Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Dianne Duvall - The Akseli

Simone has hunted and slain psychotic vampires night after night for hundreds of years and desperately needs a change. When the leader of the Immortal Guardians offers her an opportunity to guard ten mortal women who are venturing to another planet, she dives right in and finds traveling into space and meeting amazing alien races just as exciting as she'd hoped… until an enemy attacks. Simone saves everyone she can before she's thrust into an escape pod and the ship explodes. Alone, fearing some—if not all—of her friends have been killed, she vows to seek vengeance.
Despite his fierce reputation and propensity for violating the law, Janwar has formed a friendship with strait-laced Prince Taelon of Lasara. When the prince's ship is destroyed, Janwar joins the massive Aldebarian Alliance-wide search and rescue mission and soon locates the Gathendien ship that launched the attack. An odd thing happens, however, as he and his crew stealthily approach it. The lifeforms inside begin to perish, two or three at a time in quick succession. Much to his surprise, someone else has reached the ship first: one of the very Earth women he hoped to rescue.
Fascinatingly fierce, Simone bands together with Janwar and his crew to search for her missing friends and wreak havoc upon those who wish to harm them. She also widens eyes, drops jaws, and sparks laughter and mischief as she banishes the warriors' world-weariness and makes each day seem like a new adventure. The friendship that grows between Janwar and Simone swiftly deepens into love. But the enemy warriors they face are tenacious and boast more weapons in their arsenal than the alliance knows. Can Janwar, Simone, and such a small crew vanquish them?

Comment: This is the fourth installment in the Aldebarian Alliance series, a spin off of the Immortal Guardians one by author Diane Duvall. I have now read all full length books in both series, except the last installments in each. I will have to say that I have enjoyed the spin off series' installments more (maybe not the first one, that was rather meh to me) than some of the books in the original series...

In this story we continue following the fate of Kandovar travelers, the space ship with the several elements from Earth and other planets traveling to Lasara, after they were attacked by an enemy ship. Now, several people are lost in space or were rescued or captured, and it's the intention of prince Taelon from Lasara (hero book #1) to rescue everyone and take them safely into Lasara, as promised. Among them were several gifted Earth women and the Immortal Guardians who would help them, such as Simone. 
Simone finally got a reply from a nearby ship after several attempts, and she is aware that it's an enemy ship, but she is more than eager to be caught and get revenge. At the same time, thankfully, another ship is approaching her, and at the command is the pirate Janwar. Not many know, but he is a good friend to prince Taelon and is actually an honorable pirate, and he will help Simone... even though she proves to be so much more than he ever anticipated in a guest...

This Aldebarian Alliance spin off is obviously structured to make sense for any reader, but it's one of those situations where having read the original series, or knowing what the background is, helps in making the stories more appealing and worthy. In my opinion, many elements or small hints make a lot more sense with that previous knowledge, even though there isn't enough here to spoiler the Immortal Guardians series to the point of ruining anyone's reading experience.

I find myself quite entertained by these stories set in space ships. I have read other sci fi stories with elements of romance and it's always so rewarding to read about incredible things the authors imagine... sometimes certain elements work out better than others in the big scheme of things, but I'm always amused by the details, even when so many things seem similar between different books. For instance, just as it happens with other books, so here the alien technology is far superior, and many technological stuff is expensive but common, many things work in a logical way when compared to "human" knowledge we already have....

It can be said that the more scientific elements or the ones which are meant to give credibility to this aspect, are well done and used within the story. Simone finds herself in a space ship with so many amazing possibilities that I feel the author herself dreamed of experience something like that... well, I suppose virtual reality things could make it seem so nowadays... but it's simply fun to follow the characters in their tasks, and we can follow Simone as she discovers what she can do now. So, the whole technological/scientific side of the story feels rich and structured to me, even though one could say it's not realistic... but who would care!

The plot of this story is quite simple, Simone wants revenge on the aliens who caused the explosion of the Kandovar, which meant many people died and those who escaped in pods weren't all rescued yet. Then she is helped by Janwar's crew, they all become friends and Simone and Janwar fall in love. Basic, isn't it? In fact, so basic that it's quite predictable, but for me the fun in these stories is not on how complex the plot can be, but the eye for detail, the adventure, the consistency in the characters, their relationships... I especially liked how Simone is so likable and how quickly she makes friends with everyone on board of Janwar's ship. Perhaps this is a bit too easy... perhaps a more complex/dramatic development in this regards could have made for a different story.

Anyway, Simone is a grand protagonist, does almost everything well and the fact she was already special on Earth makes her still very special in space. I will have to wonder on how smooth the transition from being on Earth to live only space is for all the women who accepted that idea, but one needs to think about the science fiction expectations, otherwise this would be too crazy. It does help that everything is easy and fluid for Simone in terms of physical experiences, but it can also make the story rather repetitive in relation the the previous ones in the series.

The romance was fine, sweet and romantic enough, but it felt as if they recognized one another very easily and early on, I would not have minded that the sexual tension could have been prolonged and debated more before they so easily accepted their friendship, their feelings for one another... Janwar is a great guy, one of those protagonists who is rumored to have a bad reputation but isn't that bad in fact, and all his interactions, explanations and actions prove the opposite. A little too good to be true, but...

Everything ends up well, and, of course, with the promise of more adventures as more women are rescued or their whereabouts get known.
I had a good time reading this story, it was entertaining like I said, and I will definitely read the next installments, both the one out and those which might be published after. The stories aren't out of this world (ah ah ah) but they are far better than books which fail to engage.
Grade: 8/10


  1. So many books jump immediately to the romance instantly starting, I'm so with you on prolonging that tension!
    This author pops up a lot for scifi/fantasy, I need to give her try.

    1. I think the author is very competent, even when there are details I'd wish for my personal preference.
      You should try!