Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: Cold Victory by Fiona Jayde

(You can buy Cold Victory at Loose Id.)

Commander Stark of the battle cruiser Victory has been fighting the enemy for years without any real progress. Supplies are dwindling, as are the ranks of able-bodied soldiers to pilot the Sabre fighting ships. So when Zoya Scott, one of the last survivors of an abandoned space colony and a convicted thief, is assigned to the Victory, Stark has no choice but to accept her as part of crew. Zoya may be rebellious to the point of insubordination, but she knows how to fly, unlike the raw recruits he's being sent. What he can't deal with is the discovery that the cold, insolent redhead appears to be his bloodmate -- a genetically perfect match who inspires unbearable lust despite his fierce will to resist.

Proud and reserved, Zoya has no interest in sex or reproduction. She is a secret saboteur, sent to the Victory in order to destroy the cruiser when it is close to the enemy, and ultimately end the war. The biological imperative linking her to Stark undermines her plan and her resolve.

As mysterious Murk ships attack the Victory, Zoya and the commander struggle to contain the fires of lust that threaten to consume them. Gradually, their pre-destined sexual connection is tempered by mutual respect and then, by caring. Unless they can find a way to end the war, however, they will both die - whether by enemy fire or through Zoya's treachery.

Cold Victory is classic space opera, in the tradition of Star Wars or Star Trek (but with a lot more sex!) The characters are vividly drawn. Emotionally scarred by her experience in the doomed Primus colony, Zoya is tough, edgy, suspicious, ready to die in order to bring the unending conflict to some resolution. Stark is the epitome of the gruff military man, grim and powerful, never showing emotion. Yet each time one of his men dies, he adds a tattoo to the grid on his arm, to remind him of his responsibility for these lost lives. His second in command, the biologically augmented Dex, also comes alive on the page. Practically omniscient due to the constant flow of data to his brain, Dex too is haunted by his own personal tragedies.

The sexual encounters between Zoya and Stark communicate both the intensity of their connection and their unwillingness to surrender to its demands. The ebb and flow of power between the two makes arousing reading. Predestined soulmates are common in romance, but one doesn't often find the protagonists battling so hard against their fate. The concept of a genetic bond that makes each of them supremely sensitive to the other is sufficiently scientific to work in the context of a scifi plot. After all, research has already shown that biological affinities exist between particular humans.

My one complaint about Cold Victory is that I found the plot elements outside of Zoya's and Stark's relationship somewhat obscure. I didn't follow the political motivations of Zoya's mentor Pazlov nor the conflicts among the different branches of the military. I had trouble picturing the battle scenes. I also didn't really understand the nature the nature of Zoya's mysterious ailment. With regard to events before the story begins, I had the sense that much was being left unsaid. Generally this is a good strategy for a writer. You don't want to spell out every detail of the backstory. In the case of Cold Victory, though, I think I would have appreciated a bit more narration as opposed to murky allusions.

All in all, though, Cold Victory offers an entertaining, exciting romance between two memorable characters. If you're one of those people who always wanted to see Spock and Ahura finally make it to bed, you'll probably enjoy this novel.

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