One of the great things about the ebook revolution is that many authors are making their backlists available. As a result, a number of books have been rescued from obscurity, books that deserve to be kept in print and remembered. Case in point, Book View Café and Fires of Nuala by Cat Kimbriel.
This is a complex, nuanced novel about a con artist who winds up in the middle of an assassination attempt. Darame has been on Nuala for less than a day when she finds herself in the middle of the biggest mess she’s ever been in. After spending the night with a lesser son of the ruling house of the kingdom of Atare, she’s in danger. All but one of the other heirs are dead, and he doesn’t live long. Now Sheel is the heir. The only reason he and Darame survived is that they didn’t spend the night in his quarters.
As an offworlder, Darame isn’t above suspicion. Especially since indications are that the man who put together the job she’s part of is behind the killings. If she plans to stay alive, Darame must decide where her loyalties lie.
Nuala sounds like an interesting place, although not a world I’d want to inhabit. Radiation has caused a number of genetic defects in the population. As a result, members of the ruling houses leave the planet to seek mates on other worlds. There’s no FTL in Kimbriel’s universe. Years pass between leaving and returning home, which makes for some interesting family dynamics. By not taking the easy way out, the author has added a level of complication to the story which adds to the drama.
The political structure is not your typical cookie cutter government, either. Brother and sister, children of the eldest surviving female, share power. It makes things complicated when you’re trying to overthrow the government. There were subtlies in the power structure I’m not sure I completely followed.
This wasn’t a short novel, although by today’s doorstopper standards, it wouldn’t be considered long. It’s an ambitious book. There are multiple viewpoint characters, and the action takes place over months rather than days or weeks. Kimbriel is able to add depth to her characters and make it look easy. All of the major characters come across as individuals with their own recognizable personality traits, their own strengths and flaws. The dialogue moves swiftly, but does more than just march the plot along. It also establishes the characters as individuals. The relationships between the characters are complex and often messy. There’s some angst, but there’s also humor and caring. Just like in real life.
This is a book that should appeal to both male and female readers. There’s action, intrigue, and politics to appeal to fans of sf thrillers, while the relationship between Darame and Sheel will be a plus to those who like their fiction with a dash of romance. While men typically prefer the former and women the latter, the truth is that most normal, healthy adults have aspects of both in their personalities albeit to different degrees. The amazing thing is that Kimbriel manages to balance both so that the joining of the two, action and romance, is nearly seamless. Many have tried to pull this sort of book off in the past, but few have succeeded. Kimbriel makes it look easy. She hasn’t written a book for men or a book for women. She’s written a book for mature, intelligent adults who like thoughtful science fiction with action, intrigue, and fully realized characters the reader wants to spend time with.
The formatting on the book was flawless. I found no weird line or page breaks. Chapter breaks were clear, as were scene breaks. I had some issues with the cover art, namely that the two moons shown couldn’t be that close to the planet because of gravitational effects, but then I’m paid to know about that sort of thing in my day job. This is the same cover that was on the paperback edition all those years ago. The benefit is that it will be attractive to readers who may have worn out their paper copies.
I recommend this one if you like good science fiction, the kind that’s harder and harder to find these days.
Bookview Café’s website describes the organization as a publisher’s cooperative. The list of authors contains a number of names that will be familiar to science fiction and fantasy readers. Check them out, because their slogan is you can never have too many ebooks. I couldn’t agree more.