Review: “Doubleblind,” Ann Aguirre

Pros: Each installment in this series goes somewhere totally new
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series is certainly holding my interest! In book one we meet Sirantha Jax, disgraced jump navigator who’s been accused of terrorism. While she manages to clear herself of those charges, in the process she destroys the Farwan Corporation, which pretty much runs known space. In book two Jax and her companions find themselves caught up in the middle of a war, and then held hostage by the criminal Syndicate. In the process Jax finds out two important things: she was conceived in grimspace (potentially explaining some oddities), and her mother runs a portion of the Syndicate. Now, in Doubleblind (Sirantha Jax, Book 3), Jax has been appointed ambassador to Ithiss-Tor because she’s in the unique position of being trusted by one of them. Vel is willing to accompany her party to his world and act as translator. His people do not view humans favorably, regarding them as inferior savages, so he spends a lot of time teaching Jax about his people. While there, things don’t entirely go well! March is on the edge and liable to start killing at any moment–and if anything, he’s getting worse, not better. Constance goes missing, and one of the Ithtorians who most supports allying with the Conglomerate is poisoned, and our heroes are framed for it!

The plot with March having gone cold and hard since the war on Lachion is hard to read, because Jax loves him so much that his distance is painful. It’s worth sticking with the plot, however. She figures out a very novel approach to trying to help him, and it’s fascinating. One worry Jax has is that March always loved her inability to lie to him since he’s a psi and used to feeling people’s deception; but in the name of politics she’s learning to dissemble, and she’s afraid she won’t appeal to him as much that way. It should be noted that things are set up such that there’s a lot riding on Jax’s ability to form an alliance: enough to keep her staying there and working hard no matter how bad things get. The Morgut, the Syndicate, Farwan loyalists, and raiders are wreaking havoc, and having such a strong race for allies–particularly since the Ithtorians are pretty much the only race the Morgut respect as hunters rather than prey–would be invaluable.

There are plenty of sub-plots to make everyone else’s lives interesting too. Dina and Hit seem to be getting closer. Jael seems to waver oddly between being super-intense about bodyguarding Jax, yet going off on his own whenever he gets bored or wants to gamble. Doc is trying to find a way to help the poisoned Ithtorian. Constance is being invaluable as an assistant, but when she disappears no one knows if she’s off researching or what. Jax gets to learn a lot more about Vel now that she’s seeing him in his native surrounds. And there’s plenty of action and adventure to keep things exciting.

There was one thread where I just wanted to shake Jax for not noticing a repeated clue, and not finally putting two and two together when given additional clues.

We really go through the emotional wringer in this installment of the series. Content note for a brief and not-too-detailed sex scene. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

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