Freeforce [Darkon Rising 1]

L.E. Horn

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After losing her twin sister, Leanndra came to Bodega Bay to escape the well-meaning attention of family and friends who’d been constantly hovering around her since the accident. She wanted solitude but, instead, she met Michael. Their growing relationship is interrupted when they are hunted down and captured by a group of mysterious men with strange weapons, then imprisoned in a training facility, enslaved to fight a war on another world.

The vicious and sadistic Tlok’mk mutate Leanndra into a new form, the form most valuable to them and their war. Locked forever in her new body, Leanndra knows she can never go home, but what she can do fight against the monsters who changed her.

Freeforce is the first instalment of the Darkon Rising series, and the first thing I did upon finishing the last page of this book was to request an advance copy of the sequel. I loved it! It’s science-fiction with a good dollop of urban and pure fantasy, but it’s pure escapism regardless of the label you decide to put on it.

The author creates well-rounded, flawed yet sympathetic protagonists who you really come to care for. My biggest criticism has to be for the bad guys, the Tlok’mk – they never really get past the stage of being superficial creations, even the main ones, although I think that maybe the over-used trope of consonant-heavy names with an apostrophe in them may be partly to blame for this. The only way I could even tell them apart was to make a list of their names and occupations as I came across them, which really doesn’t help with the flow of a story.

Horn seems to be developing an annoying habit of using one series of books to plug another. In this novel, she names a cat after one of the characters in her Nightshifter series, using that moment to have a different character explain how good the series is, and I remember her doing the reverse in one from that series. Once is slightly irritating, but to do it again is rather cringeworthy.

The novel reminds me very much of Anne McCaffrey’s Catteni sequence, and of her standalone novel, Restoree, so it’s possible that my enjoyment of Freeforce is also partly sentimental. I’ve been a fan of McCaffrey for over thirty years, so the comparison is praise indeed.

Roll on Freefire!

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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