Synopsis (from Goodreads):
It was her last chance:
Amber Bierce had nothing left except her sister and two tickets on Earth’s first colony-ship. She entered her Sleeper with a five-year contract and the promise of a better life, but awakened in smoldering wreckage on an unknown world. For the survivors, there is no rescue, no way home and no hope until they are found by Meoraq—a holy warrior more deadly than any hungering beast on this hostile new world…but whose eyes show a different sort of hunger when he looks at her.
It was his last year of freedom:
Uyane Meoraq is a Sword of Sheul, God’s own instrument of judgment, victor of hundreds of trials, with a conqueror’s rights over all men. Or at least he was until his father’s death. Now, without divine intervention, he will be forced to assume stewardship over House Uyane and lose the life he has always known. At the legendary temple of Xi’Matezh, Meoraq hopes to find the deliverance he seeks, but the humans he encounters on his pilgrimage may prove too great a test even for him…especially the one called Amber, behind whose monstrous appearance burns a woman’s heart unlike any he has ever known.
When it comes to fantasy sci-fi romance Lee Smith is really good with several important things: making the plot meaningful despite all those steamy scenes, world-building, independent women and interesting monsters who, more often than not, prove to be quite civilized and humane, at least after some time. The alien race interaction in this one was just amazing – easily the highlight of the whole story. What’s more, the romance story arc never overshadowed everything else even though the hero and the heroine had a lot of sex so yes, there was a strong plot going on. The baddies also were quite three-dimensional and interesting to read about. Apart from that I found out the author likes torturing her main leads with good effects. So why I don’t fall on my knees, award it my worthless and obscure ‘best book’ badge and swear my eternal love and allegiance? Because … there are flaws. ;p Hardly a big surprise, right?
Firstly and foremostly the novels tend to be very long, like 600+ pages or more and they tend to drag a bit here and there. Of course the boring parts can be skipped but, overall, the narration is done skillfully so if you don’t have enough time don’t start one of them – you won’t finish in one evening or two even if you want to.
Secondly most of Lee Smith’s heroines seem to share one super-annoying trait (from my POV of course): they are the ultimate forgivers. I mean they forgive even those who repeatedly betray them and try to murder them with no good reason at all, many times over. In The Last Hour of Gann it was done by Everly Scott, the as****e extraordinaire who happened to survive the crash of the spaceship just to be the curse of Amber’s new life. And was forgiven, time and again, which sounded stupid especially as he never sounded contrite, not even close. Mind you Amber happened to be an atheist, not a Christian…
I also admit that my tolerance point was almost exceeded with all the interracial rape and abuse which happened in the second part of the book. Be warned: if you don’t like such scenes in your romance, sci-fi, UF or otherwise, stay away from this one. It’s true the heroine got her revenge eventually and once again she managed to pull herself by her own bootstraps which I can only applaud but the road to that scene was never easy.
Finally the religious issue’s denouement was too simplistic for me but anyway kudos for tackle religion at all, a topic plenty of authors avoid like the plague.
Even with all the flaws and hard-to-swallow violence easily one of more original romance fantasy sci-fi novels I’ve happened to read recently. I am going to read more of this author for sure.