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Dakiti: Ziva Payvan Book 1 Kindle Edition
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Unfortunately ‘Dakiti’ came over as being both unimaginative and with a poorly developed, near juvenile storyline. The concept of cloning humans to produce an army of mercenaries might have found a home within the original BBC ‘Doctor Who’ series whilst the settling of old scores plus the risk of intergalactic conflict over possession of a banned drug is something another writer might have approached more cautiously.
Ms Fisch tried to reinforce the sci-fi element of the story by giving her characters spaceships with faster the light capabilities. This simply didn’t work; the story could easily have been set on Earth and I can think of at least one country where this sort of cloning technology might be attractive.
‘Dakiti’ and the other books of the trilogy came as a £2.97 bundled offer so I’ll read the second of the set in the hope – thus a slightly generous 2 star rating – that it will be an improvement.
The two main characters, Ziva Payvan and Aroska Tarbic were not just one dimensional, but actually had there own foibles that made them believable and interesting, and the relationship between them is one that keeps you wanting to know more all the way through the book, seeing how it develops and changes. In addition they are not the only ones that have depth to their characters, the author brings to life a number of the friends, acquaintances and enemies of the main characters as you travel through the storyline.
And as for the storyline, well it’s well thought out, fast paced and gripping as Ziva and Aroska endeavour to solve their professional and personal issues against a backdrop of intrigue and ambushes.
This is the second “first novel” by a relatively new author that has really surprised me this year, and this like the other, is genuinely excellent. So it’s 5 stars EJ, and I’m on to Nexus (book 2) as soon as Amazon UK can get it to me.
A brief summary of the plot (minor spoilers for the early chapters):
Set in faraway star systems in (presumably) the distant future, Dakiti is the first title in a series of novels featuring Ziva Payvan: a cold-blooded, no-nonsense special forces operative. Not the nicest person in the galaxy, but if a dangerous assignment needs to be completed or someone has to be eliminated with no questions asked, she’s the go-to woman. If Jack Bauer (from 24) was an alien female with red eyes, he’d probably be Ziva Payvan.
Payvan is (in)famous among her fellow agents at the Haphezian Special Police (HSP). Most have never seen her face, let alone worked with her, but everyone knows her reputation. So when Aroska Tarbic – an agent still reeling from the loss of his team – is assigned with Ziva on a Special Ops joint task force, one might expect him to be pleased. But there’s one tiny problem: Ziva murdered Aroska’s brother Soren and he (quite understandably) hates her guts. And Aroska is not the forgiving sort – things are relatively cordial for about an hour or so, then he and Ziva are at each other’s throats.
However, Aroska doesn’t want to kill Ziva. Not yet – he wants some answers about his brother first. And Ziva gives the impression that toying with people is second nature to her, so the two operatives bury the hatchet (maybe half bury it) and work together. Pretty soon they’re involved in stopping an assassination attempt on a diplomat, who appears to be connected to a transmission that could blow the lid off a dastardly plot. And it seems someone at HSP tipped the would-be killers off.
With an unknown mole in the agency and enemies gunning for them both, Ziva and Aroska decide to work together for the good of the galaxy. That’s what they tell themselves, anyway – even though neither really believes it.
Thoughts and Opinions:
I don’t want to reveal much more of the story, as it would spoil the detailed world and twists that the author EJ Fisch has crafted. The best compliment I can give a novel is that it I didn’t want to put it down, and that was certainly the case here.
The pacing was pretty much spot on. Sometimes authors get bogged down in description, particularly with science fiction/fantasy as those genres require more world building that contemporary thrillers. EJ Fisch provided just enough detail about Haphez and the other worlds for me to create a mental image without going overboard. I particularly liked how the author handled long periods of expository dialogue – there were lots of actions mixed in, with characters noted as moving around/performing actions rather than simply speaking. This really helped me to picture the scenes in progress.
There were a couple of historical background elements regarding wars or other events that were a little confusing and possibly could have done with a few extra lines of explanation here or there, but overall Ziva’s world was an exciting and detailed one.
One of the highlights was the relationship between Ziva and Aroska – best described as hate/respect rather than love/hate, as there is certainly no love between the two at any point. Or even any hints at romance at all. In an era when romance seems to be obsession for action/adventure novels (regardless of whether it makes sense for the characters or not), it was a refreshing change to have a different dynamic. And as noted above, Ziva is definitely not the romantic sort. The only mention of romance is between Aroska and Saun, another fellow operative who may be more than a friend.
