Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Review: Minder Rising by Carol Van Natta

A millennium into the future, all children are tested for minder talents, and the best are recruited for the Citizen Protection Service.

Agent Lièrén Sòng is recovering from a near-fatal crash. He should want nothing more than to get back to using his talents to interrogate criminals for his covert CPS field unit, but being sidelined gains new appeal when he makes friends with a woman and her son. Imara Sesay, road crew chief and part-time bartender, breaks her ironclad rule never to get close to customers when she asks Lièrén to teach her son how to control his growing minder talents.

Unexpected deaths in his field unit make Lièrén suspect he isn’t a lucky survivor, he’s a loose end. He should pull away from Imara and Derrit to keep them safe, but when the local CPS Testing Center is entirely too interested in Derrit’s talents, Lièrén must make an impossible choice. Can he stay alive long enough to save Imara and her prodigy son?


I received a copy from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Minder Rising is the second in Van Natta's Central Galactic Concordance series. The third, Pico's Crush, is expected around the end of January and follows characters introduced in the first book, Overload Flux. Minder Rising can be read standalone, though I highly recommend reading Overload Flux as well.

As with Overload Flux, characters drive Minder Rising. Though we only learn a few general details about Lièrén's past, he smoothly adapts his skills to investigating the threat to his unit. As a bartender and road construction crew boss, Imara does not come off as classic heroine. She's tough, clever, honest and has my respect as a realistic female lead. Her son Derrit displays a good balance between his childhood and his fierce devotion to protect his mother following the loss of his father.

As I read, I became aware interactions between Lièrén and Imara lacked copious sidelong glances, urgent heartbeats and salacious inner voices oogling each other's physical appearance. As I came to know them, I understood having those sorts of inner dialogues would be out of character. Lièrén comes from a big, respectful family and Imara is cautious to avoid involvement with someone she considers a 'transient' out of concern for Derrit. While I appreciated their inner maturity, I wouldn't have minded seeing them enjoy more emotionally close moments together.

I'm very fond of the supporting characters in this book, particularly the flamboyant, charming and instantly likeable  Rayle. I don't think I'll ever tire of a well done character who fits the "social glue" role in a story. He's nosy, which he can't help since he's an empath, but he only uses it out of a desire to help others even if they're not ready for it.

*crosses fingers and wishes for more Rayle*

In addition to the great characters, I loved imagining the glass-like construction of the Spires and the layers of plot tied together throughout. I also liked learning about something one character has done through the eyes of another. It happened several times and I found it to be more suspenseful than if we saw the setup with one character and the discovery by another. Van Natta also build up the world of minders and the CPS in a way that grows on what I learned in Overload Flux while giving a complete and thorough world descriptions to someone starting the series with Minder Rising.

I definitely recommend this series.

And the short blurb for book 3, Pico's Crush (love it!)
"A paradise planed, a quiet University, renewed friendships, explosions, a hunt for a killer... Wait, what?"

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Review: Overload Flux by Carol Van Natta

The Central Galactic Concordance has been stable for two centuries, but trouble is brewing. A pandemic is affecting hundreds of civilized planets, and someone is stealing the vaccine...

Brilliant investigator Luka Foxe's hidden mental talent is out of control, making him barely able to function in the aftermath of violence, and the body count is rising. The convoluted trail leads to a corrupt pharma industry and the possibility of an illegal, planet-sized laboratory. In the face of increasing threats, he must rely on an enigmatic, lethal woman he just met, but she has deep secrets of her own.

Mairwen Morganthur hides extraordinary skills under the guise of a dull night-shift guard. The last thing she wants is to provide personal security for a hot-shot investigator, or to be plunged into a murky case involving sabotage, treachery, and the military covert operations division that would love to discover she’s still alive.

Two more lives in a rising death count won’t bother their enemies one bit. Their only hope for survival lies in revealing their dark secrets and learning to trust one another.


I loved the finesse with which Van Natta handles Mairwen and Luka's individual back-stories. Their motivations and challenges are there, clear and sufficient, without overwhelming. There's just enough to explain and engage with Mairwen and Luka without dumping too much emphasis on previous events. It's handled in such a quiet way that every time there's a little more the plot moves forward, not the other way.

I also really enjoyed the subtle humour I found ever present. As little as a few words or the smallest change in facial expression made the dialogue real and relatable and I found myself connecting more and more with Mairwen and Luka. Too many times I've read SFR with overdone violence or straight to the bedroom smut and the relationship between the H/h is lost to the flash and bang. Luka and Mairwen come across as very genuine and their relationship builds in solid layers.

Van Natta's tech is both simple (in that it's reasonable and makes sense) and powerful (in that it's reasonable and makes sense. Her names both for super gadgets and plain old household items tell us exactly what it is and what it does without losing me in any need for weighty description.

Finally, it was so refreshing to see a H/h pair somewhat close in age to my own. They had a respect and maturity we don't usually see in romances set around twenty-somethings. It was nice to see them being good together without unnecessary drama centered around eye-rolling juvenile behaviour. I'm glad they have a follow-up novella together as I will miss them. I must admit to a small amount of trepidation getting in to the sequel, Minder Rising, since I'm so fond of Mairwen and Luka but I'm also happily in to Van Natta's well built Galactic Concordance world and look forward to experiencing more.

FYI: New favourite space-ish curse word is "cluster bucket"

If you're new to SFR or a hopeless addict I think you'll find Overload Flux to be a good find. Definitely recommended.