Book Review: Prisoner of Darkness

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Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews. I’ve been in a reading slump, but as you can see from my last few posts I have come out of it with a bang. The kids being back in school have given me some more free time. I need to replace my Kindle though, since reading on my iPhone is a pain! Now that I’m reading again, I wanted to share what I just finished! But enough about me, onto this specific review.  Now let’s get to it! 

 

Title: Prisoner of Darkness (Galaxy’s Edge Book 6)

Author:  Jason Anspach and Nick Cole

Price:  USD 4.99 (Kindle Edition)

Obtained:  I bought this novel from Amazon

Pages:  338

 

 

Rating:  5/5 Grenades

 

 

Summary:

First, let me say that none of what I’ll say in this section couldn’t be found on the back copy of the novel.  Heck, I cribbed this summary from the back, and then I added my own twist! And not even much of one, since most of the books I read have kick butt descriptions (aka blurbs). If the blurb doesn’t catch my eye, then I tend to skip the book unless a friend recommends it.  Generally speaking, my goal is to provide a spoiler-free review, so here goes nothing!

 

The galaxy is spiraling into all-out war. The Battle of Tarrago was just the beginning. Following Goth Sullus’s ruthless onslaughts against the Republic, a desperate House of Reason searches for scapegoats—and finds one, deserving or not, in Commander Ellek Owens. His sentence is cruel, unjust—and final.

 

Unless Victory Squad has anything to say about it.

 

When Chhun undertakes a daring raid on the prison planet Herbeer to rescue his commander, Wraith’s loyalties are put to the test, as he’s forced to choose between his responsibilities to the Legion… and his responsibilities to his captured crew. Meanwhile, in the Umnar system, the soulless menace known as the Cybar seeks to break Prisma Maydoon—and set the stage for the total annihilation of not only the Republic, but all life in the galaxy.

 

If you like epic space opera, with a side of military science fiction, you should read this series.  Plenty of explosions, with authentically gritty combat.  If this sounds like your flavor of badassery, then you’ve come to the right place!  This novel is a brilliant continuation of the Galaxy’s Edge Universe, where they fix everything George Lucas broke in this Star-Wars-Not-Star-Wars adventure. I wish I could give you an easy comparison, if you enjoyed Book X, buy this book but I really feel like Nick and Jason broke new ground here. They’ve revived that sense of newness and fun that we loved as children, that brought most of us to the science fiction genre! There are new series popping up that follow this vibe, I’ve heard of them… but until I read them, I can’t recommend them. So, until then I will stick with the belief that there are other military sci-fi books out there, but none quite like this!

 

 

Characters: 

In this novel, we again followed a small group of characters, which I find is how I like this universe. We again meet Chhun and Wraith, Major Thales and Major Owens. There was even a brief cameo from everyone’s favorite NetherOps agent, though I can’t say more without spoilers. All of the characters were a lot of fun to spend time with again and made me want the book to never end (hint, hint)!

 

Captain Cohen Chhun: He’s a grizzled veteran officer of the numerous campaigns, but he felt real and not one of those stereotypical military killers.  He was badass, a consummate professional and genuinely good officer for his troops.  He’s the kind of guy you’d want on your side in a firefight, and he seems to be more relaxed and less of an ass than he was in the first novel. Unlike before, there wasn’t a whole lot of character growth from Chhun, he’s already morphed into his role as the Victory Team Leader. This lack of growth made his character even more enjoyable, which I didn’t think was possible. He’s fully come into his own, and we get to marvel in that in all its KTF glory. While he wasn’t my favorite character in this novel, I enjoyed following him again!  Overall, I really liked him and felt like there was so much more to come from him!

 

Wraith/Captain Aenson Keel/Captain Ford: He’s an enigmatic character, former/current Legion officer and all around killing machine. The multiple personas that he portrays on his covert quest to blend in with the local rabble he was tasked with watching felt mildly schizophrenic but in a good way. I felt like his character became deeper and even more complex in this novel. He’s still a beast, physically, but now we see a side of him that’s compassionate for the downtrodden and ruthless to his enemies. He’s coming to terms with having feelings for Leenah and his erstwhile missing crew. He’s not soft, mind you, just judicious on whom he decides to include in his family of choice. Overall, I felt disappointed in his choices in this novel, but his character came alive on the page.

