Amanda Bouchet starts off a brand-new space opera saga with Nightchaser, the first book in the Nightchaser series.
Tess Bailey is no petty thief. She’s a space age Robin Hood who’s just pulled off the greatest heist of her life: the theft of a secret lab creating super-soldiers for the Galactic Overseer. The government isn’t giving it up without a fight though, and Tess and her crew have been hopping all over the galaxy trying to escape. Taking some big risks, she manages to evade the top Dark Watch enforcer Captain Bridgebane and get her ship to Albion 5 for some much needed repairs. It’s going to take a lot of money to get her flying again but that’s not her biggest concern: The tall, dark and handsome mechanic she’s found stirs feelings she hasn’t felt in a long time – feelings she definitely shouldn’t be having right now.
Shade Ganavan isn’t buying the lovely lady’s story about natural causes damaging her ship. He knows Tess has seen some violent action, probably of the unwanted Dark Watch variety. Her wit, sass and beauty have him thinking thoughts he hasn’t had in a long time but when he learns just how much the government is willing to pay to find her, he’s put in a tough situation. That money would mean the reclaiming of his birthright. Is he willing to sacrifice a dream that has shaped his entire past for the chance of a future love?
AAR staffers Shannon Dyer and Maggie Boyd read Nightchaser and are here to share their thoughts on this sci-fi tale.
Maggie: I’d fallen in love with Star Trek by the age if six and have had a massive crush on Mr. Spock almost my entire life, so when I get to read a sci-fi romance set in outer space and involving cool starships, I’m all over it. What drew you to this book?
Shannon: I’m not what anyone could call a Star Trek fan. Instead, I chose to pick up Nightchaser because I really loved Ms. Bouchet’s Kingmaker series, and I was eager to see how she’d handle something so different.
Maggie: For me, this is one of those novels that is so insubstantial, you have to hold on tight lest it float away. Would you agree that the book is fairly light-hearted or did you find any dark undertones?
Shannon: I wouldn’t say it was at all dark, which ended up being a problem, because I find light-hearted books are hard to take seriously. There’s nothing for me to sink my metaphorical teeth into, so reading this was kind of a slog for me.
Maggie: Yes, the dichotomy between the tone the author took and the subject matter was a tad confusing. Case in point: Tess struck me as something of an ingénue. She seems very innocent and naïve at times and is extremely open hearted and idealistic. Given that she’s a rebel, a thief and an escapee from a galactic prison, her sweet nature really stretched my credulity. What did you think of her?
Shannon: I didn’t care for Tess at all. I mean, her overall kindness fits nicely into the world Ms. Bouchet has created, but I don’t think she had any real depth to her character. I kept expecting to learn some huge truth about her, something that would make her more compelling, but that never happened.
Maggie: I think we did learn two or three pretty big truths about her, but it was the author’s frothy handling of the subject matter that kept the big reveals from being very relevant. Moving on to the hero: I had to giggle a bit about his name, Shade. I had a feeling it was tongue in cheek and that the author was definitely throwing shade at something – but we can talk more about that later. I thought he was a pretty stock romance hero, complete with a tragic backstory. What was your take on Shade?
Shannon: I found his backstory mildly interesting, but nothing about him was particularly memorable for me. He’s like a thousand other heroes I’ve read about, and as with Tess, I was hoping for so much more from him.
Maggie: I think you’ve stated it perfectly: there are thousands of heroes just like him. I thought the book did a fairly good job of keeping the emphasis on Tess and Shade and their romance. I could have used a bit more relationship building but given the airy, quick nature of the book I think the author did a fair job of convincing me they belonged together. What did you think?
Shannon: I would have liked to see more chemistry between Tess and Shade. We were told several times how attracted they were to one another, but it was never something I could fully believe in. I dislike it when an author resorts to telling instead of showing, and Ms. Bouchet falls into that particular trap quite a bit here.
Maggie: True, we were told of the sizzle but never saw it. For me, the plot was basic Star Wars: Plucky band of misfits battle an evil empire. It’s familiar and easy to get into, and in this case, told with a bit of humor. What did you think of the plot?
Shannon: I feel like the theme of my comments here have a lot to do with unoriginality. There are a ton of science fiction and fantasy novels with plots just like this one. It’s the classic set-up of a small band of misfits tasked with bringing down a tyrannical empire, and while I enjoy reading such stories, I generally prefer them to have at least some characteristics that set them apart from the rest.
Maggie: Yes, this book was very generic. I had a feeling the evil empire was meant to be kind of a slam at the current American federal administration; I thought this was perhaps what the author was throwing shade at. My only problem with that was that rather than dangerous, they came across as a bit petty and bullying with the overlord himself being the exception.
Shannon: I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to notice the petty nature of many of the story’s villains. I found it really hard to take them seriously since a lot of what they did in order to try to stop Tess and her crew seemed quite silly. The Overlord was a bit more threatening, and I did wonder a time or two if Ms. Bouchet was throwing in a few digs at our current administration.
Maggie: Overall, I would give this a C+. The light nature of the tale was its saving grace. Had it tried for a more serious tone, I would be grading down but this leaned more towards fun in space than an honest assessment of the dangers of empire building. There were dark moments for sure but we didn’t really know the characters they were happening to. What did you make of it overall?
Shannon: I’m going with a D. The story flowed well, but I didn’t end up caring about the characters or their mission. I would have liked the story to have taken a darker turn, but, since it didn’t, I don’t think I’ll bother with subsequent books in this series.