Only Good Enemies by Jennifer Estep
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Jennifer Estep usually writes urban and epic fantasy, so this pulp science fiction space opera romance series is something of a departure for her. She called the first book,
Only Bad Options,
the "book of her heart," and while I can't deny the sentiment if that's what she feels, the fact remains that this series is simply not as good as the Gin Blanco urban fantasy books.
That is mostly due to the fact that it feels like a quaint throwback, promoting concepts (mainly telepathy/telekinesis/and such, and the protagonist Vesper Quill referring to her own powers as "seer magic") that have fallen out of favor in the genre. The "stormswords" are also thinly disguised lightsabers, and the FTL travel is referred to as "pinpoint travel." After a while I started rolling my eyes and muttering, "oh fer frak's sake, just call it hyperspace and be done with it." Also, all those Magma/Temperate/etc planets seem to be awfully close together--the sense that The Expanse series did so well, of space being really big, is nonexistent in this book.
In the end, what makes this book readable is the characters: Vesper Quill, Kyrion Caldaren and Zane Zimmer, and the first two's gradually deepening relationship. The romance takes far more of a center stage here than the first book, with Vesper and Kyrion's "truebond," or psychic link, and what that really means. Vesper also has a satisfying showdown with the mother who abandoned her, and the very last line of the book gives some unexpected insight into the character of Zane Zimmer.
I'll be frank: the worldbuilding here is marginal at best, and could have been done much better. I am a sucker for complicated worldbuilding, and unfortunately that is absent in this book. But it's a good enough diversion for a few days.
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