Cull of Lions is the second installment of the darkening stars series written by Mark Iles. It picks up where book one in the series, Pride of Lions, left off after a critical assault on the Manta – an alien race bent on mankind’s destruction. We follow the survivor, Commander Selena Dillon, and her crew of soldiers in her struggles during the aftermath of the assault. The first thing that struck me already in book 1 was the refreshing way Dillon developed as a main character. I love that despite her role as the “heroine”, she can still take fallacious decisions, be unforgiving and harsh and make me frown, basically what every normal human being is capable of, yet it is what makes her feel real. The best characters in my mind are the ones who are flawed.
The complexity of the story, seemingly straight forward in the beginning, was a delightful breath of fresh air. What if the Manta didn’t want to annihilate the humans? What if the ancient and mysterious Forerunners whose superior technology is slowly unearthed by present man turns out still to have an impact on the Manta war even though they’ve been extinct for thousands of years? What if Selena had to forgo her vengeance of the person who killed her parents in order to save her home world? The story had me guessing until the very end.
As with the first book, the prose is tightly written. Most of all, and this is why you need to read the darkening stars series, I experienced what I’m always hoping for when I pick up a new book: to look up from the pages at one point and realize that several hours have just passed by.
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Selena, still sane, but with more militaristic experience than is normally good for young women, continues to battle aliens and sometimes her own. This novel is where ‘write what you know’ shines through, even though ships outer space and other planets isn’t the same as HMS Sheffield and the Falklands, you can tell they are... in a way.
I must mention a species found in Cull that I particularly like. The Caretakers are bot-like creatures looking after the environment. Originally, artificial they might have evolved, certainly they need watching. They cover up mistakes. I need some. A warm glow when the Caretakers brought a lost girl back to our heroes. A kind of ‘Sudden appearance of Hope’ my other favourite book though by Claire North. Just a couple of excerpts indicates the craftsmanship and humour built in to this treasure of reading. Chapter Two ‘...Selena gasped. “It can’t be, we buried you back on that God forsaken planet we just escaped from.”
Woman on a train saw my kindle and suggested this title. She was good looking so I thought I d humour her. Turned out to be a thoroughly engrossing read and I ignored the 'chick' and had to keep reading. Give it a go, you 'll love it.
This a definitely a good read for those who love Syfy as I do. I fully expect to one day see this story picked up by The Syfy channel and made into a mini series. As a navy man himself, Author Mark Iles is a master at creating and weaving the the battles together without them being repetitive or boring, and there are many in this book. I also like that his heroine Captain Selena Dillon is not afraid of anyone or anything and takes no crap from any of her mostly all male higher-ups, nor does she spare any admiration for her wicked step-mom " The Queen". The heat gets turned up several notches in this Sequel to "The Pride of Lions" when Selena gets face to face with the step-mom Queen and begins to learn more about her family history and the truth about her Fathers mysterious death. Prepare yourself for yet another twist and turn at the end of this book, which will surely leave you on edge for Book III in the series. BTW, I like too that although written by a man, (Soldier) this is a very empowering book for women of all ages as well as for men.
Cull of Lions is the second part of a series, unfortunately I did not read part one Pride of Lions, however, the author brings the reader up to date so this was not a problem.
I thought the characters were amazing, entertaining and believable. Although science fiction is not my usual choice of novel I am so glad I downloaded this one. From the start I became engrossed in the plot. In fact once I began to read I found the novel hard to put down. I really enjoyed the read.
It is very well written and definitely worth 5 stars. Move over Enterprise, there’s a new kid on the block.