 

Major Elleck Ownes: He’s the illusive leader of the Legion DarkOps and a character I enjoy reading about. He’s an all-around killing machine, who takes care of people the Republic can’t admit they want eliminated. The DarkOps is the Legion’s answer to NetherOps, and Major Owens is the leader, and Victory Kill Team’s handler. He was an extremly believable and sympathetic character, and I love him. I felt like he was well rounded, and felt like he was the Every Man Spec Ops guy I met in the Army.

 

Major Thales, Repub Army: He was a Repub Army officer, in charge of the artillery on the Tarragon Moon. He was too pudgy and bookish to fit the perfect image that the House of Reason and the Repub Army choose to permit. However, he was the driving force that kept Goth Sullus’s from completely wiping the Repub Navy from the area. He was a lot of fun, and a very relatable character. In the end, he proved he was stronger than we knew, surviving the torture from the Empire. I’ll say it right here, he needed more screen time than he got! He was an awesome character we need to see more of!

 

Captain Desiax, Repub Navy: He’s a Repub Naval officer, and ship’s captain who commanded the corvette Audacity during the escape from Tarrago Prime. He bought the carrier Freedom just enough time to allow it to escape, showing the heroic cut of his jib! I loved his saucy nature, the irreverence with which he carried himself!  He was an awesome character who we need to see more of!

 

Prisma Maydoon: She’s a young girl/woman who sometimes seems to be a teenager, and sometimes appears to be only nine or ten. It’s easy to feel sorry for her and to see her potential as she ages, but for now, she’s annoyingly useless. In previous novels, she was a wanna be bounty hunter bent on revenge, being trained by T-Rex himself, but in this novel, she alternates between scared little girl and Jedi-Not-Jedi Force user. She’s still the key to a secret weapon buried inside her, but she definitely leaves you wishing it’d been given to anyone else but her. We don’t see as much of her in this book, but what we see leaves us feeling sorry for the kid.

 

Andien Broxin: She was a Nether Ops Agent and an interesting character, but I never felt like she was fully developed. She was an enigma, an unfathomable spook hiding in the shadows. I don’t really feel any connection to her, but I understand her role in the larger plot arc, so I sort of went along for the ride. Unfortunately, we only got to see a little of her in this novel but maybe the next one?

 

Overall, it seems like the return to the main team we started within Legionnaire. I give these characters 5 out of 5 Grenades and can’t wait to see where the author takes the survivors of this massive three-sided intergalactic war with Goth Sullus and the machines!

 

 

Plot: 

The premise for this series was to take the kind of Star Wars stories we used to love, strip out all of the political messaging, and just tell fun tales. Escapism and enjoyment, under the banner of intergalactic science fiction. This book, like the rest of the novels in this series, fit squarely within the scope of the military fiction that I love to read. I loved that this was an action-packed novel with a defined plot. The story is set as the galaxy is in turmoil, reeling from the events surrounding the Battle of the Tarragon Moon. We get to see this from the view of Victory Kill Teams, the erstwhile survivors of the Kublar affair. We see the world from the eyes of the DarkOps and other clandestine operators. The plot was darkly fun, creating tension and excitement as we waited to discover the fate of Major Owens. It was never boring, and the characters and universe behaved in a way that made sense for the worlds the authors created. It was a good set-up and well-executed premise that held my interest from the first sentence. They built on what came before this novel, allowing the plot to grow and expanded. I can only image bigger things coming from the Galaxy’s Edge universe. I think that this is partly because I’ve become conditioned to these large expansive worlds because of the copious amounts of space opera that I read.  Maybe your mileage will vary, but it’s definitely worth checking this book out. I can’t wait to start book seven, as I try to figure out the fate of the galaxy. As you can tell by the gushing, I really got into this book. I couldn’t put it down, the plot was that compelling. I really loved the premise, and more importantly, I enjoyed how the execution. The pacing was excellent, and there was never a slow moment. There was never a point where the plot was confusing, or that I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I couldn’t ask for anything more; a unique premise, perfect execution, and incredible pacing!  I again give Nick Cole and Jason Anspach 5 out of 5 Grenades!

