Wednesday, December 28, 2022

D.B. Reynolds - The Return

Rachel Fortier is a much sought-after expert when it comes to exotic planets — especially the deadly kind. So when she’s hired by Earth Fleet’s most respected scientist to join a mission to the tightly closed planet Harp, it’s a dream come true. Until she discovers their mission is to capture shifters and sell them to the Military.
Shifter Aidan Devlin is on patrol far from his clan when he sees a shuttlecraft landing where it definitely shouldn’t be. As the invaders emerge, he’s surprised to see a lone lovely woman, who doesn’t seem to belong. But when he’s captured and put in a cage, he has no one but her to help him escape.
Drawn together by a hunger they can’t resist, and desperate to discover who betrayed Harp, Aidan and Rachel first have to survive a deadly journey to the city. But once there, they find themselves confronted by a conspiracy that goes even deeper. Because Harp is harboring a traitor. And he’s willing to destroy their world — and everything in it — to get what he wants.

Comment: This is the sequel to Shifter Planet, a 2015 release by author DB Reynolds. I've read that book in 2019 and was positively surprised, after having tried two other series by the author which didn't work out for me. This sequel, titled The Return, was published precisely in 2019 but only now was I able to get to it. Or, should I say, did I remember it!

Anyway, in this second book we appropriately return to the planet Harp and this time follow heroine Rachel Fortier, an expert who accepted the invitation by a renown scientist to travel to Harp and study the animal life in the planet. She suspects her family name might have something to do with it but the curiosity won her over and she traveled with other ship members who don't seem to have such a specific goal as hers but she doesn't care. When they arrive on the planet at last, she finally discovers her name and her person were used to give credence to an illegal mission and she does her best to help the gorgeous cat the crew apprehends. She also plans on telling someone about this.
What she doesn't know is that the cat is actually shifter Aidan, and he quickly understands what's going on. In disguise, after Rachel helps saving him, he decides to go with her through the forest of Harp, pretending he can guide her, to check if she knows more than what she said about the whole mess. But will the planet allow them to survive?

For those who like adventure and romance this is certainly a great book. I think it was a very good sequel to the first book as well and despite having read that other one three years ago, I still remembered enough to follow the plot of this one without having to re-read the other or parts of the previous one. In that regard, the author has done a good job making the sequel seem without problems, quite fluid.

The plot is slightly different but the base is the same as of the first book: the most important thing is to preserve the planet and maintain why it is a healthy planet and why who and what is there should not be seen as a means for money or wealth, especially the unique trees and the shifters. Of course the overall story would have to lead to this, that someone on Earth or the rich people in the fleet would want to gain something by having real shifters for their (war) needs but throughout the book we get clues that, as it happens right now in our reality, the beauty and value of something is how it might be worthy and not how much money might be gained by it.

I liked the fact the vibe of the story was very similar to the other one, and in part that is why I liked it. The inclusion of a villain who wants to gain something isn't a novelty but there were some details about this plan which added interesting layers to the story such as the fact the villain had been living in Harp for a while and instead of seeing it as an enriching experience, saw it only as money potential.

Rachel and Aidan made for an interesting couple because they have things in common, they both like nature and the outdoors and Rachel is pretty much another version of Amanda, the heroine of the first book. She has all the necessary positive thoughts and feelings regarding nature and ecosystems and animals and such, and she likes walking, she is resourceful and clever and strong and has all the qualities Amanda had to survive in this planet, even though with some differences. Personality wise, of course she is fierce and confident and wants to do the right thing.

I think that, despite them being an obvious good match, a lot of it is set on Rachel being so easily described as someone who will fit in. There's no real conflict between them nor any real adaptation of Rachel to the planet beyond the basics, because it's obvious the aim was for them to work out from the start. We do have glimpses of their personalities and I'm quite glad they will certainly be happy together but I kind of wish the author had made Rachel a bit different in terms of personality or abilities, so that the HEA with someone not like Aiden - in personality and tastes too - would make their HEA even more special.

The plot is solved in a very predictable way, although the fate of the villain was quite ingenious... the rest is done well enough and we get the idea everything will work out well or will be hopeful for the planet, for the characters... things are wrapped up neatly but I also got the notion if more stories are to come out one day, the author left enough threads to make it happen without making it seem something is unsolved here.

All in all, another good effort and fascinating read, at least.
Grade: 7/10

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