- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 2891 KB
- Print Length: 396 pages
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01N0NKQU7
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #908,463 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Heart Scarab (Taking Shield Book 2) Kindle Edition
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Heart Scarab is the second book in Anna Butler's Taking Shield series. It's not necessary to have read book #1, Gyrfalcon, first, though I'm glad I have. The story is similar. Captain Bennet is torn between his long-time civilian partner and his new military lover, and the Maess are coming to slaughter humanity and make personal conflict irrelevant.
But it's not irrelevant. In this book we see Bennet grow and mature as a person, and the relationships he has, while still not to my taste, are deeper. Things come together. Things come apart.
The strongest elements, however, come in the overall story. The action/adventure style is compelling and exciting. There's danger and strategy and sacrifice. As a sci fi series, Taking Shield is fantastic. As a romance series, it's dreary. But I was happy I got to read it, and I'm looking forward to Bennet's continuing story.
I was given this in return for an honest review by Inked Rainbow Reads.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The point of view shifts between several characters, including Joss, Flynn, and Bennett. It also switches randomly into second person, in short chapters that add nothing.
But the entire plot seems to be about beating the dead horse that is Bennet and Joss's relationship. That horse is dead because she killed it in the last book, which wasn't hard because she never gave it much life. And the fact that she killed it means she has to pull out the overwrought stops to try to revive it so we can be crushed anew that it didn't work out. Poor Joss, who was sleeping with someone else anyway!
But Joss still isn't a sympathetic character, we still don't care about him, and so why am I reading so many chapters about him? He also has little role in the plot of this book (in which Bennett gets killed off and resurrected- that's not really a spoiler, the reader knows he's alive) other than just being the guy who is sad because Bennet isn't around. So his chapters are skimming material at best, and detract from the story at worst. And overall the lack of movement of that plot line ruins the pacing of the book overall (oh look, weeks have passed and Joss and Bennet still don't like each other that much!). This book is basically 200 pages of this, a few pages of nasty break-up, and an instant shift over to true love with Flynn. There was absolutely zero transition time.
This is where I think the lack of professional genre editors really comes into play, because it wouldn't have taken much to rearrange this into a really good book. Instead I keep getting bored and checking Facebook. Authors, if you design a relationship to be DOA, don't bother to try to squeeze feels out of it!
Also, the universe is a bit quirky. Apparently humanity moved out into the stars, but they haven't really changed a lot in terms of culture or religion. And they brought horses and cows with them. That was odd.
Anna Butler's writing is a joy. She writes with skill and subtlety so the story flows. The reader soon feels part of the events unfolding, but is unable to predict what will happen next. A scene is conjured rather than just described, and the characters are thinking, complex and constantly evolving as people are in real life.
This is epic space opera at its finest, in the tradition of such writers as David Weber or Eric Flint. More than any other genre, convincing sci-fi needs a strong foundation of characterization, plot, and world-building. Many authors shine at one or two elements: it's rare that you get stellar treatment of all three in one story. I bet if you asked the author for details about the ships and the structure of the political organizations--things that aren't related in the story--she could tell you about them without hesitation. I certainly hope that future stories include specs on some ships--the geek in me really wants to see them! The different branches of the military: Fleet and Shield, and the rotational system designed to keep Shield officers from burning out makes sense from a logistical standpoint, but man, is it hell on relationships! Add to that the political machinations behind the military, and it is small wonder that the idealistic Bennet has a hard time knowing where he stands sometimes.
Then we have the characters themselves. What I love most about them is that they are complicated people with the kinds of motives and failings that make them so very real, so very human. I love too that even the secondary characters are fully fleshed out; to the point that if something happens to them, I feel a strong sense of loss for them. Bennet is not very likeable when he hurt, which keeps him from being too, too perfect. Bisexuality is more common in this universe, but there are still sects that disapprove of same-sex relationships. The biggest obstacle that Flynn and Bennet face is not societal disapproval or even the no-fraternization rule (which Bennet takes very seriously) but the sheer distance between them and the unlikelihood they will ever see each other again except if they can somehow arrange leave together. That makes even starting a relationship foolhardy, unless it's one with no strings. Flynn is your classic no-strings-attached flyboy--this should be easy for him, right? But Bennet is hard for him to forget, and when a dangerous mission goes pear-shaped, and Flynn realizes just how close he came to losing Bennet forever, well, his actions are easy to understand.
The relationships in these stories are complex and very real. No, this is not M/M romance. It *is*, however, adult fiction, and for that, I am truly appreciative.
I'll be the first to admit I don't leave reviews often. I think there is an art to it, and I find it difficult to leave a good review without too many spoilers. When a book really speaks to me I do my best however! Gyrfalcon was a strong opening to an epic series, with a large over-arching storyline that I fear will break my heart. It was a tough first act to follow, but Heart Scarab takes us to the next level effortlessly. I can't wait for the next installment!