 

 

World Building:

This is the sixth book in the Galaxy’s Edge Series, and I absolutely loved it.  Can I say that enough?  Okay, back to the nitty-gritty of the review.  This novel had a very fleshed out world that was consistent, made sense and sucked you in. Some of the details that seemed inconsequential in previous novels suddenly show themselves to be important and depth to the world at the edge of the galaxy. It definitely made me want to become part of the larger world. I liked reading about the technology used by the various services, and how they’ve evolved over the scope of this series. We also got to see more hand-to-hand combat from the jailbreak scenes, which was nice. For all the high tech of this universe, unarmed combat is still shown to be viciously brutal. Aside from the combat, we get to explore more about the vividness of the world. It leaves you, the reader, wanting to travel the galaxy in your own battleship. Or maybe something faster, so you can outrun the baddies if need be? Who wouldn’t want to fly around in the Indelible VI?  I was hooked, and now I want to know it all! I definitely see room for CosPlay and a fandom for this world and can’t wait for my own Legionnaire armor! I could picture every setting described, easily envisioning myself living there. They described the world with plenty of details, and there wasn’t a scene where I couldn’t imagine what Anspach and Cole described.  They didn’t reinvent the wheel and built on the existing tropes of science fiction. They just made it sexier! Overall, the world building was well done, and I was sold on the way it happened. It felt believable, and the characters fit within the universe Nick Cole and Jason Anspach created. Like most of the stories I read, this one didn’t take itself too seriously, which allowed you to focus on the fun which is why I read in the first place. I give the world building 5 out of 5 Grenades.

 

 

Description: 

I have to give it to the authors, this novel was chalk full of visualization, and you could definitely imagine yourself in this world. They described things across the sensory spectrum; sights, sounds, smells and even how the world felt. This is how it’s done, and I hope to get that good someday. While I could visualize all of the characters, I would still love it if the authors shared artists renderings for them. They didn’t describe every blade of grass, instead they gave you the building blocks you needed to see it for yourself. One huge plus for me was Nick Cole and Jason Anspach’s descriptive use of language, a skill they’ve carried through the first five books as well. They balanced the explanation of this new world with the need to move a story along. This book didn’t have a single place where I couldn’t picture the scenery and the equipment, which added to the world that felt tangible and I enjoyed it. The author’s description of their universe was evocative, and enough to please rookies and uber fans alike! This is similar to what I said in the previous books, but their descriptive game has been superb throughout the series and I can’t think of a place I’d like to improve it. In summary, I didn’t find any issues with the descriptions and was impressed by the literary skills of the authors. The action was gripping, and the story was fun. If you want the action, the adventure, and the PEW PEW, then this is the book for you!  Nick Cole and Jason Anspach brought it, they were definitely their A game.  I give them 5 out of 5 grenades in this category.

 

 

Overall:

I really loved this book, it was a lot of fun to read.  It brought back the epic sci-fi battles that I acted out as a kid, laying in the grass playing with my action figures. This novel harkened back to what I loved about the first book Legionnaire. The vibe of this story was amazing, and I loved every nail biting second of this novel! There were no deep messages, or political themes, just good clean fun. Like the previous novels, this story was compelling and made me want to know more. Like in the previous novel, Sword of Legion, I knew who to root for. I truly saw Goth Sullus and his empire as the “big bad guy,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. But just to muddy the waters, there were times I also saw the Republic and the House of Reason as the baddies too!  The only real “good guys” were all in the Legion, but not the noobs or the points in the shiny armor.  The Legionnaires from Legionnaire in their Mark IIs!

 

Like the previous novels in this universe, the first thing that caught my eye was the fantastic cover. Seriously, they’re all amazingly compelling. If you want to learn more about them, the Galaxy’s Edge mailing list will show you how the covers evolved to their final version. This was one series where I wished I weren’t color blind, and art dumb. I’d add a section to the book review template on the covers because so many of them are kicking butt these days! This universe is clearly making waves, because I see the other covers rising to meet the goodness on their books. The Galaxy’s Edge covers reminded me of the iconic science fiction covers I loved as a kid, or the movie posters from the action adventures I watched when I was supposed to be studying. When I finally have a dedicated office or man cave, I’m decorating it with these covers!  And whenever they sell swag, that too!

