Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Bad decisions, declining resources, and a king on the brink of madness force Prince Varo Kutchif, third son of the royal family and a starship captain, to attempt the impossible: barter for Black Phospolrock, an energy source the mysterious Helkan kingdom has in abundance. Varo opens a line of communication with Adlar, an intriguing Helkan who seems to reciprocate Varo’s interest. He hopes so, because if negotiations collapse, Varo has orders to attack.
The Helkans preside over a planet shrouded in perpetual darkness. Several species have tried to exploit its natural resources through trade with them, but all have failed. Adlar Mondur is the older brother to the Helkan ruler. An assassin of the highest order, he’ll do anything to protect his king and his people—including tracking down the Yesri prince who crash-lands on their planet, leaving an ugly scar across its untouched beauty.
Thus begins a journey where two men from disparate civilizations grow from enemies to lovers.
In Enemy Hands by MA Church was a story I never wanted to end. Great world building to the extent that you felt you were walking along side Varo, seeing the planet’s marvels and dangers through his eyes, the flora and fauna each and every one detailed and enticing. And the Helkans are every bit as intriguing and captivating as their planet. Church has naturally carried through to from a planet wreathed in darkness to its peoples. They are pale, dark haired, yellow eyes, strong and, just as beautiful and lethal as their home. The Helkans view their resources, including the precious Black Phospolrock, in a manner the rest of the galaxy does not. Church lays out their society and culture clearly.
What little we learn of the Yesri, they are the opposite in every way. Industrialized to the point that they have destroyed their planet’s habitats and resources, their planet is covered in sun as is their high born people who are tanned, white haired with brown eyes. Heavily divided into class systems, the disparity between them is getting greater, and desperation is driving the commands behind Varo’s mission into space.
Was I hooked? Oh you bet!
And once the two met? Even better. Because every time I came up with an issue with the way I thought Varo should be acting (perhaps more assured, whatever), Church was there ahead of me, anticipating my questions about his behavior, putting forth answers through Adlar…well, it was amazing. I’m not one of those readers who enjoy a captive situation but this made great reading. It was a slow learning process for both men, no hurt/comfort, just discovering who each one was under a stressful situation. Adler giving Varo space to grow and Varo being able to see past his prejudices. Plus the two of them together? Sexy as hell.
There’s intrigue of course, and danger. Enough here for two books. I believe the author has left open enough possibilities that should Church wish too she could revisit this planet and couple easily. Or we could see how Wrief, Varo’s brother got on. After this, I’m up for anything to do with the Halkans and its ruling family.
As I said this was an amazing story. I loved it. If you are a lover of science fiction, romance, M.A. Church, or all of the above, pick it up and start reading. I highly recommend it.
Cover art by Anne Cain is perfect for Adler.
ebook, 214 pages
Expected publication: December 30th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634776089 (ISBN13: 9781634776080)