Unearthed takes a while to warm up to, but eventually the out-of-this-world setting becomes enjoyable. But near the book’s end when the debut author falls back on one of my least favorite plot devices, instead of being excited about a new and interesting universe, I wondered why she plugged in a worn-out romance novel staple. To Barry’s credit, though, at least the staple was more clichéd miscommunication than full-blown “Big Mis.”
Tess MacKenzie has just finished singing her set at a rather low-scale club. Success hasn’t materialized even though she knows she has a great voice. What does materialize, unfortunately, is Captain Cohl Travers.
The backstory is this: Cohl is an adventurer, an artifact acquisition specialist, out to save his home world following the kidnapping of his father, the ruler (or Yre Gault). Two opposing factions on the planet Trakas – the Traka-Sou and the Traka-Nor – are out to deciminate the other. After discovering a legend regarding an Amulet that would allow him to control his enemies, Rommol, leader of the Nor, tries to hire Cohl to find it. Knowing how Rommol plans to use the Amulet, Cohl refuses, but his hand is forced when Rommol kidnaps his father.
After listening to earth’s radio signals, Cohl realizes Tess’ voice is the only one with the perfect pitch needed to pass through the final trap to snare the Amulet. As you might imagine, Tess doesn’t give a hoot about his problems. He kidnaps her shortly before her possible “big break.” After eight years of waiting and caring for her ailing parents, she is not about to wave her career goodbye. But before Tess has a chance to adjust to what Cohl wants of her, they are attacked by the Traka-Sou and must head to Trakas, where there are more surprises in store for her.
Cohl is one of those men who only explains things on a “need to know” basis and this is how he deals with Tess. This understandably drives Tess crazy, since not only is her life uprooted, but she is also in physical danger. Due to Cohl’s impersonation of a clam, Tess behaves badly herself. Because of this, for the first half of the book, I didn’t really enjoy either one of the characters.
They eventually manage to start behaving like adults and the story improves. As they work together to undertake the search for the Amulet, they interact and develop a relationship. However, the seeds of the misunderstanding are readily apparent for the reader. Any real satisfaction with the story ends because of Tess and Cohl’s inability to communicate about their emotional connection… well, that and a couple of over-the-top villains.
Some of the secondary characters are a great deal of fun. Captain Zain Masters and Rayce Coburne, two of Cohl’s friends, make quite an impact with little “face time.” Definitely a pair of scoundrels there, yum, yum! And then there’s Pitz, Cohl’s robot companion, and definitely more than he seems. Had the book featured more of these characters and less of the villains, I’d have enjoyed it more.
Inevitable comparisons to the universes created in Star Trek and Star Wars fade into the background soon enough because the author’s world-building is well-developed enough to stand on its own. It’s too bad that after the great ending with the Amulet, she chose to have a trite and unnecessary error of communication between Tess and Cohl. I’m hoping that this author will capitalize on her potential heroes in her next book, because I would definitely pick up a story with Zain or Rayce as the featured rogue!