I’ve said it in the past, but it bears repeating that; one of the most rewarding parts of being a professional reviewer is the opportunity to watch an author grow and develop within his/her genre. This is certainly the case, for me, with Petra Landon. The Starfarer (The Araloka Chronicles Book 2) is now the fourth Landon book I have read and I continue to watch her story-telling skills evolve and improve. Within her four books, we have two very distinct and different genres, the first being fantasy, with the Saga of the Chosen series and the second being Science Fiction in the Araloka Chronicles. While on the surface it might seem like they are two very different genres, the reality, on closer inspection, is that they are not. Landon writes about relationships, especially relationships between different and disparate people, including inter-species. This is what ultimately ties her four books together. The core of her writing is about love, commitment and the underlying ideals that underpin humanity. In two of her novels she has chosen to clothe these ideals in a background of fantasy and in two, in a science fiction background. For me, as a reader, this just makes her books more interesting and displays her innate story-telling ability.
In this latest iteration, of the Araloka Chronicles, we meet a new character along with many of the characters we met in the first of this series, The Mercenary. Star Captain Zh’hir Mu’raat is of the Ur’quay species. Once renowned and feared throughout the galaxies as one of the foremost space-travelling and honourable species, inexplicably several centuries ago, the Ur’quay chose to cut themselves off from the rest of the cosmos, in order to preserve and purify the Ur’quay line. This decision has been a disaster for the people of Ur’qia and now, short on food and facing extinction, as a species, Zh’hir has been sent out to find food sources and most importantly the fuel Ur’qia needs to survive – the ubiquitous skoal. When Zh’hir arrives in the Araloka sector of the universe, a sector his forebears were very familiar with, he discovers the sector at war with the evil Budh-Ketaari Empire, bent on galaxy domination. Linking up with the Kampuchan Alliance and the Hadari’Kor mercenary Zoran, Zh’hir is determined to use his people’s advanced technology and history of warfare to rid the galaxy of the Budh-Ketaari Empire.
When gathering samples of stoal on Terra-Agri-5, Zh’hir inadvertently collects more than he bargained for, in the form of a beautiful, young terran woman by the name of Sila Gatherer. The attraction between this young woman and the massive, Ur’quay warrior is instantaneous and it soon becomes obvious that Sila, as a person, is much more than they initially thought. Sila holds some secrets, within her, that will open Zh’hir’s eyes as to the wrongs perpetrated by his own forebears, centuries earlier.
I found The Starfarer (The Araloka Chronicles Book 2) to be a fantastic read, full of adventure, action and thrills, all tautly pulled together by author Petra Landon. A few things lifted this book up above the rest of the science fiction market, for me. The first of those is the underlying themes that run through the threads of the story. It is rare to meet characters such as Zh’hir and Zoran who are so beautifully drawn and also remarkably faithful to their morals and their beliefs in what is right or wrong. Warriors and fighters they may be, but they governed their lives and instincts by their respective “codes”. The camaraderie of the two vastly different, but ultimately similar forces, the Hadari’Kor and the Ur’quay was wonderfully crafted by the author.
Counterpointed against the violence and the battles was this dual love affair, between species, that occurred between Zoran (a Hadari’Kor) and his love, Saakshi (a Budheyan) along with Zh’hir and his passion, the young terran, Sila. I thought the romance and love scenes were incredibly sensitively written, sensual, without being smutty and just added to the entire story beautifully. The allegory from this story of the inter-species relationships, for me, was the idea that no matter what your culture, your skin colour, your religion, your creed, your physical characteristics; love is always love and love trumps all of it. I really appreciated that in the story.
The other underlying theme that resonated with me, especially in today’s increasingly separatist and isolationist world is learning the lessons the Ur’quay people had to learn the hard way – that separating yourself from the rest of the universe (read humanity here) is ultimately a self-defeating road. I almost expected Zh’hir to produce a cap from centuries ago that read – “Make Ur’Qia Great Again”. The author may or may not have intended that to shine through her work, but for me it definitely did.
Petra Landon has thrilled me again and I cannot wait to read more of her work in the future. I like my science fiction with lots of story and a minimum of confusing technology and technical expertise. Petra Landon’s Araloka Chronicles fills that requirement perfectly. I hope there are further sequels to both the Araloka Chronicles and the Saga of the Chosen, as I am still excited by both of these sagas however I am also anticipating where Landon’s muse might lead her in the future. I have no doubt it will be successful and highly readable. Make no mistake Petra Landon is one of the top indie authors, in my opinion, in the marketplace today, for sheer readability and excitement.