CRISIS AT VALIDOR (Ptorix Empire Book 4)
Greta van der Rol
GENRE: Science Fiction, Romance, Space Opera
Newly-promoted Captain Brett Butcher is about to achieve his life-long ambition to command a battle cruiser. But before he takes up his new posting, he goes home on leave, hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of his first love, the unattainable Lady Tarlyn.
When the queen is assassinated in a terrorist attack, Tarlyn’s life is thrown into turmoil when she, too, becomes a target. The last person she expects to rescue her is her childhood sweetheart, Brett Butcher.
As Validor’s Ptorix and human populations face off over a group of islands neither owns, the calls for war grow louder. Torn between love, duty and ambition, Butcher and Tarlyn struggle to prevent an inter-species conflict, while the ember of love that has smouldered for so long bursts into flame. But with planetary peace at stake, both will be forced to choose; love or duty.
Crisis at Validor returns us to the world of the Ptorix Empire, this time on Validor where humans and Ptorix share a planet in a cautious state of détente, until all hell breaks loose with a series of assassinations that decimate the human Ruling Clan.
The author does what she does best: hits the ground running with intense action and a high stakes game of political maneuvering that threatens not just the peace but carries the ugly taste of interspecies war and extinction. Caught in the middle is a neutral zone, nominally Ptorix but cloaked in myth and rumor: Berzhan Island, home to a dragon species thought to embody the spirituality and mythology of the Ptorix culture. Not all believe, however, which makes for a complicated relationship with the two ruling powers on the planet and a convenient means to fuel the fires of hostility and misunderstandings between species.
Brett Butcher, just promoted to Captain, is a Validor native, taking leave to visit his home world before assuming the helm of Defender in Admiral Hudson’s fleet. He witnesses the beginning of the attacks on the Ruling Clan, and when he attempts to assist, he is in the right place at the right time to rescue Lady Tarlyn, his boyhood love. This is a different kind of Captain—he is lowborn, not nearly as arrogant and haughty as others of his rank, and he is recovering from a failed marriage in which he had little invested other than his daughter.
Lady Tarlyn is a member of the Ruling Clan, trained as is everyone in the line of succession, but uninterested in the machinations of the court. A widow, Tarlyn has come to terms with the loss of a man who was an acceptable partner in a marriage of convenience dictated by the Ruling Clan. Tarlyn has been indoctrinated to do her duty without dwelling overmuch on the costs to herself. She too has a daughter, Lena, a bright ten-year-old gifted with the opportunity to embrace and explore Ptorix culture.
When Tarlyn and Brett are thrown together during the horrific terrorist attack, those old flames quickly rekindle. In a race to see to her daughter’s safety, they must first evade their unknown pursuers, then find a way to make sense of the escalating conflict and to halt the slide into a holocaust.
This is a heart-stopping ride with new alien species, new kinds of danger, and a web of deceit and lies and unbridled ambition that will keep you turning the page/clicking through to see what happens next. Tarlyn makes it clear: she is not interested in replacing the murdered Queen, but as the plots and counter-plots unfold she finds herself caught between a rock and a very hard place. The safety of her daughter, the demands of fulfilling her Clan’s mandate, and the consequences of not doing so make for a compelling read. And at the core is the bittersweet knowledge that Brett is still the man she loved so many years ago, but can she really choose love over duty?
Brett suffers from the same conundrum. All his training, all his ambitions, all his hard work to overcome his humble beginnings are not easily traded away. When he must decide on a course of action, will his feelings of unworth collide with his need to see to Tarlyn and Lena’s future?
This is an excellent addition to the Ptorix Empire series. The author continues to dazzle with an intimate exploration of the cultural and political differences between species struggling to maintain a balance within their own spheres of influence and with each other. This time, we take a good look at human and Ptorix at the local level. Their insularity and peculiar histories have created splinter groups within each that make this particular slice of the galactic ‘Verse intriguingly complex.
Crisis at Validor is also a romance at its core, truly the best of both worlds, adding the element of sensuality to raise the stakes and to humanize the players acting on a planetary stage in a Universe of colliding cultures and species. And when it comes to choosing, the admonition to choose wisely doesn’t always pertain when that choice is between duty and love.
This is a highly recommended SFR (science fiction romance), another 5 Star read from the pen of Greta van der Rol.