The time and place
Present day, present time. Mostly on the planet of Mitah, which is nominally ruled by the Salvator family as a client of Sandaria. Chancellor Mortog runs most things, though. Earth makes some brief appearances.
The suspension of disbelief
Faster-than-light space travel exists. Portals, space gates held open by the Portal Masters, facilitate aliens coming and going all over space. Humanoid aliens have discovered Earth and currently protect it from incursions without our knowledge.
Some alien races have psi, which seems to be a sort of sixth psychic sense or talent. The Portal Masters have a particular kind of psi that makes them coveted by their guild. Additionally, people with psi have a single psi-mate: someone whose psionics can complement and bond to theirs. It’s a romantic/sexual type of bond.
The quick summary
Ria Montori, an Earth Protector and ex-Sandarian soldier, goes to planet Mitah for some well-deserved leave. While there, she has a fling with a young man named Ty. Ty is a Curzan, the planet’s native and oppressed/enslaved people, and he hates all things Sandarian. Good thing they don’t know that at first, right? The Curzan resistance gets Ty involved with a crime at a ball, and in the aftermath he absconds with Ria. He hates what she stands for, she thinks he’s a horrible dangerous criminal, and the Mitan government is now going to escalate its persecution of Curzans. She is his psi-mate, though, and may be able to call in outside help for his cause.
The plot is intricate, and my hunch that re-reading it would give me more treasures proved to be correct. There are several factions in play with different stakes in what happens in planetary politics. Events set in motion before the start of the story will have consequences later in the series. At the end it’s illustrated that the events on Mitah are not anomalous and similar things are happening all over.
The protagonists have interesting character flaws. They’re both hotheads, and Ty’s righteous anger gets him in a pickle. He’s not much for planning, it seems. He is young and oppressed and he’s not going to take it anymore. I like how his character develops during the story, we see what drives him to his actions and the fallout from them as matters spiral out of his control. He has a little reckoning where he has to weigh a moral issue, but Priestley stops short of giving him the total weight of the decision.
Ria also grows up a bit during the story. She’s already had her preconceptions about galactic politics smashed before the story, and she has more to question and figure out for herself as the story unfolds. She struggles against bonding to a man who may well be an uncivilized seething ball of rage, and rightly questions how to deal with and escape a homicidal maniac. She does adapt well to the political situation and battle tactics during the story, and she’s not ashamed of saying when she’s made a mistake.
In contrast to Ty’s moral questions and dilemmas, the villains are almost all two-dimensional, cackling, and just being horrible people for the sake of it. Now, there are plenty of malicious power-hungry jerks out there, but I would have also liked to see a more nuanced take on the politics of the bad guys, like some of them being pro-stability not for the sake of power, but because chaos and anarchy get lots of people killed. Speaking of the jerks, I had some trouble keeping track of them. There’s a huge cast of characters, and some of the minor ones, especially government officials or lackeys, got confusing unless I took notes. I also couldn’t keep the different Earth Protectors sorted out unless I concentrated.
I’m not one for the fated mate trope, and Dani, Ria’s friend, is utterly schmaltzy about hers, which I rolled my eyes at. Ria and Ty’s relationship requires compatible psi, though, and it felt integral to the story, driving some early actions so that it wasn’t sappy. They go fast from being unsure about each other to declaring their love, and I’ll attribute it to the natures of psi-mating. I’m still not sold on the trope as a whole, and I knew up front that would color my thoughts on the story. If you like the fated mates concept, you will probably enjoy Ria and Ty’s romantic interactions more.
Read if you
- Enjoy factional politics
- Like compelling character development
- Want to feel part of a big universe
Skip if you
- Need complicated and compelling villains
- Don’t like keeping track of a big cast
- Require romantic heroes to be medium height to tall
Disclosure and final thoughts
I received a free copy for review purposes. Priestley has built a rich world with many moving parts, and I look forward to finding out what happens with the Portals and people scrambling around the ruins of the Sandarian Empire.