Throwback Review - Favorite Novels

Someone recently asked me what my favorite books were. So here they are: Del (and Tiger), Tarnekep Portree, and Jennifer Cahill (and Pike Logan). Three of my favorite self-rescuing princesses.

Sword Dancer

by Jennifer Roberson

When I was a teenager, it was tough to find relatable protagonists in the male-dominated action/sci-fi/fantasy genres. Needless to say, this cover stood out:

Sword Dancer

In the South, a land of heat and sand, Sword Dancers are professional mercenaries, hired by rich tanzeers to guard their wealth or settle grievances through duels called dances. And the one named Tiger is one of the best. His life is going pretty well until one day a mysterious woman from the icy North wanders into a cantina looking for him. A woman with a sword.

What follows is a fun romp through the desert. There are sandstorms and swordfights, intrigue and revenge. The plot is nothing remarkable, but Roberson has created a rich world with unique quirks and colorful lingo.

It’s the characters, though, that really make the book stand out. From the opening paragraph, they’re painted so vividly they just fly off the page. Tiger is an arrogant, sexist jerk at first, but as he travels with Del, he finds his world-view being challenged. We see Del through Tiger’s eyes, since the novel is written in first person, and soon learn that there’s more to this mysterious Northerner than meets the eye. Roberson even manages to make Tiger’s horse a fleshed-out, engaging character.

Del starts off as a bit of a vengeance-seeking ice queen trope in Sword Dancer, but her growth over the course of the series makes her one of my favorite fictional characters. And Tiger is pretty awesome too - a perfect match for her.

There are seven books in all (known simply as “the novels of Tiger and Del”), and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one.

Ratings

  • Princess Power: 5 Stars
  • Overall: 5 Stars
  • Bechdel Test: Fail

Price of the Stars

by Debra Doyle and James D. MacDonald

What would happen if you took Princess Leia and Han Solo, put them in a blender, and made that character the star of her own series? I imagine you’d get something like The Price of the Stars.

Price of the Stars

Beka Rosselin-Metadi is the daughter and heir of the Domina (aka empress) of the galactic republic. But she doesn’t want anything to do with politics. She’s a pilot at heart, who ran away from home to live the life she wanted. When her mother is murdered, Beka fakes her own death, reinvents herself as a smuggler named Tarnekep Portree, and goes on a hunt for her mother’s killers. It’s a quest that will take her across the galaxy on a series of epic adventures.

Beka is a fun character - a smart, determined woman who isn’t afraid of going after what she wants. Her interesting relationships with her very different brothers gives the story a neat dynamic as they both ultimately join her in the hunt. The series is a bit light on female characters overall, although one of the brothers does have a pretty kick-butt friend-slash-girlfriend.

The world is very obviously an homage to Star Wars. Instead of Jedi you have staff-wielding Adepts. Beka’s starship, Warhammer, could be the Millenium Falcon’s cousin. There’s a race of aliens that are awfully similar to Wookiees. But once you get past those core similarities, Doyle and MacDonald have created a rich and colorful galaxy of space pirates and royals. It’s a world I enjoyed visiting throughout the Mageworlds trilogy.

Ratings

  • Princess Power: 5 Stars
  • Overall: 5 Stars
  • Bechdel Test: Fail

One Rough Man

by Brad Taylor

I grew up watching a lot of war movies and playing war games. At some point I became infatuated with special forces, particularly the British Special Air Service. I read everything I could get my hands on about them, and that research fueled a series of short stories about a sci-fi commando team. Even though women at the time were banned from the special forces, my futuristic stories naturally featured a female protagonist.

Characters like that were hard to find in real fiction, though. I enjoyed military action-adventure novel series like Phoenix Force, but they were all boys’ clubs. I had mostly given up on the genre until a few years ago I stumbled across the Pike Logan series.

One Rough Man

Pike Logan was once a decorated soldier in a top-secret special operations group known as the Taskforce. Operating outside the limits of US law, the Taskforce took on the world’s most dangerous terrorists. But after losing his family, Pike spiraled out of control. Now, booted from the military, he’s been circling the drain and drinking his life away. A chance encounter finds him rescuing grad student Jennifer Cahill from a couple of thugs. Pike and Jennifer soon become embroiled in a terrorist plot involving her archaeologist uncle and an ancient biological weapon from the jungles of Guatemala.

At the beginning of the story, Jennifer falls squarely into the ‘damsel in distress’ role, but that’s kind of understandable. I mean, she’s an archaeology grad student tangling with international terrorists. She’s completely out of her league. But what I found endearing was her combination of brains and bravery.

When everyone else is willing to declare the case closed, it’s Jennifer who puts the pieces together and realizes there’s more going on. And despite the professional soldiers trying to dismiss her theory as the ramblings of an ignorant college student, she sticks to her guns and ultimately convinces Pike to help her investigate. In later books, she takes on an even more active role in operations, facing down bad guys as well as the prejudices of her own team mates.

The characterization of everyone not named Pike is pretty thin, and the plots are downright outlandish. But the books nevertheless manage to be thrilling page-turners. Taylor, a former special forces officer, grounds the stories with the real-world relevance of ISIS, the turmoil in Greece, Bitcoins, Russia, and more. One Rough Man is one good read.

Ratings

  • Princess Power: 5 Stars
  • Overall: 4 Stars
  • Bechdel Test: Fail

Martian Dreams

by Linda Naughton

Although the previous three are my favorite novels by other authors, I'd be remiss if I didn't indulge in a little self-serving plug for my own novel.

Martian Dreams

In 2180, the Mars Colony is a hotbed of insurrection. The Terran Federation has sent its Peacekeepers to ensure that natural resources keep flowing to a desperate Earth. Under their oppressive heel, dissent has festered. Each day, more people join the Martian independence movement, and some say it’s only a matter of time before it erupts into a full-blown war.

When paramedic Caitlin MacIntyre obtains evidence that threatens a government cover-up, a ruthless Peacekeeper counter-terrorist agent is charged with keeping that evidence from ever seeing the light of day. Forced to go on the run, Caitlin joins forces with idealistic Martian freedom fighter Alex Garrison. Together they struggle to elude the Peacekeepers long enough to reveal the truth, and light the spark of revolution.

Revolution stories have always fascinated me, from the American Revolution to fictional stories like Star Wars and Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Martian Dreams is a story about what would drive people to extremes in defense of their freedom. Caitlin and Helen Grant are two strong women out to protect what they hold dear.

Ratings

  • Princess Power: 5 Stars
  • Overall: 4 Stars
  • Bechdel Test: Pass

Learn about my Ratings System.

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Mom. Writer. Gamer. Geek.
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