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Perihelion (Queenships Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 281 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Veldura’s created tech is fascinating: sentient, partnered hybrid flesh/metal/crystal ships which can be telepathically changed, assembled, broken down, and rearranged like living plasticine Legos. The shipmind mentally connects with her pilot(s) and bonds with them, and then can give them whatever information they need (or she thinks they need). It’s this bond which draws our heroes together and gets the plot rolling.
A few flaws, but nothing dealbreaking: at 50K words, this had a LOT more room for worldbuilding and scene-setting, which is important when the writer is creating a new universe with new rules. I did eventually get the hang of everything, but perhaps in a later edition Veldura can spend some time fleshing out the various families and their relationships, and explain how the tech works, before the story has gotten so far underway. There’s a cast sheet at the end of the book — do yourself a favor and read it first, or even print it out and keep it handy. There are a lot of characters and families and it does get challenging to keep track. There is more range in gender expression in this story than I think I have ever seen in one book; I will admit that at points it overwhelmed the storyline.
Overall, I really enjoyed this, and since it’s “book 1,” I’m definitely looking forward to the next in the series.
In scope the book reminds me of Dune, and there’s no praise higher than that. It depicts a sprawling universe connecting by wondrous new forms of technology analogous to wormhole travel that may be exploited by the queenships – huge sentient constructions that can slip through the gaps in reality and emerge elsewhere carrying a huge payload of crew and materiel. Their ability is used by trading houses who have built up empires along the spaceways, a bit like the East India Company, with their own military wings to protect their interests. The queenships are self-sustaining and with the help of their pilots can reorganise, repair and create using the matter about them. The relationship between queen and pilot is a combining of intellect and will and only the most exceptional minds can withstand the enormous pressure. It really is the most extreme form of multi-tasking. Imagine trying to calculate your taxes, cook a meal, entertain a child by building a lego spaceship, explain over the phone to your mother why you won’t be able to come to dinner on Sunday and conduct interspatial diplomacy while someone is shooting at you with a matter disruptor [which is pretty much like the mother thing come to think of it].
Minor trading houses who do not possess queenships, which all stem from the first one of their kind and are very rarely born, have to trade locally or pay a premium to use the rare gateways. These are few and costly to use. The action in the book is kicked off when rumour suggests that a new gateway has been constructed in a galaxy that is unaffiliated with any of the big trading houses. At the same time, and completely secretly, one of the houses has finally managed to crack the science to build brand new queenships who do not have any allegiance to the original queenship family. Both these things are huge threats to the status quo.
So there’s the world and the situation, and into it is born Selvans, a brand new queenship of great lineage who picks a pilot from a small pool of candidates. She chooses Kato Ozark, related by birth to two of the greatest trading houses and trained from childhood in the techniques needed to be a great pilot, So far so routine, but then Selvans throws everyone into a dither by demanding that First Engineer Ma’sud be her pilot too. Forced together by a deadly new threat, Kato and Ma’sud have no choice but to comply and discover that their minds mesh so perfectly via Selvans that they can achieve astonishing things.
Then there are adventures and space battles, chicanery, double-dealing, betrayal, disasters and reunions, and that’s a hell of a lot to pack into 150 odd pages. The sheer volume of information is the only real downside. In this slimmish volume the author has packed as much world building as I’d expect to see in a book twice the thickness and I think it suffered a bit for that. Because the action spans the whole universe the point of view isn’t so much split as splintered as we join members of one house or another, see what’s happening on one ship then hop to a different vessel. I loved this but readers who prefer the tight focus on just one or two points of view to really dig down into the emotional depth of a romance might find it distracting. This isn’t to say that the romance lacks depth – Kato and Ma’sud are a lovely and memorable couple – but it’s the world that really pleased me and the huge diversity of the characters. All races are represented, there are many nicely presented female characters, and one of the protagonists is trans. Don’t be afraid to refresh your memory from the dramatis personae at the end of the book, I had to quite a lot because there are a LOT of people here.
To sum up, an excellent space opera with terrific leads, wonderful descriptions of action and a sweet romance. I was a little disconcerted by how much had been shoehorned into the page count and by some plot threads that had been left hanging but I see that the book has been labelled as Queenships #1 and as the first in a series I think it’s terrific. Can’t wait to see what the author shows us next.
Reviewed by Sally for Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews