The Crippling War may be over, but the Charted Systems are in complete disarray and the intergalactic struggles for control have only just begun. Trying desperately to maintain their domination over the systems, the Ardulans have dispatched two unlucky emissaries to the Mmnnuggl home world. However, their attempts to quell the threatening uprising are ineffectual. They narrowly escape the planet and make their way home only to be immediately sent on another dangerous mission to the planet Neek. Unbeknownst to them, and the planet’s inhabitants, Neek is set to become the next pawn in the Ardulans’ intergalactic political schemes.
With Captain Yoren gone, a casualty of the Crippling War, Neek, Emn and Nicholas set off in search of the mythical planet Ardulum. The trio are seeking answers to some very profound questions surrounding who they are, who the Ardulans are, and just what do the Ardulans have planned for the galaxy? Incredible revelations are revealed about the past, present and future of the Charted Systems, its inhabitants and the intricate web that binds them all together. Ardulum holds the answers they seek but what will the crew do with the truths that are revealed?
We really start to see a lot of growth and development in the main characters in this book. They become much more layered and complex as they learn more about their history. What I really enjoy is that we get to discover this information concurrently with them. I felt so much more invested in the characters by experiencing these perception-changing revelations with them and witnessing them grapple with their implications.
Emn, is continuing to evolve after she goes through her second don. She exhibits incredible strength, bravery and focus and has come a long way since the innocent child we met in the first novel. She is forthright and persistent in what she wants, especially when it comes to Neek. Neek, also evolves quite a bit in this book. At the urging of Emn, she reclaims her childhood name (Atalant), an act that symbolizes her waning belief in the social conventions and religious restrictions of her people. Yet she is clearly still struggling with the implications Emn’s potential as a deity present as they relate to her religious upbringing. Consequently, their relationship is progressing at an agonizingly slow pace while Atalant wages these inner battles.
We are also Introduced to some new characters in this installment of the series. Eskmet and Miketh are the Ardulan emissaries we first meet on Mmnnuggl and who are eventually sent to Neek. I definitely get the feeling they will be playing a bigger part in the third book of the series. We also meet Arik and a few other flares (flares are Ardulans that have more talents than normal) that have escaped a hidden containment facility. The flares shed light on more than one mystery and are sure to be playing much larger roles in the culmination of the series as well.
The Writing Style
This book starts off a little on the slow side as Emn, Neek and Nicholas begin their search for Ardulum and the focus is more on politics, the implications of the war and the current state of the Chartered systems. However, the action builds very quickly, and I absolutely flew through the latter half of the book. There are many point of view shifts throughout the book and I especially love how it allows you to witness both sides of the relationship struggle between Emn and Neek.
I was completely stunned by the world building in the first novel of the series and was floored to find that the universe becomes even vaster and more brilliant in the sequel! The history and relationships between the different planets and species are fleshed out in greater detail and a grand plan starts to emerge. We are introduced to even more different species and finally start to learn more about the planet Ardulum. And Ardulum is amazing! I can’t tell you how much I love the idea of that planet! We also get more of a history of the relationships of the planets in the Chartered Systems and the politics become more apparent. All in all, Fields has created an incredible universe.
What I liked most about this book is the ‘more.’ There are more incredible characters, more species, more planets and more of an explanation about what is going on. The same themes surrounding gender, individual rights, religion, technology and ethics are carried through from the first book in the series and expanded upon. As in the first book, just when you think you have formed an opinion about the morality of something, boom there is a new facet that needs to be considered.
There are some violent scenes with graphic imagery which merits a mention. Also, the story covers difficult topics such as genetic engineering and experimentation, war, abuse, death, and genocide.
This book has a healthy dose of mental stimulation, a pinch of ethical evaluation, a smattering of wonderful characters and a boatload of entertainment. You can’t help but completely immerse yourself in the incredible universe Fields has created.
Excerpt from Ardulum: Second Don by J.S. Fields
The ache in her thighs wasn’t getting any better. With a labored sigh, Neek leaned her head against the wall and cursed the coldness of the metal. She closed her eyes. The white noise was blissful. She counted her heartbeats against the thrum of the ship’s engines and tried to ignore the steady, feathery presence in her mind. The presence wasn’t intrusive, but thinking about it overloaded her brain, blurred her vision, and made her throat feel tight. No matter how many times Neek tried to put the jigsaw pieces of her life into some semblance of order, the pieces kept changing shape. It was hard to focus on anything except the woman in the cockpit – the Ardulan in the cockpit. The god in the cockpit. Maybe. Shit.
Memories flooded her mind.
A blood-soaked little girl tumbled from a stasis chamber, one dark triangle under her eye.
Flotsam from a Risalian cutter.
Emn’s chrysalis nestled underneath a pyre of Risalian bodies. The smoky smells. The crisp flesh.
The scattered remains of the Mercy’s Pledge drifting through space, carrying Yorden’s body with them.
The Ardulan woman who ended the Crippling War, or whatever the news feeds were calling it now. Ended the lives of many Mmnnuggls, Risalians, and her own people.
The Ardulan woman who was piloting their stolen Mmnnuggl ship. The woman so covered in Talent markings that little of her translucent skin remained.
The woman she couldn’t be around without her body entering into some sort of primeval panic mode, which did not create an enjoyable atmosphere within the ship. Her Journey youth, Nicholas, had been sure to point that out several times over. Loudly. Usually when they were all together in the cockpit and Neek couldn’t avoid Emn’s stares.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781947139961
- Publisher: Ninestar Press
J.S. Fields Online
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