Formats available: ebook
Series: Phoenix Adventures #8
Published by Anna Hackett on December 18th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon
When an independent deep-space scout crash-lands on an unknown alien world, the last thing she expects is to find herself claimed by a barbarian warrior.
Aurina Phoenix spends most of her time zooming through uncharted space and gathering intel for her family’s deep-space convoy, but her life takes an unexpected detour when a meteor shower brings down her ship. She finds herself on a barren, low-tech planet inhabited by dangerous beasts…and lands in the arms of a brawny barbarian warlord.
Markarian warrior Kavon Mal Dor is known for his skill in battle. He lives to protect his clan…and to avenge the murder of his father. Every move he makes is part of his grand plan for revenge, including finding a legendary sword and marrying a warlord’s daughter. But when a beautiful skyflyer crashes into his world, she is the one thing he never counted on.
Fighting their incendiary attraction, Aurina and Kavon make a deal: she’ll help him find the sword and in return, he’ll give her the emergency beacon she needs to get home. But as the search for the sword plunges them into a dangerous adventure they find themselves consumed by a powerful passion and questioning everything they’ve ever wanted.
This is the eighth, and possibly the last, book in Hackett’s Phoenix Adventures. Even though two of Aurina’s half-brothers are still searching for women who can put up with them, their stories do not appear to be on the horizon at the moment.
While the story in On a Barbarian World stands alone, it has its roots in Beyond Galaxy’s Edge (reviewed here), where Aurina’s half-brother Justyn finally manages to catch the Patrol Captain who has been hunting his smuggling ass up and down the galaxy for years.
It also has some parallels to On a Rogue Planet. Not so much in its story as in its protagonist. In Rogue Planet, the female cousin of the other set of Phoenix brothers finds herself stranded on a planet in the middle of a coup. In On a Barbarian World the only female member of this side of the Phoenix family finds herself stranded on a low-tech world after her scoutship crashes in the middle of a meteor shower.
The men in this series mostly hunt down, or are hunted down by, the women who become the loves of their lives. The women in this series have to get grounded to find theirs, and the metaphor is unfortunately sticking with me.
In many ways, this is kind of a first-contact story. While the relatively primitive Markarians have legends about space travellers, no one seems to have actually met one. So when Aurina’s crashed ship is discovered, she’s quite a novelty.
And of course the barbarian leader immediately claims her. While that initially claiming is stepped back a bit, it certainly has lots of sexual overtones. Kavon Mal Dor may be overtly giving Aurina the stranger the protection of his clan because every Markarian belongs to a clan, but it is clear from the beginning that Kavon really wants to claim Aurina.
There’s a whole lot of lust-at-first-sight going on here. Initially, what attracts Kavon is just how different she is. Aurina is a fiery redhead with a redhead’s coloring (and temper). She is also on the curvy side. Markarians, on the other hand, are tall and muscular, including the women. And they are all bronze-dark, a result of their possible Saurian ancestry.
As their relationship develops, Kavon and Aurina make a lot of assumptions about each other, most of which are demonstrably false. The barbarians are much, much less barbaric than Aurina assumes. Well, at least Kavon’s people are. His enemies are just as nasty as Aurina might imagine.
And of course Kavon thinks that Aurina needs his protection, both because she is a woman and because she is a stranger. Only one of those two things really matters, and a big part of the development of their relationship is Kavon learning to treat Aurina as an equal, in a culture where no one is his equal. Kavon is warlord, and everyone else in the clan is his subordinate. Except Aurina. She is always insubordinate. But utterly captivating to a man who is not used to needing to actually pursue the woman he wants.
Kavon and Aurina make a deal. She will use her scouting skills to help him find the legendary sword Durendal. In return, he will return her e-beacon to her, allowing her to contact her brothers and return to her old life.
In the end, the only life they both want is the one that they can make together. On Markaria. But it will only happen if they both stop making assumptions about who the other is, and what the other wants, before it is too late.
Escape Rating B-: I liked this, but not nearly as much as the other books in The Phoenix Adventures. For a lot of the story, it struck me too much as “barbarian tames skyflier” and with not nearly enough science fiction in my science fiction romance.
The story seemed a bit of a throwback, kind of like Kavon. We have the feisty woman who finally gets the warrior to respect her wishes, while he retains all the power, and in the end she gives up her life to stay with him. This story isn’t quite like that, but it came close enough to the old “noble savage vs. civilized woman” romance to make me uncomfortable.
I really liked the parts where the science fiction aspects came to the forefront. Kavon is searching for the lost legendary sword Durendal, which is a piece of the Song of Roland. So it’s a legend now, in our world, and it is still a legend in the future. That was cool. When Aurina finds Durendal for Kavon, she also finds an Earth treasure-trove similar to the one that Eos finds in At Star’s End (reviewed here).
When Aurina discovers the sword, she also finds information about Markaria’s gods, who turn out not to be gods after all, but stranded star travelers just like herself. Her search upsets their entire culture, and yet everyone manages to adjust reasonable well surprisingly quickly. I loved the search and discovery, but I’m not sure the aftermath would be quite so peaceful. If someone discovered that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from the Bible were extraterrestrials, and could prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, the resultant crises in Christianity, Judaism and Islam would probably tear the world apart.
Or that’s my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
On a Barbarian World also suffered from villain failure. Kavon’s rival Drog is a low-down, lying, stealing, cheating scum. He obviously has no honor, which is a very big deal in Markarian culture. But we don’t see enough of him to know why, and he is dispatched much too easily in the climactic battle. I would love to have seen his trial and execution, just to find out what he thought he was doing.
All in all, On a Barbarian World feels like a coda to The Phoenix Adventures series. While it is possible to start with this relatively stand alone story, a better time will be had by starting with At Star’s End or Among Galactic Ruins (reviewed here).