Series: Starlight's Shadow #1
Published by Harper Voyager on February 1, 2022
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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The critically acclaimed author of Polaris Rising takes readers on an exciting journey with the start of her brand-new series about a female bounty hunter and the man who is her sworn enemy.
Octavia Zarola would do anything to keep her tiny, close-knit bounty hunting crew together—even if it means accepting a job from Torran Fletcher, a ruthless former general and her sworn enemy. When Torran offers her enough credits to not only keep her crew afloat but also hire someone to fix her ship, Tavi knows that she can’t refuse—no matter how much she’d like to.
With so much money on the line, Torran and his crew insist on joining the hunt. Tavi reluctantly agrees because while the handsome, stoic leader pushes all of her buttons—for both anger and desire—she’s endured worse, and the massive bonus payment he’s promised for a completed job is reason enough to shut up and deal.
But when they uncover a deeper plot that threatens the delicate peace between humans and Valoffs, Tavi suspects that Torran has been using her as the impetus for a new war. With the fate of her crew balanced on a knife’s edge, Tavi must decide where her loyalties lie—with the quiet Valoff who’s been lying to her, or with the human leaders who left her squad to die on the battlefield. And this time, she’s put her heart on the line.
An exciting start to a new scifi series from Jessie Mihalik.
Octavia (“Tavi”) Zarola is the Captain of the Starlight’s Shadow. She is also known in the Federated Human Planets as the Hero of Rodeni, an honor that still haunts her nightmares. After a decade of war with the Valovians, Tavi and her crew just want to be left in peace, especially by the FHP. So nothing is more surprising than being approached by a Valovian for help, and not just any Valovian but General Torran Fletcher. Torran is a very powerful telekinetic and not someone she would want to meet on a battlefield, and not someone she is ready to trust on her ship. His request to go with him and his people into (former) enemy space isn’t what Tavi was expecting. While humans are allowed on the Valovian home world, they certainly aren’t welcomed, especially not the Hero who brought so much destruction to the Valovians.
Torran needs help of the human kind. Humans broke into his home on Valovia and stole an important item and its loss needs to be kept secret from his own people. Torran finds Tavi and her crew of bounty hunters who are known to be exceptional at finding things. While Torran might need Tavi’s help, he isn’t able or willing to share all his secrets with a former enemy.
As the humans and the Valovian’s travel together across the galaxy, friendships begin to grow. But after years of being enemies, can Tavi and her people really trust the Valonvians at their backs especially when they are being taken into the heart of enemy territory, or is this all a clever ruse to bring in the bounty on the Tavi and her crew?
This story had some great main characters as well as secondary characters. There is so much possibility when we blend the two factions, where each bringing an element missing from the other’s crew. When war is so fresh, it is hard to get past the pains and loss created by the person standing right in front of you, especially when each has to protect state secrets from their enemies. So it is impressive that these guys even try to get along even for the sake of the mission. It is Tavi and her crew making an extra effort to welcome the Valovian’s, whether or not they trust them, that has the Valovian’s opening up as well. Since this is told in first person, we are aware of more of Tavi’s secrets and we know that Torran might or might not be holding things back but, like Tavi, we are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The biggest question I would have is how the humans held their own against the Valovians in a war for so long since their tech seems to be better and they each have different special abilities such as telekinesis or healing, etc. Humans should have gotten their butts kicked in the first real battle.
I couldn’t see how we were going to get a HEA here and on whose side of the battle line we would end up, but the ending opens the story up for more adventures so this is one of those stories where you are going to have to come back for the complete story arc. I’m in because I want to see who is try to restart the war.
Since they are heading into Valovian space, Tavi wants help with her mental shielding…
Torran took the change of subject in stride. “Can you tell when I touch your mind?” When I nodded, he continued, “I can build a shield for you, but I don’t know if you’ll be able to feel it well enough to duplicate it. If that doesn’t work, I can try piercing your existing shields to see if you can fix the holes that way.”
I swallowed. Neither choice sounded super fun. “Are there any other options? How would you explain it to a child?” While it grated to be treated like a child, I’d take it if it kept Torran out of my head.
“In public, parents shield for young children until they learn to shield themselves. Children instinctively learn from that example.”
Well, that was exactly zero help. “I don’t suppose you’ve taught other humans how to shield?”
A flicker of emotion crossed Torran’s face, too fast to identify. “You will be the first.”
“Fine. Show me how you’d build a shield for me. Let’s see if I can learn anything from it.”
“Are you ready?”
No, no I was not, but I agreed anyway.
I stared at the scratches in the tabletop as Torran’s mind brushed mine. I focused hard on my mental shield and what was presumably Torran’s additional shield, but all I felt was the same coolness that I normally felt, just to a much larger degree. His telepathic voice remained silent.
I glanced up. Torran’s eyes blazed with power, the silver, copper and teal nearly obliterating the deep gray. Fierce Valovian eyes in cool, dispassionate faces haunted my nightmares, and paired with the cold feel of his power, I recoiled violently. I was on my feet and reaching for a weapon before I realized I’d moved.
Luckily, I didn’t have any weapons on me, and that likely saved Torran’s life–and mine.
Torran flinched as if struck, and I could no longer feel his power. He blinked and his eyes reverted to their normal state, then narrowed dangerously. “How did you do that?” he demanded.
I slowly picked up the chair I’d knocked over and wrestled the memories back into the mental box where I kept them. My hands trembled and I felt sick to my stomach. “Do what?”
“You barred me from your mind. It should not be possible.”
He didn’t say “for a human,” but I heard if nonetheless. I slid back into the chair and tried to hide the fact that my legs had barely supported me. My pulse pounded in my temples. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Just before you kicked me out, you were scared, terrified. Why?”
“Do you really need to ask?” the question came out far more bitterly than I’d intended, so I took a deep breath and searched for calm. I didn’t find it, but I faked it as best I could. “I fought Valoffs for a decade. During the war, shining eyes and cold power meant death, and some instincts are harder to overcome than others.”
Torran’s expression morphed into searing anger and bitter grief, and it didn’t take a mind reader to know that he was thinking about Rodeni. It was the most infamous battle in a war full of famous battles. I’d lost half of my squad and most of my soul on that cursed planet. Others had lost so much more.
After the battle, I’d gone straight to Command still wearing my bloody uniform and turned in my discharge request, effective immediately. Lexi, Kee, and Eli had all done the same.
None of us had escaped unscathed.