Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Genre: Science fiction/Fantasy
Approximate word count: 130,000-135,000 words
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store
Michael Hicks is a full time writer living in Maryland. This novel is the first of a trilogy. The author has written five other novels based around the Empire theme and has one other title in print-Season of the Harvest.
The novel is set in the distant future when Humans are locked in an intergalactic war with an ancient race—the Kreelans. A connection is made between a young human boy, Reza, and a powerful Kreelan warrior when she spares the child’s life because he shows bravery beyond his years. The novel follows Reza’s life story.
The first part of the novel takes place on a human orphanage planet where children are used as slave labor. Reza and the characters close to him are beautifully drawn and I was soon pulled into the author’s world. After a Kreelan attack, Reza is captured and taken to the Kreelan’s home planet. Reza, and all humans, are considered animals by the Kreelans because they have no souls. The boy is part of an experiment to see if a human can be trained to be like a Kreelan and display his soul.
Reza’s training, at the hands of a female Kreelan warrior, is tough and believable. Again, the author built a world for me to enjoy. In particular, the Kreelan code of conduct is fascinating—bearing no small resemblance to that of ancient Sparta. Science Fiction fans may find cause for complaint on the Kreelan world, for this is far closer to fantasy than science fiction. I like both, and enjoyed the switch from a sci-fi battle starting point to the more ethereal concepts of the Kreelans who have a commonality of mind and purpose channeled through an Empress and spanning both time and space and incorporating the living and the dead (the Ancients).
The story follows the interaction between Reza and his trainer who are bonded together as a couple in the eyes of the Empress. I rode their challenges and triumphs along with the young couple.
Only two minor complaints made this four instead of five stars: For me, the author didn’t fully explain the Kreelan structure, their method of reproduction and the curse that had been placed on their race many centuries prior. This was an important motivation for the way Reza was trained and guided, and I found it confusing. More depth here would have elevated the story for my taste. And secondly the author’s writing style—his voice—was pitched beautifully for fantasy, but the point of view head-hopped around a lot, and on a number of occasions this yanked me out of the story.
At the time I reviewed the story it was available as a free download on Kindle. I’d recommend sci-fi/fantasy fans to take advantage.
No significant issues.
Rating: **** Four stars