This is precisely the type of book that chickenshit me should not be reading, and yet I just had to finish it. I did feel like I skipped something asThis is precisely the type of book that chickenshit me should not be reading, and yet I just had to finish it. I did feel like I skipped something as there were references to a couple brought together before the events of Mercury Rising, but overall, it's a twisty story with lots to still be revealed, though it's easy to predict what some of those revelations will be.
Overall, it reminded me of a cross between This is the End and The Walking Dead, with sprinklings of Lisa Marie Rice's Ghost Ops books. There is a lot of character death and violence towards women, and I'll be sleeping with the lights on. Fellow chickenshits, you are forewarned....more
So let me paint you a picture. There I am, piles of paperwork strewn across my desk, checking back and forth between my computer screen and the top piSo let me paint you a picture. There I am, piles of paperwork strewn across my desk, checking back and forth between my computer screen and the top pile, when I get an email alert on my iWatch.
An email with the Berkley Romance widget to download Allegiance of Honor has just arrived.
I am grateful that most of my coworkers were out to lunch as I began to make inarticulate noises while frantically searching for my cell phone, lost somewhere beneath the papers. Then I had to wait for my own lunch hour to begin, at which point I couldn't get it to download at first, leading to more inarticulate noises.
And then the book finally opened.
It begins with a letter from Nalini, explaining that Allegiance is an ensemble book. It's a transition book, she says, allowing us to revisit all of our favorite characters, before we begin a new series plot arc. So I was expecting like a loosely linked collection of vignettes, little snapshots of everyone's happy endings. I thought it would just tidy everything away, so that book 16 could start fresh.
Nalini, I underestimated you and I am sorry.
In my opinion, from a writing standpoint, Allegiance of Honor is masterfully done. All of the featured couples from the previous books return, all of them getting the spotlight for a brief time. Many of the supporting characters return as well, and, yes, things are tidied up or positioned to be further explored.
Given that it's so character-driven, you would not expect there to be much in the way of plot, but there is, oh, there is. It's like...is there a word or phrase that describes something that's meant to be an appetizer, something to just whet your appetite, but actually turns out to be immensely satisfying? Nalini's world-building skills are unparalleled and she puts them to good use here, somehow simultaneously bombarding the reader with happy endings, while evoking a sense of dread.
Because everything's about to change.
I knew I was going to cry at some point, because (view spoiler)[hello, pupcubs (hide spoiler)], but I actually cried at two other times. Well, two and a half. First, I cried at (view spoiler)[unexpected grief (hide spoiler)] and then I cried at (view spoiler)[a dream finally realized. (hide spoiler)] Then I teared up again because there was such an abundance of hope in the face of adversity, of determination to make the world a better place. Given the current American political climate, the despair that seems to permeate every piece of news, Allegiance of Honor is almost a fantasy of what the world could be like. Not perfect, not entirely safe, but mostly united in hopes of a better future.
Do NOT read this if you haven't read the previous fourteen books. There is a cast of characters in the beginning, but you won't grasp the full awesomeness unless you've been completely immersed. You should also read the accompanying novellas as some of those couples make an appearance as well ((view spoiler)[Zach and Annie, (hide spoiler)] my favorite couple!). If you want to re-read as a refresher, go for Slave to Sensation, Branded by Fire, Blaze of Memory, Wild Invitation, Heart of Obsidian, Shield of Winter, and Shards of Hope. As I said, all the couples are featured, but these will brush you up on the first series plot arc and the current state of politics in this world.
Since I'm writing this three months early (I'm sorry, publicist Erin, you are lovely, but I have no self-control, especially when it comes to Nalini's books), I don't want to say anything that would make Berkley put a hit out on me, but I do always like to include a few spoilery-but-not-really tidbits:
(view spoiler)[Nikita remains my absolute favorite character. Walker's my second favorite. He and Nikita don't share any scenes together, but Walker has one intense moment near the end that made me wish he was real and that I was dating him.
Pupcubs, pupcubs, pupcubssss! It made me want to re-read Branded all over again. Hawke is the best at baby gifts. And Lara is tricksy.
The BlackSea plot thread from Shards of Hope continues (not the only thread that happens). I love cryptozoology, and I know that isn't exactly what's happening here, but all the secrecy around BlackSea feels like it. I can't wait to find out more about the different kind of water Changelings. Nalini does a phenomenal job of using body language to distinguish the inherent differences between the land-based and water-based Changelings.
We meet one character, who I think has never actually appeared in person before, and they need their own book. We are also given additional important information about another frequently name-dropped-but-not-seen character, but, fortunately, I won't have to wait long to learn more about them. (hide spoiler)]
I seriously can't wait to see where Nalini takes us next because I have absolute faith she knows where she's going. And it's going to be brilliant.
I'm going to leave you with a quote from the book that's not really spoilery, but I'll stick it behind a cut. These lines, in my opinion, capture what I love about Nalini's writing: no matter what else is happening, what threat may be looming, life goes on.
(view spoiler)["But no one did anything on that hazy Venetian day as the sun dropped into the ocean and the stars started to glitter.
"That day, two dangerous men sat, had a beer, and discussed the latest football scores." (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more