The ninth book I am reviewing is Letháo: The Secret King, an excellent science fiction novel by Dawn Chapman. It’s a space opera, within the same genre as books, films, and television shows like Star Trek, the Star Wars saga, Dune, and Battlestar Galactica. In some of the Amazon reviews for the book I saw claims that The Secret King follows a plot very similar to Battlestar Galactica. I’ve never seen the show so I couldn’t say. The Secret King was originally conceived as a thirteen-episode TV series (doing some research on it, I get the impression that a show might be coming in the future), and this comes across in the writing. Chapters feel episodic, so the book contains multiple small situations of conflict and resolution within the framework of a large conflict.
The overall story is this: the population of the planet Letháo must evacuate their world. These refugees are led by Kendro and his wife Mika, the king and queen of their world. The monarchs are supported by the captains of the ships and by Kendro’s trusted second-in-command or Ainoren, Octav. These people, a race called the Aonise, are mostly humanoid but have limited abilities involving telepathy and a physical mechanism called ‘croex’. This is a soul-like energy which can allow one Aonise to share strength or the burden of intense pain with other Aonise, among other functions. Some Aonise also have visions of the future. As the refugees seek a new safe haven, they are plagued by attacks from aliens called the Zefron, schemes and power plays from the captains, and human drama around relationships between crew members. Each of these conflicts influences the other conflicts and leads to shifts within the power dynamics of the ship. With the book’s primary focus on the personal interactions rather than the spectacle of the alien attacks, I can certainly see this book working as a character-driven TV series.
The writing was very good. At spots the sentences were rather choppy and there were spots where I noticed misplaced punctuation marks or sentence fragments, but none of it was enough to pull me out of the story. None of it was enough to cringe over. And I promise, I have read books with errors that made me cringe. I don’t like cringing while reading, especially not when the author didn’t mean for the reader to cringe. Not once did I cringe over Dawn Chapman’s work, instead I spent a lot of time genuinely marveling over the quality of the dialogue, setting, and pacing. If she is reading this, then I say to her, nicely done. Very nicely done.
For all its good qualities, there were also a few points of contention I had with it. The timing of events was difficult to follow, because there weren’t many indicators of how many days or weeks passed between events. There were also some events that really strained credibility, particularly regarding the way visions operated in the story. I won’t go too much into that though, as I’d prefer order to avoid spoilers. The way the book ended, it seems that there will certainly be a sequel, so the questions of credibility may be answered in the future. If there is a sequel forthcoming , I look forward to it.
So, to wrap this up, I highly recommend this book for sci-fi and space opera fans. It’s a strong addition to the genre, and I’m really excited to see where else the story may lead.
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