Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment of my book reviews. I’ve read this book several times. I had decided to re-read the first book and write a review since I love this series. However, I just couldn’t resist re-reading the rest of the series. Thus, I am now doing a review of book 5, Paying the Price. I’ve listened to the audiobook as well as reading the eBook. I’ve enjoyed this story on all of the mediums I’ve found it! Now that I’m writing more reviews, I wanted to share a series that is near and dear to my heart with you! Also, because I’m writing so many lately, I’m rethinking how I write reviews for books. This is especially true for books deeper into a series. But enough about me, onto this review. Now let’s get to it!
Title: Paying the Price (Empire of Bones Saga, Bk5)
Author: Terry Mixon
Narrator: Veronica Giguere
eBook Price: USD 4.99
Audiobook Price: USD 21.99 or 1 Audible Credit
Obtained: I bought both formats from Amazon.
Rating: 4/5 Grenades
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!
Admiral Jared Mertz returns to the New Terran Empire a conquering hero. But not everyone cheers his success. In fact, his foe Crown Prince Ethan Bandar tried to kill Jared once. The prince’s paranoia and ambition demand he succeeds this time, creating a tense action-filled story. In this adventure, brimming to the rim with political intrigue, where only Jared’s sister and their battle-hardened allies stand between him and death.
If you love epic, galaxy-spanning, action-oriented space opera, then you should read this series. Plenty of adventure and intrigue to keep you glued to your seat in this page-turning novel! It’s the perfect blend of space opera and military science fiction. If this sounds like your flavor of badassery, then you’ve come to the right place! This novel is the brilliant continuation of the Empire of Bones Saga, where the author harkens back to the heyday of pulp science fiction!
In this novel, there are two main characters who we follow; Commander Jared Mertz and Princess Kelsey Bandar. Keeping the focus on two characters made you feel closer to them, which is how I like things. All of the secondary characters were a lot of fun as well! They were all fully realized, none of them felt flat or fake.
Admiral Jared Mertz: He’s a senior naval officer of the largely peaceful New Terran Empire, but he felt real and not one of those stereotypical military pencil pushers from the Pax New Terra. He was recently promoted to Admiral by his sister, an heir to the Imperial throne. He was a consummate professional who genuinely cared for the sailors and Marines under his command. He was a good officer, who knew his craft and was tactically creative during combat training simulations. As his duties grew, so did his abilities as a leader of men. He’s the kind of guy you’d want on your side once the New Terran Empire realizes that they’re still at war. When he’s exposed to combat for the first time, against the elusive “pale ones,” he proves that he’s got what it takes to get things done under fire. As the combat intensified during their expedition, he continues to prove his mettle. He’s the illegitimate son of the emperor, whose royal pedigree was discovered on his entrance physical for the Imperial Navy. This knowledge came with dark undertones, as Fleet tried to hold him back to prove they weren’t giving him special treatment. During this novel, we see more growth from him, as he’s forced to accept the political nature that his relationship to the Emperor brings with it. He also has to face the continued burdens that come with his increasing responsibilities as a flag officer. This is especially evident as he is forced to risk everything in a desperate gamble to keep the Crown Prince from committing treason that couldn’t be undone. He was, by far, my favorite character in this novel. Overall, I enjoyed following him from the first word until the last! It felt like there was so much more to come from him!
Princess Kelsey Bandar: When we first meet her, she’s the spoiled daughter of the New Terran Empire, a petite bombshell of sassy entitlement. Picture a princess in your mind, and you can envision Kelsey. She’s the “spare apparent,” a term I first heard from Terry Mixon and summed her role as the second in line to the imperial throne. When she decided she wants to find a mission for her life, to become more than her status as an imperial princess, her father turns her life upside down. The emperor sends her on the voyage to explore the remains of the fallen empire, where she gets stuck on the other side of a one-sided flip point. During those adventures, she is implanted with super-soldier Terran Empire Marine Raider enhancements and is left to deal with the consequences of those changes. She becomes an unlikely warrior, turning a spoiled princess into the “every man” soldier. Except she has those enhancements. In this newest edition, the Empire of Bones Saga, we see even more growth from her, a woman and warrior struggling with what has happened to her. Further, she’s grappling with the things she’s done, making her an even more likable character. She’s coolly efficient under fire but well aware of her weaknesses in tactical doctrine. We again see her under the stress of galactic conflict, as she struggles to process everything that happened to her and her friends. Overall, I was thrilled at her growth in this novel, especially how she handled the action at the Imperial Mansion. I loved watching her process what happened in the last few books, while things only compound for her in this latest edition. Her character came alive on the page, giving Jared and Talbot fits as they tried corralling her.
