Review: Paladin by Anna Hackett

Review: Paladin by Anna HackettPaladin (Galactic Gladiators; House of Rone #4) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Pages: 200
Published by Anna Hackett on March 22nd 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

A cyborg drowning in emotions and an abducted Earth woman trying not to feel.

Abducted, enslaved, and constantly worried for her daughter, scientist Dr. Simone Li has had a rough few months. Now that she and her daughter, Grace, have been rescued by the fierce cyborgs of the House of Rone, she’s trying to make a life for them on the desert world of Carthago. But guilt and worry are eating at her…Toren—a once-emotionless cyborg—was injured rescuing them from the dangerous Edull aliens. Now, he’s inundated with emotions and not coping. Drawn to the wounded cyborg, Simone must find a way to help him and still protect her battered heart.

Bred to be a warlord’s personal cyborg, Toren has prided himself on being a cool, precise fighter dedicated to his house and imperator. Now his entire life has been torn apart. He’s broken, useless, and sidelined as an elite House of Rone cyborg. Every minute of every day, he struggles through a deluge of unfamiliar emotions and wants revenge…and only one woman calms the storm.

Desperate to bring down the Edull and rescue another abducted woman, Toren and Simone go undercover in the desert. Despite the dangers around them, these two tortured souls can no longer fight their intense attraction and the pull of fierce, overwhelming emotion. But Toren will soon have a choice to make: risk it all for love or go back to being the emotionless warrior he’s always been.

My Review:

I decided on Paladin today because I knew exactly what I would be getting from this latest entry in Hackett’s swords, sandals and occasionally spaceships series. Considering that yesterday’s book and tomorrow’s book are both a bit out there in terms of storytelling, I really felt like something a bit straightforward here in the middle.

Not that gladiators in space is exactly straightforward, but the storytelling in this series, like all of this author’s marvelous stories, reliably goes from point A to point B to point C – usually meaning SF (or occasionally action-adventure) meets romance, two lonely and/or somewhat scarred people meet (often briefly in the previous book in their series), figure out that they make each other strong in their broken places, get themselves in serious hot water with the big bad of the series, rescue each other and live happy for now with a happy ever after on the horizon when the series wraps up and the big bad is sent to whatever version of hell their beliefs and ours say they have definitely earned and certainly deserve.

And so it is in Paladin, with the added fillip that all the romances in the House of Rone spinoff from the Galactic Gladiators series feature cyborg warriors discovering that they have hearts and emotions after all, no matter how successfully they’ve managed to pretend otherwise until now. And in this particular entry in the series, the female refugee from Earth comes with her very own plus-one in the form of her daughter Grace.

Grace the budding little chemist with a penchant for making things explode. A skill that is bound to come in plenty handy on Carthago.

Grace’s mother Simone has survived the one-way trip from our Solar System as well as captivity and enslavement by the big bad for this series, the evil bot-making Edull. She’s just starting to get her feet under her again, but her involvement with Toren, the cyborg who was wounded while rescuing her, may set her back emotionally as much as she moves forward physically.

The damage that the Edull inflicted on Toren during her rescue has stripped away his primary cyborg weapon and the emotional distance that was part and parcel of his many, many implants. Now that he suddenly has emotions, he’s unable to control them and unfit for being part of the security that keeps the House of Rone and its inhabitants safe from the dark things that thrive in the shadows of Carthago and the Kor Magna Arena.

Dark and deadly things – and people – like the Edull and their bots.

Toren claims to want nothing more than to be stable enough to regain all his implants and the emotional lockdown that goes with them. But Simone can’t seem to stop herself from reaching out to him, no matter how much his need to pull himself away reminds her of the worst of her marriage back on Earth.

But in investigating their current lead to both the Edull and the female Earth engineer that they know is still a captive, Toren and Simone are forced to rely on each other and get past their emotional blocks.

Whether they can save the day – or even each other – forms the beating heart of this entry in this nonstop action/adventure/science fiction romance.

Escape Rating B: As much as I ALWAYS enjoy this author’s work, I’m not having nearly as much fun with the House of Rone as I did with the first series on Carthago, Galactic Gladiators.

And it seems to come down to two things. The first is that as interesting as each of the individual cyborg heroes are in the House of Rone, they are ALL coming from a very similar headspace and lack of heart space. They either haven’t had emotions or have had to suppress their emotions all of their adult lives, only to discover with the advent of the refugees from Earth that, well, the Tin Man has a heart after all. It feels like they need a Scarecrow and a Cowardly Lion to balance things out. Or someone coming from a different place.

Not that the women they fall for don’t show plenty of variety, because they certainly do. But the men, not so much.

The other thing that makes this series less compelling for me are the villains. As a reader, I don’t know why the Edull do what they do or are what they are. In the author’s Hell Squad series, I may hate the invading Gizzida but I know enough about their motivations to know that they make sense from their perspective. They are evil from our perspective, but not from their own.

The Edull seem to be a race of mad scientists, or at least mad engineers, who are evil for evil’s sake. There’s a piece missing and it makes them less comprehendible. I need to see that from their own point of view they are more than just BWAHAHA evil – and I’m not there yet.

Maybe in the next book in the series, later this year.

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