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Review by KJ Van Houten

About The Fated Stars

Larissa Channer, a tough no-nonsense mercenary in the Sectors, is celebrating success on her last job and a big bonus, with no slightest thought of taking on another assignment anytime soon. Out for a night of carousing with her friends at a third rate carnival on a backwater planet, she walks into the tent of a fake fortune teller and finds herself confronting the most intriguing man she’s ever seen. But something’s wrong, ominous currents lie beneath the surface of their encounter and Larissa can’t leave well enough alone.

Samell, a powerful, high born empathic priest, has been kidnapped from his own primitive planet along with a number of his people, and sold to the shady operator of an interstellar carnival. Kept enslaved, pretending to be a fortune teller while forced by his captor to steal information from the minds of all who come before him, Samell despairs of every breaking free.

Until Larissa walks into his tent and he recognizes the warrior who might mean the difference between life and death.

The situation becomes dire when Larissa and Samell come to the attention of the Shemdylann pirates who kidnapped him in the first place and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the empathic alien noble, and derail the Mawreg plot against the Sectors? And will the soldier end up with her prince when all’s said and done?

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Review of The Fated Stars

Larissa Channer is ex-Special Forces turned mercenary. She’s on a backwater, small colony planet celebrating their latest victory with her friends and wanting nothing more than to find some entertainment, release some tension, and get off-planet to find the next big job. Unfortunately for Larissa, the entertainment available is not actually entertaining. Until, that is, her friends drag her to the Kinterow Stellar Circus and Sideshow. The attractions are fairly lackluster until she ends up in a fortune teller’s tent facing the most attractive man she’s ever seen. Too bad he seems completely unaware of her presence. He stirs to provide prophecies for Larissa and her friends, but Larissa alone hears another voice inside her head, begging for a warrior’s help.

Samell is, or rather was, a high priest of Thuun before his people were attacked and enslaved. While slavery is illegal in the Sectors, an underground black market of slaves run by anti-Sector forces and the Combine criminal organization flourish too well. This is how Samell has found himself stuck in a stasis bubble, forced to use his psychic abilities to serve Kinterow, the circus owner, not just in making money by selling cheap fortunes, but also by reading minds and relaying secrets or other information of interest. When Larissa stumbles into his sideshow tent, Samell sees the blue flame of Thuun in her essence, recognizing her as a warrior of his god, whether she knows it or not. He leaps to take a chance to beg her for help.

As a mercenary, Larissa isn’t given to taking on free assignments, but she finds herself too attracted to Samell and too outraged by his enforced slavery to resist helping him escape. So of course she frees him all too easily, only to be caught in the act by Kinterow and his men. She finds herself in jail while the circus decamps and heads off to another planet, Samell once again in stasis. Larissa refuses to give up though, and tracks down the circus.

Mayhem and chaos ensue. This is, after all, a story of adventure! A daring escape attempt, a race across space, crashing on an uninhabited planet, a gladiator-style fight for her life, the rescue of a spacecraft cargo hold full of prisoners, escape from an enemy far deadlier than realized, and a kiss or two only adds to the excitement for both Larissa and Samell.

The Fated Stars is the damsel in distress theme – but reversed! Here the damsel is the rescuer. It seems that a number of stories with this theme have the hero rescued by the heroine, only to then take over any escape and leading the action in a typical manly way – sword swinging or laser blasting while the heroine follows his lead. Quite a fun change to see the heroine fighting her way through a gauntlet of enemies while the hero follows along instead. Sure, Samell has more than enough of his own abilities, but he recognizes where Larissa is more capable than him and lets her do what needs to be done. It’s so good to see a hero not trying to hide his woman away for her own protection. (Well, not too much, and she does the same with him.)

As always with a book in a series, I recommend reading in order. True, the Sectors books are generally standalones, each book a complete story, but reading in order adds so much to the richness of the story. I think having read previous books would help to understand the nature of the enemies encountered, as well as the culture Samell comes from and exactly what recognizing the warrior in Larissa means to him. A couple of characters met previously are referenced – a connection I always enjoy in a series.

OK, I admit, Veronica Scott’s Sectors books are always auto-buys for me because I know I’m going to love them. This continues to be true with The Fated Stars! Nope, this was not a “provided by the author for an honest opinion book” – I jumped and purchased this one without waiting to see if it would be offered for review, I had to have it in my hands immediately. And glad I didn’t wait!

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Did you catch Veronica Scott’s guest post yesterday?  If not, I hope you will check it out.

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