Senior Sergeant Russel “Russ” Talbot: He’s what you’d call your Space Marine’s Space Marine. He’s such a motto jarhead that even his mother calls him Talbot! This character is one of the senior Marine Detachment NCOs on the Athena, and then the Courageous. Once Princess Bandar is assigned to the exploration mission, he’s tasked with leading her protection detail until their relationship is discovered. She doesn’t make it easy for him, but we see his true value when he’s imprisoned by the “pale ones” with Kelsey Bandar. We see that worth again when they assault Boxer Station and later Harrison’s World. Under the crucible of battle, his mettle is proven… solidifying him as one of the most pivotal secondary characters in this series. I really liked him, he’s a grizzled veteran of the numerous policing actions. Despite his experience, he felt real and not one of those stereotypical military killers. He was badass, a consummate professional and genuinely good NCO for his troops. He’s the kind of guy you’d want on your side in a firefight, though he’s a bit of an ass to his own subordinates. Overall, I enjoyed following him from the first word until the last! It felt like there was so much more to come from him! I definitely want to see more of him as a warrior in future books and not just as Kelsey’s Plus One.
Crown Princess Elise Orison: She’s the heir to the throne of Pentagar and serves as the Pentagaran ambassador to the New Terran Empire. She is our eyes into one of the other polities that arose from the ashes of the Old Terran Empire. Elise is a bubbly woman, who is enchantingly feminine while retaining the aura of command competency. Overall, she didn’t get as much air time in this book, but I wanted to see more of her. I included her because I suspect we’ll be seeing more of her as we kick off deeper into this series. Since I’ve already read the next few follow-on novels, I’ll just say that she’s a character to watch, but no spoilers here!
Overall, I really loved the two main characters and the entire supporting class of this book. I give these characters 5 out of 5 Grenades and can’t wait to see where the author takes in the books to come!
I really loved this book, though it wasn’t my favorite novel in this series. It was a lot of fun to read, which is what I love about this universe. It is worth mentioning again, I’ve read these novels multiple times and never once felt like it was a waste of time. They brought back the era of pulp science fiction that started the genre we know and love. This novel harkened back to what I loved about space opera and followed the first novel in this series. The vibe of this story was amazing, and I loved seeing where the adventurers would end up. I wanted to know what happened to the Terran Empire, and how they lost so quickly to the rebels that broke an intergalactic empire in several weeks. There were no deep messages, or political themes, just good clean fun.
Like the other novels in this universe, the first thing that caught my eye was the cover. Okay, covers are the first thing that grabs us about any universe, but I digress. The spaceship on the cover is growing on me, and they’re well branded as a part of the same universe. The ship engaged in some sort of firefight over a planet, with lasers shooting down incoming rounds, really sings for me. It isn’t as flashy as the newest trend in science fiction book covers, but it has a charm all its own that harkens back to the pulp era prose which Terry Mixon writes. While I still prefer the ship from book three, Command Decisions, this ship is growing on me. Overall, the covers on this series are a better fit for the space opera market, but this one also managed to hit the space fleet subgenre of military science fiction genre as well. This isn’t a flaw of the series since the books fit into both genres, just an observation. Keep in mind, I’m colorblind, so your mileage may vary. Check them out, share your thoughts in the comments.
Since we’re talking about the production side of things, let’s talk about the audiobook quality. I listened to the book this time around, and Veronica Giguere did a great job. She nailed it again, she’s an auditory phenom to watch because this lady is going places! The audiobook was well done, and the accents were consistent. She didn’t bore you, or make you zone out because of her monotone or vocal fry. Her performance didn’t feel robotic like a machine was reading the novel to me. You’ll often see that from me because it’ll drag me out of a book so fast that I can’t listen to it anymore. With Veronica Giguere, it felt like a friend was sitting with me reading an amazing story that she couldn’t put down. I’m not sure how else to say how awesome her performance was so we’ll move onto the book itself!
Okay, so let’s knock my biggest complaint about this novel out in the first salvo. This book felt like a bridge novel, like a book whose sole purpose was to get from book 4 (Ghosts of Empire) to book 6 (Reconnaissance in Force). Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this book and love the series, but this one was definitely not my favorite in the series. It introduced some cool stuff that pays off in later books, but as its own entity, it felt like two novellas mushed together to cross the distance between to points on the map. However, despite this complaint, it’s telling that Terry Mixon can make a bridge novel entertaining.
Right, so on to the positive stuff… let me show you why I gave this book a solid four grenades. This novel created an awesome adventure inside a cool space station. I’d love to dive into the nitty-gritty with you but then I’d cross the line into spoiler territory. The setting was flushed out, and everything was explained in a way that made sense. The universe was consistent, even while the mystery was intentionally inconsistent enough to make the story entertaining. There was just enough of the mundane facets of life thrown in the world that it felt grounded in this reality Granted, a handwavium reality, but reality all the same. Everything made sense and sucked you into the story. Some of the details seemed inconsequential, but those hooks just make me think that the larger universe will continue to grow and expand. This is, and has been, one of Terry Mixon’s literary strengths.
