Publisher: Piatkus Books

Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet

Nightchaser by Amanda BouchetNightchaser by Amanda Bouchet
Series: Endeavor, #1
Published by Piatkus Books on 1st January 2019
Pages: 416
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four-stars

Captain Tess Bailey and her crew of Robin Hood-like thieves are desperate and on the run. Pursued by a vicious military general who wants them dead or alive, Tess has to decide if she can trust Shade Ganavan, a tall, dark and arrogant stranger with ambiguous motivations.

Shade Ganavan had oodles of arrogance, oodles of charm, and oodles of something that made me want to kick him in the nuts.

What Tess and Shade don’t know about each other might get them killed…unless they can set aside their differences and learn to trust each other—while ignoring their off-the-charts chemistry.

Being a well-conditioned Star Wars fan, having a ragtag bunch of misfits playing Robin Hood, with its leader as the ultimate rebel sounds exactly like the sort of rogue space adventure I will always want to read. ‘Nightchaser’ is so different from Amanda Bouchet’s Kingmaker Chronicles (which I admittedly did struggle with) with the promise of the swashbuckling adventure of space pirates, rogue traders and a large, sort-of evil empire—all with the shades of the much-beloved Star Wars universe that I inhabit—that it was compelling enough to get into: not too epic at the start that I was left lost and wandering in an asteroid field of complex world-building but with just enough futuristic technological details so that I was eased into Bouchet’s own brand of galactic adventure before the heavy stuff comes in.

 

Tess Bailey isn’t who she seems and her story gradually unfurls after a rollicking start, though a little more slowly by the time she encounters Shade Ganavan who in turn, is both enthralled and caught in a moral dilemma where she’s concerned. Bouchet juggles both Tess’s and Shade’s backstories quite well, buoyed by a strong and loyal supporting cast of characters who make up a crew of escaped convicts—all of whose pasts aren’t exactly fleshed out. By the time this instalment ends however, there’re more questions than answers, with things left very much unfinished.

What I find particularly jarring is the use of the first-person POV for Tess, which then moves onto the third-person for Shade, so much so that it feels like the former’s voice is coming straight out of a New Adult Fantasy novel versus the more distant yet crafted/sophisticated narrative voice of the author via Shade. My preference is firmly for the latter and even as I read on, I never quite got used to these switches, as infrequent as they may be.

Still, this is a read that’s not too heavy-going—I found myself putting it down more than I though I would nonetheless—and it’s not hard to get through, even if Bouchet does insert some of the socio-political themes that history cycles though time and again. The sage words of wisdom that several characters dole out are ultimately, variations on the typical but popular moral questions that syfy always posits, or at least, they provide a meta commentary that jumps out from the pages when this happens.

In all, ‘Nightchaser’ is a decent read, even if my lingering sense of frustration from an incomplete narrative arc is going to stay for a while longer yet.

four-stars

Envy by Sandra Brown

Envy by Sandra BrownEnvy by Sandra Brown
Published by Piatkus Books on August 29th 2002
Pages: 549
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three-stars

Living on a remote island under an assumed name, novelist Parker Evans guards his secrets well. Fascinated by this reclusive genius, publisher Maris Matherly-Reed decides to pursue him. But this new project threatens an old commitment, a commitment at the very center of her life.

The massive perspective shift after the prologue had me moist in excitement, portending the use of literary techniques that make literary classics, not just pulp fiction bestsellers. Throw in the self-referential writing, the numerous meta-thoughts on what writing craft and technique should be and I would normally be found salivating in my own literary corner. But what do you do when you’ve figured out the plot device, the twist and turn (not entirely by coincidence but by extrapolation) when the first 60 pages have gone by?

Focus on the characters, the quality of the writing and the growing action, while thinking at the back of your mind ‘Yeah, I guessed as much’ as I ploughed through the book. The history of 2 rival boys chronicled in a novel threw enough light on Noah’s and Parker’s early (and morally loose) years, and I found no connection with them at all as they pursued their writing careers with as much decadence and hedonism as they could. In fact, Maris’s way of empathising with the books’ characters made me question her grasp of reality, just as I wondered if she was there to cast Parker in a more heroic light and nothing more. The characters seemed to shed their depth (the reverse of what it should be – Noah’s shades of grey became a black flag of evil, Maris became opaquely naive and Parker just grew bent on revenge) as the plot hurtled towards its inevitable and entire unsatisfactory conclusion.

three-stars