed a Takan (one of an alien humanoid species) who tried to rape her. We learn a little bit about how she's a Fleet Captain who's fallen from grace after being framed for having made poor decisions that led to the death of 14 or 15 people and sentenced to Moabar, an inhospitable planet from which there is little to no hope of escape, and survival for any great length of time is unlikely given the yearly plagues that sweep the planet among other things. This all seems to set her up as being a very strong, confident, independent woman who's used to taking command of situations and isn't likely to let anyone push her around, right? Wrong. While she does have her moments where she displays her obvious intelligence and her extensive training and experience at being in charge, for most of the book she spends her time being a total pushover for Sully. She clearly has her reservations and fears regarding many things about him and the things he's doing, but she goes along with it all anyway, agreeing to play by his rules in everything, agreeing to just trust him and not ask questions despite the fact that she's more than half terrified of things she's seeing, and despite the fact that he constantly runs roughshod over her and does unconscionable things that he later refuses to really explain. Over and over again she just bends over and takes whatever he cares to dish out, finding reasons to forgive him (or even just forgiving him for no real reason at all) for even the most heinous and (what should be) unforgivable acts. Because of this, Chaz ends up being a very disappointing character however likeable and intriguing she might otherwise be.

We meet Gabriel Sullivan, Sully, early on when he rescues Chaz from Moabar. He suddenly shows up on the scene shortly after she kills the Taka and proceeds to take over the situation, and Chaz, completely. He more or less forces her to come with him without offering any real explanations of what's going on or how he plans to get her off the planet, and this pretty much sets the tone for the rest of their interactions throughout the book. Sully decides what he wants to do, or what's going to happen, then proceeds along that course regardless of any objections that Chaz might try to voice. "Try" being the operative word here since he rarely gives her a chance to disagree with him about anything, instead telling her to "Hush Chasidah-Angel" or "Hush Chazzy-girl" and insisting that she simply trust him, no questions asked. It does eventually become clear that he truly does care about Chaz, but it doesn't really redeem him since he has a really lousy way of showing it with the way he treats her and the things he does to her. There are, however, some pretty cool things that we eventually learn about him that make him, in the end or in the bigger picture, a fairly interesting character. They don't change the fact that he's largely an ass however.

As for the story itself, as I noted above, it's unfortunate in the final accounting that chaz and Sully's travesty of a relationship/romance dominates so much of the book, for it's set against what proves to be a fairly interesting and intriguing back story. I don't want to give anything away on that score really, but I will note that the last 9 or 10 chapters are mostly worth putting up with the previous 29 or 30. I'm hearing good things about later books in the series, which gives me hope that the interesting story won't just fall flat or continue to be eclipsed by annoying love stories, so I likely will continue with it. For this book however, I simply can't give it more than a 3, or perhaps even just a 2.5, despite the few redeeming qualities that it does have.

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