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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