Catalyst by Fletcher DeLancey is the fourth book in the Chronicles of Alsea series. After not seeing much of the humans, Ekatya Serrado and Lhyn Rivers, who put the events into motion that introduced the planet of Alsea to the galaxy, we finally get a book dedicated to their story in the interim.
Ekatya and Lhyn are back on Alsea for the first time in over a year. They’re glad to be there, but not all is well with them. A lot has happened, and it has left its mark on each of them, though in different ways. Even now, when all should be safe, they find it difficult to relax. What’s worse, the tyree bond that marks them as unique among humans and has given them such joy, is partly to blame for their current issues. They each tell their stories to their Alsean friends while struggling to return to a state of normalcy that may be lost to them forever.
The characters are those we’ve known and loved since The Caphenon, the first book in the series, and those we’ve met in Without a Front (books two and three). Though we still see Lancer Tal and Salomen, as well those in their personal retinues, the story is mostly about Ekatya and Lhyn.
Ekatya Serrado is the no-nonsense captain of the Caphenon. Now that her ship is no more, and she’s back in the Protectorate, she needs to find her way all over again. This is especially difficult for someone who thought her way in the Fleet was set once she was given command of her beloved Caphenon. She’s forced to make her way all over again, but now she has no ship and she’s reporting to someone whose methods and motivations make her want to throw up.
Dr. Lhyn Rivers should be in her element. She’s returned to the Protectorate in triumph, the first person to have studied an empathic race from within that race’s own culture. Her knowledge is sought-after and she becomes an overnight celebrity. However, her separation from Ekatya has resulted in physical symptoms of duress. On top of that, a faction within the Protectorate is not happy with the revelation of empathic aliens and will do whatever they can to discredit her.
The Writing Style
This story is told mostly in flashback. We’re in present day Alsea, while Lhyn and Ekatya relate what’s happened over the past year and a bit to their friends. It’s an interesting authorial choice, but one that fits the story well. While the use of so many flashbacks could have dulled the urgency of the story, DeLancey manages to avoid that pitfall. We know the characters survive their tribulations, but their physical survival isn’t the point of the story. The tension comes from the mental and emotional peril they go through, peril that still churns in them by the time they return to Alsea. Getting to see them work through that trauma against the foil of those they love and trust is the true story here.
I really liked this story, as you can probably tell. Like really, really liked! The storytelling is the same consistently high level I’ve come to expect from DeLancey. Her use of storytelling methods is spot on. The story could more easily have been told in a straightforward fashion, but then we would have lost the emotional impact the events still have on Lhyn and Ekatya months later.
I also love the way DeLancey subverts my expectations. There are a couple of characters I loved to hate. I mean, I loathed them and it felt so good! I’m not going to tell you who they are since I don’t want to spoil it, but as hateful as they were, each of them had some redemptive characteristics. Just when I thought I knew who the villain of the piece was, that got turned on its head, but in a way that had me cheering.
There are only a couple of cons here. One is the use of leading language in some of the flashbacks. A couple of times there was some foreshadowing that wasn’t necessary. That pulled me out of the moment a bit. Those happen early on as the characters are telling their stories, and much less later on.
Second, there are scenes of torture and abuse. While they’re completely necessary to the story, they’re raw and visceral. I actually count the rawness of those scenes as a plus in that they aren’t sugar-coated, but for those readers for whom that might be an issue, you’ve been warned.
If you’re a fan of the Chronicles of Alsea, this is an important and worthy addition to the series. If you’re not a fan yet, but you love yourself some lesbian sci-fi, get your happy butt over to Amazon.com and order yourself a copy of The Caphenon. Then set some money aside so you can order the next few novels, and the novella and settle in for some delicious binge-reading! It’s hard for me to choose my favorite in the series as they’re all so amazing, but for different reasons. Yes, you may disappear from public for a few days, but it’s so worth it!
Excerpt from Catalyst by Fletcher DeLancey
He glared, speechless, and she guessed that no one had spoken to him that way in a long time. Then his face went blank, the anger gone as if it had never existed. “Very well, Captain. If we’re fighting on the same side, then you’ll have no issues with my assignment for you.”
“You’re altering my orders,” she said in resignation. Of course he was.
“Only slightly. You’ll still be working with Minister Staruin on his task force, and I believe that you bring some useful skills to that table. But I don’t believe that Staruin is prioritizing the security of the Protectorate. He has his own agenda. You will find out what that is, then report on the activities and possible agendas of the other members of the task force.”
“You want me to spy for you?”
“If that’s what you want to call it. I call it observing and reporting.” She hesitated, trying to find the right words. “Director, I’m not trained in infiltration. That’s a specialist skill.”
“True, but regrettably, you’re what I have to work with.”
He was enjoying this. She hated to twist on his hook, but she had to at least try to convince him.
“Wouldn’t you have a better chance of success if you replaced me on the task force? Surely you’ve already seen that I’m not good at dissembling—or holding my tongue. You need someone who can play a role.”
“I do,” he said in an alarmingly cheerful tone. “And while I’ve definitely seen that you can’t hold your tongue, I’m not so certain about the role playing.”
His cheer vanished as he stared at her with cold eyes. “You’re not doing a good job of convincing me of your loyalty, Captain.”
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- ISBN number: 9783955336417
- Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Fletcher DeLancey Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Catalyst by Fletcher DeLancey. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.