This is Catherine Spangler’s debut novel. If you enjoy SF/fantasies, you may like this. Be warned, however, it’s pretty simplistic, and the romance is okay, but nothing earth-shattering.
Leonessa dan Ranul is shunned by her people, the Shielders. Nessa feels herself unlovable, since she is physically deformed, has been all but abandoned by her parents, and has been labeled a traitor. When an opportunity arises for her to save her people, she jumps at the chance, but is admonished not to take the risk by Jarek, her Shielder warrior brother – the only person who loves Nessa in return.
Nessa sets out in the spaceship equivalent of a 1962 Volkswagen, and quickly finds herself dead in the air, and stranded. She is rescued by a tough-talking, arrogant, manly male bounty-hunter named Chase McKnight. Chase isn’t what he seems, naturally, but spends the first half of the book blustering orders at Nessa. Nessa is a Shielder and Chase chases Shielders, so Nessa does not dare expose her race to Chase even as Chase races to expose Nessa in bed.
The plot thickens. Nessa has chosen to be exposed to the deadly Orana virus, and has only three weeks to live – it’s imperative she get to the Shielder laboratory on Sonoma (that’s near Mendocino for you wine lovers), so an antidote can be found to save her people. Obstacles are constantly thrown in her way, and we wonder if Nessa is going to get out of this alive. Chase has the capability to help her – if he would only tell her who he really is and if she would only confide in him. But, alas. . . .
Other stuff happens, and secondary characters are introduced to move the plot along but I was not hooked into the story securely enough to get into them. The basic story in Shielder was original and the characters sympathetic. One might consider this a “beach” or “filler” read – nothing heavy, just a quick trip through the galaxy. But, there were problems with the journey.
While the author placed this story in an outer space and planet setting, she didn’t really create new worlds, but instead borrowed heavily, totally from science fiction television programs and movies. The only truly original creation was a slinky, chattering, blue-furred lanrax named Turi, Nessa’s beloved pet and only friend. Nessa is supposed to be a computer whiz, but there was no techno-jargon here. Details were kept vague and references high level. So, if you’re looking for more depth/realism to your science-fiction/fantasy, you won’t find it here.
Nessa was sweet, her plight precarious. But Chase was too arrogant and Nessa too much the victim by comparison – especially at first. Chase alternates between gruff remarks, snapping out orders, and boinking Nessa’s innocent brains out, then feeling guilty about it. Then, doing it again, and not feeling quite so guilty about it. His constant references to Nessa as pilgrim was reminiscent of old John Wayne movies: Do this, pilgrim! Do that, pilgrim! Lace ’em up and lace ’em up tight, pilgrim!
Shielder is not a complex read, nor a challenging one. Nothing in it will offend you, but it doesn’t really dazzle either. A bit too simple for what I was looking for, but other readers may find something here to enjoy.