Review of OUT OF THE EMBERS OF HELL by J. E. Bruce
Coalition/Orthodoxy Universe #3
BooksForABuck.com, February 2016
The alliance between the human-dominated Coalition and the Hahtooshan Orthodoxy was born of convenience and mutual enemies, certainly not the result of trust or affection. But too many lost family and loved ones in the long enmity between the Coalition and the Orthodoxy with the Hahtooshans having survived for tens of thousands of years as the galaxy’s top mercenaries. Convenience takes a back seat to unsettled scores and long-standing prejudices as opponents on both sides try to sabotage the fragile truce, with Khusaaq, the mercenary officer who forced the alliance as their prime target. Now, as the Hahtooshans bring their doomsday fleet to bear on Poonda Five, a non-aligned planet caught in the middle, and the shocking identity of the prime saboteur is revealed, a new, and far more treacherous plot is exposed, one that could not only end the alliance, but throw the Orthodoxy into civil war.
Khusaaq's human wife, Coalition Ensign Sirin Corsali could be forgiven if she thinks she's been through enough already. But a deadly company of renegade humans and aliens have once again captured Sirin... along with a teenage Hahtooshan, Qar'qaah, who also happens to be Khusaaq's closest relative and reluctant protégé. They plan to sell their captives to Cisne, who intends to use both Sirin and Qar'qaah to trap Khusaaq into violating the very alliance he created. With Qar'qaah suffering from major radiation exposure, followed by systematic torture and rape (especially troubling to a teen whose identity was tied to his ritual celibacy), prospects for getting a lot of help from him appear slim--especially since he thinks that everyone around him may be a hallucination. Once Qar'qaah learns Sirin is Khusaaq's wife, he may offer even less help--because the two Hahtooshans may be genetically close but emotionally they're a galaxy apart.
Author J. E. Bruce (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Bruce) further expands a fascinating universe where humans have been forced to confront a hard and humbling truth: they aren't an only child. Worse, big brother also happens to be the galaxy's top-tier mercenary. OUT OF THE EMBERS OF HELL is a sophisticated science fiction story that combines space action with fully three-dimensional characters. Qar’qaah, in particular, comes to life as a troubled adolescent who’s forced, kicking and screaming, into confronting an adulthood more dangerous and horrible than his worst nightmares. Coming of age is hard enough in the best of circumstances. But being ritually tortured and suffering multiple organ failure due to radiation exposure makes this far from the best of circumstances.
OUT OF THE EMBERS OF HELL continues Bruce's epic science fiction creation that started with STALKING THE APOCALYPSE and continues with PATH TO THE NIGHT MOUNTAINS. In EMBERS, Bruce includes a brief summary of what's come before to let the reader new to the series catch up and launch directly into the story. Fans of thoughtful space adventure will definitely want to check out the entire series.
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