 

Now onto the book itself! The military culture shown was spot on, just what I’d expect from an Army veteran. Nobody felt like cookie cutter clichés or parodies of the warrior, and the ethos was spot on. I liked how they handled the leejes unfairly locked up in the prison mines with Owens, though I would like to see stories of their transition back into the Legion fold. These leejes felt realistic, despite how little screen time they received in this novel. The deadly literary duo of Anspach and Cole understand the culture of the grunt! I even liked running into some old friends from the Kublar Era Victory Company, it felt like a family reunion. Nick and Jason made it clear that their world was flushed out and didn’t fall into some of the traps most military sci-fi did. The troops run out of ammo, dumb luck happens, and good soldiers still die. Not as many as in other books, but there were still al of dead Dark Troopers from the Empire dying. Lots of them! Rivers of blood ran throughout this novel, luckily this time it was the rebel scum dying in droves. The action was intense, and the characters responded as you’d expect in those circumstances. Moving right along, the ground combat described was primal, and immersive. It was everything you want from the genre. The battle scenes were believable, gripping and I never felt like the author missed a chance to get creative with the tactics. It was textbook KTF, the mantra of the Legionnaire! Kill them first! Such a detailed portrayal of the tactics is rare.

 

This book, unlike other novels in the series, spent a lot of screen time with some memorable secondary characters. I loved reading about Republic Army officer, Major Thales. I enjoyed his character during the Battle of Tarragon and was thrilled to see him return to the big screen in Prisoner of Darkness! Seriously, or stories need to be told about the basics. There the underdog, the unsung heroes of this universe, and they don’t get the credit they deserve. I also love the return of the commander of the corvette Audacity, Captain Desaix. He had that roguish quality that made Han Solo fun, though that’s where the similarities ended. I actually liked Desaix and cared what happened to him. I was glad he didn’t switch sides like so many of the other prisoners of war. Don’t get me wrong, I get the temptation to leave. The corrupt House of Reason ruined the Republic they fought for, making it hard to clearly delineate the good guys from the bad. I liked seeing the Woobanki fight with the robots, those kitties were amazing. If the Ewoks had been just a little like the Woobankis, I wouldn’t have been as mad when they beat Vader’s elite Stormtroopers.

 

While the story contained within this novel was amazing, I should mention that there were a few places where things were less than great. Maybe it’s because I’m currently editing my own stuff, but I noticed several places where the word choices left me scratching my head. It wasn’t wrong, but it just felt odd. It could be a difference between the East Coast of the US where I live, and the West Coast of the US where the authors toil over their words. I’m not sure what it is, I can’t put my finger on exactly, but sometimes it just felt off. There were a few places where there were word echoes, and while I could see that they were done intentionally, I’m curious how it will sound on the audiobooks. Finally, in the less pleasant topics, I found a place where they got Major Thale’s rank wrong. Nothing major, but I wanted to be as impartial as I could, so I had to include these details. Overall, I don’t know that I would’ve caught these issues if I didn’t know I’d be writing this review when I was done reading it. I’m guessing here, but I truly think most people will read right over those issues and never even notice because they’re so engrossed in the story.

 

Seriously, I realize I’ve gone full fanboy, but the authors have definitely raised the bar for military science fiction authors everywhere. Even with the flaws of this novel, it was still leaps and bounds above most of what’s out there! I was hooked from the first page because they wove the action in such a compelling way that you wanted to jump into the page and join the party. Some of that was because I’m already invested in this world, but if you’ve been following me, you already know that. Basically, they had me hooked from the beginning and kept it going throughout the whole novel.  This is a book I would happily recommend, and an author I will definitely read again. Buy the novel!  But hey, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money!  I give this novel a 5 out of 5 grenades!

 

If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out, you won’t regret it!  Well, unless it inspired you to serve the Legion.  And you enlist, get kitted up, only to realize that your armor is made of wax paper.  Then you’re put on the front lines, getting to be on the tip of the spear.  In your first fire fight, you’ll realize that the pretty uniforms won’t save you.  And then the other shoe drops, you figure out that the weapons aren’t calibrated, and you can’t hit the broad side of a barn.  But, alas, every rebel scum is a crack shot.  Well yeah, I guess this could be bad for you.  Or maybe you’ll be okay?  I mean, you could be the first trooper to make it out alive?  On second thought, be warned, fanboy/fangirl syndrome just MIGHT kill you.  Be wary, you were warned and if you have to go out like that at least enjoy the view from the end times!

 

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 

–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.

Sleeping Legion

 

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