Pros: Very strong romance storyline; better-thought-out SF elements than some similar novels
Cons: SF world is flamboyantly operatic
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review book (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Penguin Group.
Expected publication date: 8/4/2009.
Captain Cyani is one of the Azralen Elite, the ruling sisterhood of her planet. She’s also an extremely capable warrior on her last mission before retiring—she must rescue captured soldiers from slavers. Of course, her carefully-laid mission plans go awry when her furry scout companion Vicca discovers, and insists on helping, one extra slave. A slave who belongs to a race Cyani isn’t familiar with, and who’s been horribly abused by his captors.
Soren is Byralen, a member of a highly reclusive race. The males of his species produce a powerful hormone that allows them to bond intensely with their chosen mates, but that hormone is highly prized as a narcotic. The slavers have been using Soren to produce their drugs for years, and his body chemistry is completely thrown as a result. If he doesn’t find a mate soon and restore the balance, he’ll die. If he doesn’t return to his own world, he’ll die. Cyani is determined to make sure he gets there and lives, but she doesn’t know all that it’ll take to succeed in her new mission. Not only is Soren on borrowed time, but he doesn’t know how to find his home planet, and Cyani’s own people will soon be working against her…
First, a disclaimer. Jess Granger’s Beyond the Rain is definitely at the fanciful space opera end of science fiction. If you’re into hard SF and find space opera too melodramatic or whatever, this won’t be your cup of tea! It has the wild firefights, the odd scattered varied humanoid races, the gadgets, the wise-yet-technologically-backward society, the backstabbing-technologically-forward society, the gratuitous fancy names (I’m pretty sure I never did find out how “skinboots” were any different from regular boots), and so on. But if you like space opera, there’s nothing wrong with any of that—it’s simply one of those reader taste things. I tend to like my SF a little more toward the hard end, but I definitely found this book solidly enjoyable.
I’m actually pretty happy with how the whole narcotic hormone plot played out. I rolled my eyes when I saw it, because the whole “bonding chemically and/or mystically with your one true mate” plot has been done to death at this point by Lora Leigh alone, let alone everyone else who joined in. However, there are a couple of changes here that made a real difference to me. In Granger’s version, free will is a real and serious factor. The situation narrows Soren’s choices, but biologically, the bonding takes place with a mate of one’s choosing, not some mysterious perfect match. It was a nice departure, and more satisfying emotionally. The consequences of this mysterious hormonal process are also examined, such as the desirability of Byralen males as slaves for producing narcotics. The emotional consequences for Soren of having his sexuality viewed in such a manner are also explored—the idea of someone desiring him starts out as a rather bitter thing. That alone was novel and a nice departure!
Cyani and Soren are interesting characters. Cyani has a rather complex background that has left her very conflicted and somewhat traumatized in certain areas, although exceptionally strong as well. Soren’s life until his capture was quite sheltered, and his imprisonment has had its own consequences for him on many levels.
Beyond the Rain is strongest when it’s delving into the growing relationship between Cyani and Soren, exploring their attraction and caring for each other. I enjoyed the world, but found the occasional machinations and political plotting less interesting than the romance—and, err, that’s a little backward for me.
While I wouldn’t call this the strongest book of the Summer, it does a good job of filling a certain niche. It’s escapist space opera with a strong romance, some delicious sex, a forbidding dark background for each of the characters, and some fun firefights for good measure! [Standard adult material warning: explicit sex; adult topics such as rape are adressed.]