3 out of 4 stars
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Alien mercenaries. Telepathic abilities. Intrigue. A race to the finish with deadly stakes. If these themes appeal to you, you may want to read Through the Hostage by J C Steel. This is the first book in The Cortii series with books 2 (Fighting Shadows) and 3 (Elemental Affinity) available on Kindle already. According to the author, even more books are on the way!
Khyria Ilan is the commander of a unit of mercenaries in training on the planet Corina. They are quickly coming up on the ultimate test of their unit called The Crossing. During The Crossing, at least half of the 25 members in the unit must cross the finish line in order to continue together as a unit. Unfortunately, the leaders of this world – called the Council – are not fond of Ilan. They make it even more difficult than normal for her and her unit to survive this Crossing.
Meanwhile, the Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organization (IESRO) wants to have someone observe The Crossing of Khyria's unit. The Council chooses a man named Jack from a world (The Earth) that has yet to be included in the Federated Planes Alliance (FPA). Jack is unaware of the existence of aliens much less those with telepathy, but he agrees to go to Corina to observe Khyria Ilan and her mercenaries. Will Jack, Khyria, and the unit be able to survive despite the Council's influence?
The story is told in the third person with varying perspectives. The author switches back and forth between characters with ease, thus allowing us to observe multiple points of view. Whereas sometimes this changing perspective can be confusing, in this story, it works quite well. I had no trouble distinguishing which character we were following.
The action in the novel is almost non-stop starting in the prologue. We first read about a game called Charan which, to me, resembled Russian roulette. Khyria faces off against an opponent with the opponent starting. Each must take a laser weapon aimed at their head and pull the trigger. In this instance, the opponent is the unlucky one with Khyria surviving. This is the first of many scenes of action and suspense that pull the reader into the story.
For the most part, the characters are realistic and interesting. Khyria's background remains a mystery throughout most of the novel; although, we get glimpses of her past here and there in the story. She is a very stoic character and is a great example of a strong woman protagonist. Jack is a little too accepting of his new alien world for my tastes. However, he does express serious skepticism regarding telepathic abilities which makes up for how accepting he is of aliens in general. He shows great empathy for those around him and fits in quite well with the band of mercenaries.
Unfortunately, there is one serious flaw in this novel. It is quite confusing. I started off the story confused and continued this way through at least half of the novel. There are a great many alien words used that are not explained in the context of the story. The author has provided a guide for the vocabulary at the end of the book; but, even with this, I was still confused. Ms. Steel provides bits and pieces of the story throughout the novel, and it is almost left to the reader to string it all together. When the story finally did come together for me, I enjoyed anticipating what would happen. I think that the next book in the series would be even better, as I now have a solid knowledge of the alien culture and vocabulary.
Overall, I rate Through the Hostage 3 out of 4 stars. I love the premise behind the book. Alien mercenaries are not a topic of most science fiction novels. I don't believe the book deserves the full 4 stars due to the confusion I felt while reading. I know that I am not the only one who would stumble through the first half wondering what exactly was happening. I would recommend this to true science fiction lovers, especially those who enjoy a good puzzle and aren't afraid of being a little baffled at the beginning.
Through the Hostage
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