Desert Isle Keeper
Susan Krinard has again superbly demonstrated why she is one of my favorite authors. She has written a remarkable and complex universe, and a great romance too! This book absorbed and captivated me and I read most of it in one sitting.
In Krinard’s universe, mankind populated distant planets (the Nine Worlds and Concordant planets that form the Alliance) and come in contact with a feline-like race called the shaauri. Relations between the humans and the shaauri were hostile until human telepaths (called Kinsmen) became mediators, and were able to interpret shaauri language by reading minds and emotions. There was a period of peace, with the shaauri allowing humans access to their wormholes to travel between human populated planets. However, not all shaauri and Kinsman telepaths were in support of peace. The peaceful progress between the species was sabotaged, and the Second Shaauri war began. Humans no longer had access to the shaauri-controlled wormholes, and direct contact and trade between the Nine Worlds and the Concordant planets ended. Since many of the planets were inhospitable, this caused great hardship for the human population on those worlds. Many Kinsmen also sided with the shaauri and left the Alliance for the shaauri-controlled space, the Shaauriat. When this book begins, the two species are still in conflict, although outright war has ended.
Ronan VelKalevi is flying for his life. A human captive taken by the shaauri when he was only six, he has no memory of his life before living with the shaauri. Twenty-three years later he has finally managed to escape with a ship and is fleeing to human-controlled space. He is returning to his own kind at last. When he sees the ship in shaauri space he knows he is saved, but how could a human ship travel through the wormholes?
The Pegasus is no ordinary ship, and neither is her captain, Cynara D’Accorso. Cynara’s ship is the only Alliance ship outfitted with an experimental slingshot drive that allows it to travel the wormholes. She travels between Concordant planets and the Nine Worlds dispersing essential supplies to the stranded worlds. When Ronan is brought on board, he barely seems human, with his inhuman watchfulness and use of shaauri language. She is also concerned he could be a shaauri Kinsman spy. She has her own telepathic abilities and uses them to sense his intentions. He submits willingly and she can find no threat. She wants to believe him, and the terrible scars covering his body from fights with other shaauri in his childhood testify to his ordeal.
Ronan is a complex man. He may or may not be hiding a secret, but his honor is never in question. He follows a complex shaauri spirituality known as the Eightfold Way, which allows him to achieve inner peace and balance. As he forms relationships with Cynara and other shipmates, he realizes his mind may hide secrets of which he is seemingly unaware. Some members of the crew believe Ronan to be a traitor, no matter what he says or does to the contrary. He finds himself deeply drawn to Cynara, but has no idea how to fit into human society, and has nothing to offer her. The shaauri have a complex caste system which does not translate well into understanding human friendships or relationships.
Cynara has her own very personal secrets surrounding her family and how she became captain of the Pegasus. She is an extremely strong woman in her own right who has had to earn respect the hard way. Her home planet has a male dominated society and to become captain she broke many of her cultural taboos. Although immediately attracted to Ronan, she sends mixed signals because she has her own inner battle to work through. In some ways she has more of a tortured past than Ronan. The final revelation concerning her past was a bit disconcerting for me as it uncovered serious issues for her that were somewhat too easily resolved.
Still, the journey that Cynara and Ronan take together, and the alien culture that Krinard has created enthralled me, and I could not put this book down. The last portion of the book takes place in the Shaauriat and it was there that Ronan’s character was completely revealed. The alien shaauri seemed very real, especially in the framework of the culture Krinard created for them.
Putting Kinsman’s Oath down when I finished was hard because I didn’t want to leave! I hope this author has forthcoming books involving this wonderful universe because I can’t wait to read them. If she does, I foresee sleepless nights in my future.