The Mercenary, by Petra Landon is the first book in a planned series based around the characters we find in this story and their adventures through space, as they fight for the freedom of their people and the Alliance. As a standalone novel it is a success and as an introduction to a different world, with many weird and wonderful races, it is equally a huge success.
Saakshi, the main character in this story is a former Budeyan rebel, who had been imprisoned by the occupying, Ketaari Imperial Forces. When her prison contract is sold to Pik, a trader on a distant space station, she finds herself waiting tables at his bar and as always, scrabbling to survive and keep her dignity intact. The Budeyan people, although now subjugated by the Ketaari, were once a proud, technologically advanced, race, who were deeply respected throughout the Universe. When a handsome, Hadari’Kor Mercenary starts frequenting Saakshi’s bar and showing an obvious interest in her, Saakshi’s life will change forever.
Zoran, the Hadar’Kor Mercenary and Saakshi’s saviour from Ketaari harassment on the Space Station will forever change her life and so begins a complicated and at times, fraught relationship between two separate races across the Universe. It is this relationship and Zoran’s intense feelings for Saakshi, plus the enmity between the Ketaari Empire and much of the rest of the galaxy that provides the excitement, conflict, drama and passion of this story.
Landon has done a superb job of drawing her two main characters. Saakshi is a fierce and strong young woman who through circumstances is forced to seek help from a stronger, more powerful male, in Zoran. She doesn’t quite know how to handle Zoran’s intensity and his total commitment to the people he loves. She dares to dream of a different future, but is always saddled by the pain and angst she had already suffered at the hands of the Ketaari. Although the two characters are extremes in many ways, Landon gives their story a realism and induces the reader to openly root for the pair.
The book is an incredibly easy read and the writing flows beautifully. I am not generally a science fiction buff, but for me, this was more than science fiction – it was true romance that just happened to be set in space. I was impressed with Landon’s ability to write the steamy, sex scenes that, although infrequent, were definitely a highlight of the read. The idea of two separate beings, from different worlds, mating and experiencing the joys of sex was part of the attraction. But the emotional, romantic, connection, as well as the potential for misunderstanding and confusion, between the two parties, I felt was fully portrayed by the author. The scenes themselves were hot, exciting and very realistic, giving the author full poetic license to depart, albeit briefly, from the standard, space battle scenes of many science fiction stories.
This isn’t the first book of Petra Landon’s that I’ve read and I can guarantee it will not be the last. As a reader I like Science Fiction that is not too heavy on technological wizardry, but more focused on character building and relationships. The Mercenary fulfils this brief perfectly for me and as the set-up for a series of books it couldn’t be a better start. Five big stars from this reviewer.