The 5th annual SFR Galaxy Awards were recently announced and I thought I’d share my mini review of two very different winners as a sample for our readers.
First a word about the awards themselves: A panel of well-regarded scifi romance book bloggers and reviewers make the selections, with each judge naming five or six novels, graphic novels or anthologies that they found memorable during the preceding year. The formal description of the awards’ intent, as taken from the website: “The theme of the SFR Galaxy Awards is inclusiveness. Instead of giving an award to a single book, this event will recognize the worth of multiple books and/or the standout elements they contain. The basic philosophy behind this approach is to help connect readers with books.”
I was honored to find two of my own books on the list this year, Star Cruise: Outbreak and Hostage to the Stars, along with some we’ve mentioned on Heroes and Heartbreakers in the past, such as Anna Hackett and her Galactic Gladiators, Ilona Andrews’s One Fell Sweep and thePets In Space anthology.
First up is Pirate (Space Gypsy Chronicles Book 1) by Eve Langlais (Amazon | B&N | Kobo). I had the pleasure of being on a panel of SFR authors with Eve last year and she is full of humor, a blunt and thoroughly enjoyable speaker. Emma, the heroine of this novel shared a lot of these aspects with the author. (Although in the early going Emma was a bit Too Stupid To Live in my opinion but she caught on and caught up fast and then held her own.) Rafe Abaddon is the space pirate of the title, every bit as handsome, smart, humorous and well-endowed as he conceitedly thinks he is. The book exists on two levels, with the constant racy, sexy banter between Rafe and Emma layered on top of an exciting scifi adventure. The story begins on Earth, where Emma is the human delivery driver bringing Rafe the many things he’s ordered online. He plans to take the goods into space and sell them at a huge markup. Earth is an offlimits, primitive planet, with alien species living there undercover, which is a fun trope we’ve seen before. Interstellar bounty hunters arrive to capture Rafe, because of course he has a huge price on his head, so to save Emma from certain death, he takes her with him into space. The spaceship has a cranky computer at the helm and I must say I enjoyed ‘Annabelle’s’ acerbic contributions to the banter as well. It was amusing seeing the greater galactic world through Emma’s eyes – the spaceships aren’t as gleaming and glitzy as she expected, the aliens are more diverse than she’d dreamed, and all the beings she meets are disturbingly focused on eating her or acquiring her for less than savory purposes. Quite a bit of time is spent on an out of the way space station, which was a terrific setting – I’d like to check into the Kaupo Sanctuary Hotel myself someday, but only if I have a lot of credits. Rafe comes to respect Emma and I found it easy to visualize the two of them running the pirate and black market scams successfully for a long time. While we’re on the space station, more of the series’ underlying plot elements come into view – there’s a lot of mystery about Rafe’s backstory and who he might really be, with hints of a greater destiny he’s running from. He’s also busy trying to find all the scattered fragments of a map that leads to…no one knows exactly what. (This reminds me a bit of the movie “Treasure Planet.”) His likable but apparently not-to-be trusted cousin Luca shows up. There’s a climactic escape from overwhelming odds (are there any other kind?), and Rafe and Emma get a “blink and you’ll miss it” Happy for Now ending, before the book teases a snippet from the opening of the next book, with Rafe suffering amnesia.
I don’t generally like cliffhangers, although this was more of a quick glimpse into the future than the actual ending. The next book is out already, with at least two in the series more announced.
Switching gears entirely, the second SFR Galaxy Award winning title I’ll feature today is Nobody’s Hero (The Burning Lands Book 1) by Bec McMaster. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) This post-apocalyptic tale features wargs (men who turn into ravening wolflike monsters), rievers, revenants and scattered remnants of normal society trying to scratch out a living. The Earth was devastated by a meteorite strike, causing mass destruction and also releasing the subjects of nefarious experiments into the general population, which explained the wargs and revenants nicely. I Loved. This. Book. It was excellent. The heroine, Riley Kincaid, is a tough human trying to do the right things in a world gone really wrong. She has the skills and smarts and the heart to keep going no matter what. The hero, Lucius Wade, is a former bounty hunter who got turned into the prey he killed and is now a warg bent on revenge. He can control his beast as long as he wears a special medallion given to him by a now deceased shaman. Early in the book, Luc kidnaps Riley but they form a temporary alliance in order to rescue an innocent person. The action, adventure and romance take off from there.
The book is reminiscent of the Mad Max movies and adventures set in the Wild West. The action was nonstop but the attraction between Riley and Luc grows believably and the buildup of sexual tension and desire before their first love scene was done just right, with the moment occurring in a beautiful rock pool in the middle of the desert. Of course the bad guys soon arrive to ruin the mood. Another thing I relished about the book was the fact that neither Luc nor Riley could easily accept the growing romance between them, which was believably handled. No insta love in the apocalypse times. The author throws twists and turns and new information at her characters and us, and both Riley and Luc are forced to make a few difficult and scary choices. At several points I was literally unsure that the Happily Ever After would be reached (although of course eventually it was, and quite satisfyingly) – so I was on the edge of my chair more than once.
I can’t wait to read the sequel, which is sitting on my kindle.
For more information on the awards, and all the books (and one webcomic) included, you can visit the SFR Galaxy Award site at http://sfrgalaxyawards.blogspot.com/
H&H Editor Picks:
Amazon best-seller Veronica Scott is a three-time recipient of the SFR Galaxy Award, and has written a number of science-fiction and fantasy romances. Her latest release is Trapped On Talonque. You can find out more about her and her books at veronicascott.wordpress.com