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Michelle Diener’s Dark Deeds: A Pandora’s Box

Today, Maggie and Alexandra tackle the second book in the Class 5 Series by Michelle Diener, Dark Deeds. The first book in the series,  Dark Horse, made both of their Top Ten Lists for 2015. Does the second book live up to their expectations? We’ll find out! Here is Maggie’s summary of the novel:

Abducted from Earth and then used  for slave labor, Fiona Russell has not had the best introduction to the wider universe. When her ship is boarded by a new alien species, she begs to go with them. She gets a concussion for her trouble. Proving third time lucky she is rescued by the Grih, humanlike aliens determined to get justice for everything from her concussed head to her abduction. But even while she deeply appreciates the rescue, she holds some secrets back. For Fiona has come to suspect that there’s something much bigger than just her abduction and subsequent abuse driving the Grih’s lust for justice – and whatever is happening, she has landed right in the thick of it.

Captain Hal Vakeri thought things were complicated enough when he was hunting the dangerous thieves who had wounded some of his crew. When his battleship chases them to a commercial vessel he finds not the pirates he was looking for but a woman abducted from Earth. Finding a new advanced sentient would be a big enough issue but this is the second human they’ve found in just a few short months.  Discovering her has tons of political implications but it is the personal ramifications that concern Hal.  For this lovely, brave woman captures more and more of his attention with every encounter they have – and unless he is very much mistaken, he has captured her interest as well. But a galaxy on the brink of war hardly seems like the best time and place to fall in love.

Maggie: I really love this series. I don’t know that I have ever read science fiction romance quite this good, especially of the space opera variety. What are your thoughts?

Alexandra: To be honest, I hadn’t read too many science fiction romances before this. Although I’d watch things like Star Trek, most romances either had too much sci-fi detail for me, or made out the hero to be too alien for me to contemplate. Dark Horse was the first I’d read in a while, and I’d really recommend it to anyone thinking about dipping their toes into science fiction romance. It actually got me going on a bit of a sci-fi romance binge for a while.

Maggie: Yes, it inspired me to look for other sci-fi romance too. It’s sad that there isn’t a whole lot going on in this market.

One of the few quibbles I had with the book actually came at the beginning. I understood Rose (the heroine of Dark Horse) learning the alien languages well and quickly since she was a linguist but Fiona seemed to learn at the same pace and she was an architect. I liked the character but that was a bit of a jolt. What did you think of Fiona? How did she compare to Rose in your opinion?

Alexandra: My first opinion of Fiona was that she was fierce. I actually didn’t think much about the language issue–I focused more on how articulate she was when confronting her abusers [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][or owners or captors, I’m really not sure what the best word is here] in the beginning. I was really impressed by that moment, and it made her character distinct from Rose’s in a good way.

Maggie:  Yes, Rose is far more quiet – but deep. What were your thoughts on Hal?

Alexandra: Again, I was amazed that Ms. Diener could create someone who was just as wonderful as her previous hero, yet completely different. Hal was definitely the captain of a battleship, not an explorer. Very practical, he thought very strategically after they first picked up Fiona, which I think helped make the book more realistic to me. What did you think of him?

Maggie: I really liked that he had such strong protective instincts. I thought that made him a good battleship captain in that he wasn’t looking to pick a fight but would be happy to have one if you were hurting others. For me, he had that perfect mix of thoughtfulness and activism.

I’ve really loved the world building in this series. While it might owe a nod to Star Trek, the story is completely unique in a universe that seems familiar but fresh. I love how the threat comes from within the Union and how none of the species we meet are perfect but contain good and bad characters.

Alexandra: I couldn’t agree more. I think it feels very similar to plain old human politics, which is part of why the books seem wonderfully familiar and accessible.

Maggie: I became really interested in the Krik we meet at the start of the novel. What were you thoughts on them?

Alexandra: I was interested too! They seemed like another great example of world-building. Since they’re not part of the United Council, I’m not sure that they’re going to factor majorly into the other books. But every world has similar rogue groups, and adding in the mysterious Krik gave me a better sense of this universe.

Maggie: Do you think we are getting a third book starring the missing girl we met in this novel? That’s my hope.

Alexandra: I definitely think we’re getting a third book, and I am anxiously awaiting it!

One of my main difficulties–which isn’t a problem with the book so much as it is my own head–is visualizing what all of these aliens look like. The Grih are easy, I just think Vulcan or Elf, but the other races are more difficult. Have you had any similar trouble?

Maggie: I hadn’t really thought about this till you asked but I don’t think I’ve had any trouble with visualization – but I came to romance from spending years reading/watching science fiction/fantasy so I think I probably hear a vague description and picture some alien I saw on Star Trek, Star Wars, or Enemy Mine or read about in an R. Lee Smith novel.

Alexandra: The romance here took a little while longer to develop than in Dark Horse. Did you think that suited the book?

Maggie: Good point and yes, I think it absolutely suited the book.  Given what Fiona had been through I don’t think I would have believed in a quick and easy romance. She has had nothing but negative encounters with alien species until she meets the Grih; had she trusted them completely the minute she met them it would have broken my suspension of disbelief, so I am very glad the author took her time developing that relationship.

It sounds like we both really enjoyed the book. I would give it an A-/ B+ grade overall and recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction romance or even just science fiction. I think the story is strong enough that it works as either. What are your thoughts?

Alexandra: I’d also give it an A-/B+ grade, probably closer to A- since I have a feeling I’ll be picking it up to reread sometime soon. Like you said, the romance was slow but great, and the sci-fi adventure was so well designed, I know I’ll need to return to it.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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