Okay, on to the action side of this little shindig! There was combat of the close quarters variety in the second half of the book. It was a bit low on the descriptions, which made it hard to envision. The action was fluid, but I’m not sure how that would translate to someone without the training I received in the infantry. This combat scene was good, if you compare it broadly to science fiction but it’s not Terry’s best. If this was my first exposure to the author, I probably would’ve been impressed but I know he’s capable of doing better. This could’ve been improved by adding in more setting details here, spending the words to help me envision the action, but I preach that gospel often enough I’ll move on! My more general complaint from this book was how ungrounded in the setting the combat felt. It was well within the boundaries for the space opera subgenre but missed the mark from a military science fiction perspective. To summarize my thoughts on this one, I’ll say that it doesn’t rise to the standard Terry has set but it was a solid 4 out of 5 grenades.
One place where this book shines for me was where we get to see the space fleets in action. The ship’s onboard enlisted crew take charge when necessary, much like you expect if that situation happened in today’s modern military. The few enlisted sailors we see aren’t cardboard cutouts, living tropes or cartoonish in any way. They’re real men and women, despite being mostly secondary characters who only exist on the periphery. If I would make that suggestion for Terry, it would be to see more from his petty officers and junior sailors. Even when these people being largely faceless, you felt for them when they fought against impossible odds to protect the country they swore to protect. Maybe I’m projecting… being a combat veteran too, but Terry made you care about these sailors.
Just so we don’t dwell on the negative, let me point out one area where Terry Mixon excels. This was a fun adventure story, with lots of action but doesn’t weigh you down with chapters of boring meetings. You know that the logistics happen in the background, that the engines are powered with handwavium, and that’s okay because the story is fun. With each book, we’re left hanging and wanting more from this immersive universe. He draws you into the story so much, that I sometimes struggle to remember the details for these reviews. Without a bad thing, it’s exactly what you want when you’re reading to escape. These books are unashamedly literary popcorn that doesn’t weigh you down with modern-day politics. I love that about Terry’s books. I read to escape, and he doesn’t preach at you, sermonize, or do any of the stuff that keeps you grounded in the here and now.
Another place where Terry Mixon shines brighter than a nova is how he handles the logistical side of his adventure stories. One of the things that enjoyed about this novel was that logistics were considered. We don’t dwell on them, but the characters did seem to run out of supplies and personnel. In fact, this was a central plot point for their journey back to New Terran Empire space. Terry doesn’t dwell on it, but several casual mentions that they’d packed for a journey of several years was enough. Further, he has the sailors worried when they’re low on consumable military tech; missiles and bullets, etc. One place where I feel like he could’ve done more was with regards to the staffing of his vessels. The New Terran Fleet ends up with a critical lack of personnel for the vessels captured in combat. This was briefly addressed with them borrowing sailors from Harrison’s World and Pentagar, but then these facts are never really mentioned again. I believe we should of had more face time with the lower enlisted from the various parties to address this. Otherwise, no logistical detail was forgotten or taken for granted. It cemented that little attention to detail, making me love this series even more.
Another place where this novel shined was with the pacing. The political maneuverings were intense and believable. The characters responded as you’d expect in those circumstances. Terry kept the story moving along, constantly introducing new complications just when they’d come to some sort of resolution to the old one. I scratched my head trying to figure out how to explain this better, but I couldn’t find a solution that didn’t go into spoiler territory. In this novel, Terry kept the story moving along, illustrating the political chaos with combat going on in the background. This worked for me, so hats off to the author.
Finally, I didn’t really find any grammatical or technical issues with this book. In fairness, I listened to this one on this round. But I’ve read the book and listened to the audiobook several times and never noticed any serious issues. This production values for this book were well done and the story was compelling. Terry’s one of the shining stars of science fiction authors everywhere, you should check it out. This book was leaps and bounds above most of what’s out there! I was hooked from the first page because he 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, this novel 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 4 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 you decide to join Commander Jared Mertz as he jumps through the flip points into the unknown. And you after you enlist or take a commission, get kitted up, you realize that the god of your world is a dick. He’s an evil jerk that likes to send men with guns after you. In a rush to stand a fighting chance, you decide to try some old empire implants. But you clicked the wrong button and added a computer virus into your brainpan. What could possibly go wrong? Well yeah, I guess this could be bad for you. Or maybe you’ll be okay? I mean, you could be the first sailor to make it out of Terry’s insane world 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!
–> As usual, all images came from Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.