Following immediately on from Without A Front – The Warrior’s Challenge, Catalyst brings all our major players together for the Lancer’s bonding break. Set on a holiday resort island with gorgeous beaches and honeymoon cabins, Tal and Salomen are joined by their closest friends and family, including Captain Ekatya Serrado and Dr Lhyn Rivers. A happy vacation for all involved, celebrating the divine tyree bond, becomes a time for sharing recent experiences and the baring of souls.
In the two years since they defeated the Voloth everyone has changed to some degree, made tough choices, learned hard lessons. Dr Rivers, in particular, has faced tough challenges; her support of the Alseans has made her a target for right wing extremists stirring up fear of the ‘mind control’ that the telepathic Alseans could unleash on the Protectorate. As their personal stories are revealed the friends are pulled even closer by their emotional bonds.
Once again Fletcher DeLancey has produced a stunningly intricate and detailed story to add to the ongoing saga of political and actual battles, emotional growth and complex relationships between strong, intelligent characters. In some ways this is a side story, in terms of Alsea nothing happens to move the larger story arc forward. Instead we are given a lesson in the unpleasant politics of the Protectorate, the lengths individuals will go to further their own agenda, and the price others have to pay. Ultimately it all adds to the world view and will undoubtedly add to our understanding of future events, but despite being set on Alsea this is an off-world backstory.
DeLancy has achieved something not easy to accomplish in making this almost completely about the emotional growth of her major characters, yet combined it with action, adventure and horrible personal experiences. We explore the events of Serrado and Lhyn’s last two years, but all from the viewpoint of explaining the challenges they have faced internally. While Serrado has been off fighting the baddies, she has serious lessons to learn about forgiveness, and for Lhyn the preceding months have literally been both physical and mental torture, from which she must learn to move forward.
As well as our existing cast we meet two new major players who seem destined to take a major role in future tales, the feisty Dr Wells, another wonderful addition to the ‘strong women’ who take almost every major part in the epic to date, and the Machiavellian Director Sholokhov. In Sholokhov DeLancy has give us an almost perfect villainous figure to dislike and despise, and yet he appears to be on the ‘right’ side. Again two more well drawn, intriguing characters whose psyches we explore while following a thrilling plot.
Altogether a brilliant read and one that I found hard to put down. All the books in the series portray the major players with deep, complex and detailed personalities, but this one takes us to another layer of psychological exploration, while we are actually reading scenes of action adventure and a dark thriller. DeLancy once again proves herself to be an expert story-teller and a wonderful writer who has a gift for the creation of extraordinarily detailed worlds and sophisticated multidimensional characters. I want nothing more than to sit in a corner and read the whole series again – I literally cannot wait for the next instalment.
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(publisher review copy received)
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