This is the third book in Michelle Diener’s Class 5 series. The story of Imogene Peters, a character we learned of in Dark Deeds, this novel chronicles the fate of the remaining two Class 5 Tecran warships and the final human captive taken by those ships. The series as a whole is perhaps the very best science fiction/space opera romance I have ever read and this is a lovely addition to the saga.
In her months of captivity, Imogene has gone from a starship, to a cage and now to what she thinks is “meant to be a short-range, day tripper vessel.” The cramped quarters have grated on the crew’s nerves for the past two weeks but when their sensors spot a ship rapidly approaching and learn what it is, the dreaded word “Krik” revitalizes them. Their fear is palatable as they await a boarding party and, as it turns out, well founded. Imogene is forced to watch as her captors are slaughtered in front of her.
Her new captors take Imogene to yet another ship, throwing her into yet another prison. This prison, however, contains a very pleasant surprise. Since leaving Earth the only high level sentient beings she has met are her captors, the Tecran and then the savage Krik. Now, when she is thrown in a prison in the hold, she is introduced to a whole host of other beings and finds some surprising allies.
Grih Captain Camlar Kalor was on a mission for the United Council involving the recent Class 5 problem when he was captured by the Krik and placed in the hold of one of the “unfriendly” Class 5 battle cruisers. He is not delighted when a human woman is thrown into the prison with him but he is relieved. He believes Imogene to be the person he has been searching for (Fiona Russell) and seeing her alive and only somewhat worse for wear is reassuring. When he learns that she is not Fiona, he realizes that his universe just got a whole lot more complicated. With the introduction of Imogene, and adding the Krik and two Fitalians into the mix, he figures that much more is happening than the original breach of law he thought the Tecran had been guilty of.
Cam and Imogene soon find themselves on a thrilling rollercoaster of an adventure as they battle villains, make allies out of sentient machines and fall in love (or at least, really deep like).
I really appreciate the optimistic outlook Ms. Diener’s writing takes. Much like Star Trek, her world involves advanced technology and an affiliated group of planets, the United Council, which show different species working towards harmony and the greater good. No species is presented as perfect but there is a sense of peace, prosperity and hope which make a nice change from the currently popular writing trend of bleak, dystopian futures.
Ms. Diener also does an excellent job of showcasing how her calm, intelligent and reasonable Earth-born heroines fit smoothly into such a world. Her gals don’t cry and whine and bemoan their fate as many a normal person would do, but adapt quickly and competently to their new environments. They hold the kind of morality and temperament which many of us do but their ability to utilize it in moments of crisis and draw from within themselves the stuff of heroes is truly admirable. Imogene is in those ways exactly like Fiona and Rose in the previous books, but she has enough of a personality difference that it isn’t a grating similarity but a comforting familiarity. She epitomizes the clichés “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” and “when life gives you lemon, make lemonade” but makes them realistic rather than trite.
Cam is a good hero for Imogene. He is practical, respectful, resourceful and kind. He is neither patronizing nor bullying and eases her into his world with as much courtesy and care as one can muster while under fire. I thought they made a very effective team but perhaps not a very romantic one. This isn’t the fault of the characterization so much as it is of the length of the book and how much ground the novel has to cover. As with the other stories in this trilogy, the human (in this case Imogene) makes a significant friend of the AI running the Class 5. In fact she befriends two of them. Having to split her relationship building between the two ships and Cam means the romance suffers from lack of quality time. There’s a love scene but there isn’t really love. Imogene and Cam do like each other a lot and you get the feeling that moving forward, their relationship will solidify into something strong and good. We just aren’t quite there when the book ends.
Fans of the series will be glad to hear that we do get the chance to spend time with the couples from Dark Horse and Dark Deeds. The Earth ladies even get the chance to perform as a trio for the music loving Grih! This is a mixed blessing, however, since it’s one more time the main romance is cut short in favor of the building of other relationships.
Overall, I liked where the book leaves Imogene. We see her having a relationship with a man that stands a good probability of turning into an HEA, she has befriended the other two humans in that part of the galaxy, she has money, a possible career and a powerful Class 5 friend. There are some tough things going on in the political climate around her but she has good allies to face those challenges. While the book doesn’t end with the typical rosy, romantic outlook of a romance novel it does end happily, which works for me.
Dark Minds is not the strongest book in the Class 5 trilogy but it is an enjoyable, quick read that will satisfy fans of the author and leaves us anxious to see what she will do next. I’m so delighted to be able to recommend it.