Anaz-voohri is an interesting, enjoyable, engrossing novel, but I seriously question if I’d call it a romance.
We meet main character Zack as a teenager on the day he witnesses the alien abduction of his little sister. From that night on, he is relentless in his pursuit of the truth, defying the CIA, the FBI, and the American government while he’s at it. Eventually, he begins to cause too many problems and is given a choice – either he works with the powers that be as a consultant or he faces elimination. The story would have been pretty short if he chose the latter, so luckily he goes off to boot camp.
At Camp Hell, he meets Tia, his drill sergeant. She’s tougher than anyone he’s ever met, but motivates him to try harder, dig deeper, achieve more. When he eventually finishes his month at camp, he is promoted immediately to just below her, and the two become friends.
The aliens that abducted Zack’s sister and 11 other girls are not ET, ALF, Mork & Mindy type friendly. They’re nasty and bent on destroying humanity, and through the course of the story, commit some pretty nasty deeds. Zack and Tia are part of a team trying to, in all actuality, save the world.
Now, I’m sure you can see the romance here, but it is very definitely a subplot. The alien invasion/human counterattack is always at the forefront, even during the romance scenes. It’s not that the romance is lacking; in fact, it’s quite sweet and the characters are very natural. It just never takes precedence. This is not a criticism, just an observation that, although the novel is very good, if you’re looking for a romance, it probably wouldn’t deliver.
There are some downfalls: the beginning is quite clunky and, at first, I didn’t think I’d get through it. However, once Zack grows up and the action starts, the writing cleans up quite dramatically. I also found the alien character overdramatic in some places, and I didn’t quite understand what the author was attempting to do with the religion/science dichotomy she kept setting up. However, the book is the start of a series from Triskelion, with different authors writing each section, so it may be explained in the future.
Anaz-voohri stands alone quite well. It’s not very long, at 174 pages, but is quite dense. A lot of action is packed in, and the pace very rarely slows. There is some good character development, and I quite liked the subtle dig at witch-hunts in America, not unlike the criticism implicit in Bryan Singer’s X-Men trilogy. The author, Schartz, makes her point, but doesn’t preach.
As an SF novel, Anaz-voohri is excellent, but as a romance, it’s a SF novel.