Rating: 3 out of 5
H.E. Trent’s Crux: A Sci-Fi Romance (The Jekh Saga Book 2) (also available in The Jekh Saga Collection One: Erstwhile, Crux, and Salvo) sees Courtney’s sister Erin and brother Owen (the third) arrive on Jekh. Erin is a paramedic and Owen is into tech. Erin helps out around the farm, and ends up cuddling with Jekhan baker Headron, although she won’t actually have sex with him because she isn’t interested in a relationship. When super-dominant Esteben (Murk’s brother) decides he wants her, she does have sex with him–she believes that with him it’ll just be a one-night stand. Meanwhile, Lillian Devin, the police commissioner who’s secretly on the side of the Jekhans, sets up Eileen (Amy’s coworker) and Edgar (one of a couple of non-corrupt cops under her employ) to retrieve the elder Owen McGarry from where he’s been kept in stasis (everyone thought he was dead). It’s believed he’ll be able to bolster pro-Jekhan sentiment and help organize the Jekhans.
There’s plenty of world-building activity–the town that the McGarries and their friends have settled near could use some help, as could the farm full of people. Some stuff is low-key, like Headron starting to bake again and selling his bread in the neighboring town. Or Trig’s efforts to grow coffee beans and other human-preferred foods that aren’t native to Jekh (sounds like a route to accidentally seeding the place with invasive plants, but what do I know).
Erin spends waaay too much time and effort trying not to get involved with Headron and Esteben. I’m not surprised they got annoyed with her–I’m surprised they didn’t get more annoyed with her. Although I guess Jekhans are used to their women being prickly, so maybe it didn’t seem entirely strange to them. She has some misguided idea that by getting involved with the Jekhan men she’d be erasing their culture. Which–they’re grown men. They’re adults. They can make their own decisions with respect to culture vs. emotions. Also, the Jekhans were the ones hoping to approach the humans about needing an infusion of more viable genetic material, so wouldn’t this be something they’d already approved of? One of the hardest parts of this relationship is that Headron and Esteben start off pretty much hating each other. That becomes an interesting sub-plot.
I also like how the author establishes Esteben. He’s been in a very bad situation and was violent at first (he’s Murk’s brother, so they took him in regardless). He’s described initially as “feral.” In any other book that means he’d be growly and reticent and unapproachable even once settled down. In here, he turns out to be a charismatic merchant.
The population of Trig’s farm is basically a bunch of outsiders and outliers–both human and Jekhan. We get a little bit more of a handle on the seemingly straightforward Jekhan culture, and how much of it is really due to Tyneali cultural influence rather than actual biology. It’s interesting.
At one point Eileen and Edgar rescue a young woman who’s the product of another Tyneali experiment–more human than Jeckhan. She only speaks a few words of English, and Eileen, who’s trying to get information from her, at one point thinks, “She suspected she would have better luck getting a dog to bark the Gettysburg Adress.” That’s… icky. She’s comparing someone whose only difficulty is not having been taught a language, to an animal. That didn’t speak well of her, and I didn’t get the impression from the text around it that she was supposed to come off as bigoted.
Content note for explicit sex (mmf, mm, mf).