Catherine Spangler's Shadows Fires was a RITA nominee. That didn't surprise me. She is one talented writer. What surprises me is she hasn't received this recognition before. She is without doubt one of the best Futuristic Romance writers around. I have eagerly read each of her tales, but decided to go back and "revisit" some of the first in the series.
Yes, they are a series, but you can easily read them in any order. Spangler gives you an original premise, sharp involving writing, but it's with her characters that make her standout. You become so involved with these people she conjures to life.
Sabin Travers is a Shadower, a bounty hunter. He works for The Collectors. The Collectors were the rulers in this particular quadrant of the universe. But their rule is not benevolent. They brainwash and reprogramme people to do their will, controlling them with telekinetic powers. There are those who somehow manage to escape their control. For these the Collectors employ the Shadowers. The Shadowers hunt down and turn-in these rebels.
The story starts on a hellish planet Calt, which is the `Dew Drop Inn' for the dregs of the quadrant (think of the bar scene in the first Star Wars Movie), where all creatures great and small come to do business. Sabin has been tracking his latest quarry, but the target has proved elusive. He only wanted to have a drink and relax. He never expected to see the woman at the end of the bar. Women like her are prey in this dive, so he cannot help but wonder why she is there.
Moriah Cameron is a smuggler, only her ship was stolen, leaving her stranded on this hellhole. Hoping to win money to pay her passage off the planet, she enters a game. There is a brawl and Sabin manages to help Moriah escape, though her winnings are left behind.
Moriah is not too happy with Sabin's protection. If he was aware of how she was a smuggler, he would turn her in - or so she thinks. Still, she has little option but to accept Sabin's ship as her ticket off Calt. But rather than beg his help, she stows away on his vessel. This puts her life in danger as she overhears confidential information.
Sabin and Moriah are both strong-willed people, and in cases where the sexual attraction is deep, sparks fly. Only Moriah has a dark secret that makes her mistrust men. This is handled very deftly by Spangler, giving Moriah a depth, a vulnerability, a strength that goes beyond general fiction writing.
Spangler was leading the way in Futuristic romance long before it was a hot genre. She creates strong worlds in vivid details. To be a successful writer in the genre the writer has to see the world they write about in order to make the readers see it as well. Spangler dazzles with this ability.
Sabin and Moriah are memorable characters who make you care and will linger long in your mind. A brilliant job. Highly recommended.