Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Dianne Duvall - The Lasaran

Taelon searches the galaxy for his younger sister, who mysteriously disappeared while on a diplomatic
mission. When an ally reveals that she was seized and is being held prisoner on Earth, Taelon descends upon the blue planet, intent on freeing her and exacting vengeance. However, all does not go as planned. Before he can find her, Taelon is captured and becomes the subject of torturous experiments. For what feels like an eternity, all he knows is pain and fury… until a mind tentatively touches his own and a woman’s voice forever changes his world.
After suffering tragic losses, Lisa is finally beginning to carve out a future for herself when chance sends her to the Anomalous Cognition Research Institute. What at first appears to be a benign organization seeking participants for a psychic study instead turns out to be a government facility harboring a much darker intent. Lisa discovers this too late and soon becomes the unwilling subject of a terrifying experiment. Just as fear and desperation threaten to consume her, a deep, compelling voice penetrates the looming insanity and lends her hope.
Having seen only the worst of humanity, Taelon is shocked when Lisa risks everything to free him. Together the two make their escape, and Taelon finds himself fascinated by the small human woman who—despite all she’s suffered—can still laugh and tease and lure smiles from him. Friendship swiftly grows between them as they work together to evade soldiers intent on capturing them and find themselves hunted by mystifying preternatural beings. Through it all, Lisa steadfastly remains by his side, stealing more of his heart each day while she helps him unravel the mystery of his sister’s fate. Can they find his sister before the hunters find them? If they survive their quest, will Taelon have to bid Lisa farewell… or can he coax her into leaving her planet and joining him for the adventure of a lifetime?

Comment: I have enjoyed reading the Immortal Guardians series by this author and this title, although part of another series, still has connected characters. One could say this is a sort of spin off. Considering that, I felt interested enough so I could know what would happen and which role the familiar characters would play.

This book begins with Lisa, the financially struggling heroine, accepting participating in odd medical studies as a way to help with the bills. In one of those studies, the goal of a certain company is to determine how psychic people can be. Lisa believes the study is a waste of time but she goes along until the day when things go wrong and she faints during a session. She wakes up in what she thinks is hours later but is in fact months and her new reality is more than scary.

At the same time she wakes up afraid, a voice in her head tries to calm her down. That is Taelon, an alien brother of a character from the original series, was also captured to be experimented on and in a moment of reprieve he listens to Lisa's cry for help and tries to comfort her but it becomes clear they are both in danger. However, when the facility in which they are imprisoned is attacked and the immortal guardians start to help and release the prisoners, Lisa and Taelon help each other to escape for they don't know who the men with guns are. Then starts a run for cover and to find out what has happened to them and how can Taelon find his missing sister...

When one gets used to a certain style from an author, it's not that surprising expectations rise and some elements come to be something to look for in a new book by that same author. With this in mind, I should say mrs Duvall's previous books I have read made me confident in hoping to have a great story but, mainly, a good romance. It's also true we cannot like everything the same way and I have preferred books in this series, but I felt a bit disappointed by how this romance develops.

I think that, for two characters who meet over a complicated situation, who are of different species, who have quite a... link bonding them, who spend a long time together feeling the adrenaline of wanting to be safe, of having to find someone... the romance feels very, very weak when faced with all the secondary elements thrown at them. It's true dire situations often make a pair feel closer, feel they are a team and I can understand why Lisa and Taelon would feel like that and would see one another as someone they could trust, but from that to everlasting love, I was not convinced.

From the moment they meet "mentally" and they face their new reality and they escape, not that much time passes and I felt it was a bit unbelievable they could have become a loving pair so soon and so easily. I can accept they would and as they get to know one another, that's fine, but everything was too mechanical, something the author had to include because this was also a romance, but I can't say I see how they could be in love when they barely knew one another because they shared a complex but shocking experience, I don't think they had time to be together as a couple or as a couple in progress before the plot took them into a definite scenario.

This aside, I must say I'm not bothered by the fact this spin off seems to be going towards sci-fi paths instead of just PNR. I liked the idea of aliens and how Taelon's family is hoping to see him again, the whole thing of setting things up, the aliens, the space issues, and so on, all those elements aren't new to me (or those who have read space operas, for instance) and I think I still feel interested enough to want to read more, especially if the author is going to develop the aliens' societies and the world building surrounding them.

As for this plot, well it wasn't that original, so I wasn't expecting to be wowed, but some scenes were interesting and kept me motivated to read. I was looking for to see the character's interactions, especially between the protagonists and the secondary characters and also with the characters which are familiar from the original series.  As expected, in this case I liked everything that happened but I should say a new reader to this series will very likely be confused by some things if the other books haven't been read yet. 

I'll also look a bit too picky but, to me, some scenes which were meant to be cute or simply fun as a way to ease things up or to let out some worry, felt a bit forced, as if some things had to be shown to create contrast or to let it be hints about previous stories. I mean... the way this happened didn't feel as natural to the plot as it could, if one bears in mind how Lisa and Taelon came to spend time with those known characters.

I'm aware my words seem to be harsh but my overall enjoyment of this novel was positive and for the most part I was indeed happy enough with the way things progressed and with the plot choices here ad there. It's just by thinking about the details that makes me pile up this and that I would change...

Grade: 6/10

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