There are no major complaints from me, but one minor one is the predictability. The identity of the mole in HSP seemed obvious, and I expected a twist in the tale that never came. Also there were times when I knew what was coming next (if not always – thanks mainly to the Ziva/Aroska relationship). The villains weren’t quite as well developed as the (anti)heroes, but the traitor’s motivation was well explained, logical, and a bit meatier than what could have been the familiar HSP don’t pay me nearly enough for the sh*t I do.
The ending felt a bit anti-climatic in parts since the main bad guy and traitor were despatched a few chapters before the end. I was expecting a big drawn-out confrontation, but perhaps I shouldn’t have – Ziva was so deadly she didn’t need one.
There’s one particular plot development about Ziva (won’t say too much more to avoid spoilers), briefly told through an effective and well-told flashback. Suffice it to say it’s a game changer for her relationship with the HSP. You know it’s going to play an important part and it does at the very end. Ziva remains an intriguing character – deadly with firearms and blades, lots of secrets (including a hidden compartment in her boot and a past she’s killed to keep hidden), fellow operatives Skeet and Zinni who trust her implicitly, motives shrouded in mystery. Definitely someone I’d want on my side in a fight, though. You don’t want to be her enemy.
As things progress, Ziva and Aroska have the opportunity to save one another (multiple times), but just when you think they’re about to get along, they don’t. Even at the end of the book the relationship is strictly professional – a little more friendly than at the start, but lukewarm at best.
It will be interesting to see how the series progresses from here, and I’ll definitely be checking out Nexus – Book Two of Ziva Payvan.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Our two main characters, Ziva and Aroska, are humanoid aliens of the Haphezian race, taller and stronger than Earth humans (and much in demand in the galaxy as military allies or mercenaries), but otherwise much like them, except for more varied and vivid hair/eye color and having two stomachs and only needing to eat every few days. Both characters are agents of the Haphezian Special Police, newly assigned to work together against their planet's terrorist insugency; but Ziva also works as a government-employed assassin --in which capacity, a few years previously, she killed Aroska's brother. And Haphez is in the middle of tense interactions between the human Federation, the rebels fighting against it, human fringe planets like Tantal that maintain their independence (and whose hereditary Governor and his son are currently on a diplomatic mission to Haphez) and the reptilian Sardons, who recently fought a war with Haphez --and might again. All these conflicting agendas create plenty of tension; add in a sinister plot with nasty aims and homicidal tactics, and events come to a boil quickly.
Ziva is a wonderfully-drawn, complex character; and Aroska and the other major characters are very life-like as well. Fisch throws some twists and turns into her plot, and the last chapters especially are suspenseful right up to the end. (There's no sexual content here, and minimal bad language, strictly of the h- or d-word sort.) Highly recommended for readers who like action SF, in which both genders get to be part of the action!
I'm really not all that experienced with science fiction/space exploration genres, but I didn't struggle reading this book at all as an "outsider" to this type of story. The science was sufficient without being overexplained, nor underexplained.
What I worried about at the beginning was a "budding romance" story that comes to the MC's out of nowhere, but was really excited that didn't happen, and the author really stayed true to the characters.
Overall, the story happens very quickly, so it kept me intrigued, but there is very little exposition. A lot of the little details kind of escaped me through the story, but the basic/main plot line was clear the entire time, so I didn't really care as much about that. For writing characters with intense personalities and personality traits, I think the author did a really good job making them believable. There was no real "happy ending", which is good, because the story wouldn't have called for one. Everything is resolved, however.
So it's futuristic, set on unfamiliar planets, with some different people species, and some long standing conflicts of war and commerce and so forth. The main protagonist is a very strong female. The events mostly revolve around special operations police so it has a very military feel to it although they are technically federal police, not military. Some complex relationships, unpleasant histories, and political intrigue all intertwine to provide an enthralling read full of imaginative turns of events that are interesting without feeling overly contrived. Well done!
I look forward to reading the next installment in the series.
I won't go through the whole story line, other and better reviewers have already done that. I just want to note that, if you like good writing and well written science fiction, you are going to love this book.