Review: House of Rone: Guard by Anna Hackett

Review: House of Rone: Guard by Anna HackettGuard (Galactic Gladiators: House of Rone, #5) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Galactic Gladiators: House of Rone #5
Pages: 200
Published by Anna Hackett on April 7, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

From the dangerous desert sands to the deadly glitz of the city, the lawless desert planet of Carthago is filled with lethal cyborg gladiators risking it all for the women who capture their hearts. GUARD contains two novellas and one short story all set in the Galactic Gladiators: House of Rone series.

Dark Guard: lethal cyborg Zaden will do whatever it takes to guard and protect beautiful, sweet Calla from mysterious attackers.

NOTE: previously released as part of the 2019 Pets in Space Anthology

Abducted from her homeworld, Calla Ryss has spent months in a cell, surviving her captors—the metal-scavenging Edull. Deep in the deserts of the lawless planet of Carthago, she knows that there is no chance of escape. The only thing that gets her through is her friendship with a fellow abductee, a woman stolen from Earth. But everything changes when they are rescued by the bone-chillingly dangerous cyborgs of the House of Rone, and Calla finds herself staring into eyes of metallic silver.

Zaden lives for the House of Rone. His cyborg enhancements help him keep a ruthless hold on his emotions, and loyalty is the only thing he allows himself to feel. And the rare spurt of annoyance at the cyborg hunting cat that refuses to leave him alone. But when sweet, lovely Calla falls into his arms, Zaden starts to experience emotions he’s never felt before…which is dangerous for a cyborg whose enhancements are in place not to increase his lethal abilities, but leash them.

When mysterious attackers attempt to snatch Calla, Zaden vows to be her guard and keep her safe—with some unsolicited help from a certain cyborg cat. But there is more at stake than just Calla’s safety, and as she and Zaden are drawn into an intoxicating storm of emotion, they will risk their hearts, their lives, and their freedom to rescue another innocent captive.

Cyborg Guard: on a dangerous mission into the desert, female cyborg loner Seren must act as bodyguard for champion gladiator Xias—a man who pushes every one of her buttons.

NOTE: this is a BRAND-NEW, never-before-published story

Seren dan Stal was once the pride of the Dan Nonian Warrior Academy, but when her people were wiped out by a virulent virus, she is the lone survivor. Now, her home is the desert world of Carthago, and she works hard to honor her father and her planet by being the best cyborg fighter at the House of Rone. She has no time for fun or frivolity, and that especially includes the always-smiling showman gladiator Xias.

Xias grew up on the streets of Kor Magna and lost the most important fight of all—protecting his sister. He vowed to become a champion for her and to never lose again. He commands the sands of the desert arena, is loved by the spectators, and would die for his imperator, Magnus Rone. But then he finds himself becoming far too fascinated by a prickly, dangerous, and gorgeous female cyborg.

In the desert city of Kaffit, Xias and Seren must work together on a mission for Magnus. Xias pushes Seren to feel, and she inspires his need to protect and pleasure. Together, they uncover a scorching-hot hunger that won’t be denied. Now, they just need to survive long enough to see if that hunger can grow into love.

Includes the short story – House of Rone: Beginnings

Soldier 47 is the most lethal cyborg in the Orionix Military Program. But when a young cyborg, Jaxer, is slated for deactivation, Soldier 47--also known as Magnus Rone--will risk everything he knows to save his friend.

My Review:

This fifth book in the House of Rone spinoff of the Galactic Gladiators series is a collection of short works, much as Rogue and Hunter were for the original series. In fact, VERY much as Hunter was, as both books contain works that were previously published in the utterly marvelous Pets in Space anthologies.

Which means that I’ve read and reviewed one of the three stories in this collection before. Specifically Dark Guard. I loved it, not just for the familiar setting, but particularly for its feline hero – even if the feline, like many of the members of the House of Rone, is a cyborg.

The second entry in Guard is a VERY short story, House of Rone: Beginnings. When I read Beginnings it felt very, make that extremely, familiar. But I’m not certain if that’s because I’ve read it before, or if it’s because the origin story of the House of Rone has been told, although not in this much detail, before. Both Magnus and Jaxer refer to the events that brought them to Kor Magna fairly often, particularly in their respective books, Cyborg and Sentinel.

So Beginnings FEELS familiar, even if I haven’t read it before. And I’m saying that in a good way. Everyone loves a good origin story – unless it gets rebooted too many times too close together. (I’m looking at you, Spiderman). But we all tell ourselves origin stories, stories that we repeat over and over, like the story about how we met a spouse/partner, how we met a best friend, memorable events in family history.

And that’s what Beginnings feels like. It’s the story that creates the House of Rone, even though none of that was envisioned at the start. It’s Magnus discovering that his cyborg implants have not destroyed his heart after all, and that even if he never planned to save himself, he can’t let a friend be killed. And in saving Jaxer, he saves himself and every single soul that the House of Rone rescued after that. It all comes back to this one event, this one story, and it’s lovely to get it in detail.

The other new story, Cyborg Guard, was definitely new. I really liked it because it presents different perspectives on the House of Rone, explores seldom seen variations of the romance patterns in this series, AND pushes the action forward in the quest to rescue the last Earth-human survivor still in captivity with the evil Edull.

The Edull remind me of the Jawa in Star Wars, only taller and more disgusting. Still sandsucking scrap merchants and experimenters. Although I don’t think we’ve ever seen the Jawa incorporate organic parts into their creations – while the Edull certainly do. The Edull are conducting experiments like the Nazis, just without the racial component. The Edull will use anyone in their experiments.

What I enjoyed about the romance in Cyborg Guard is that it was just a bit different from the patterns that have generally been followed in both the Galactic Gladiators and the House of Rone series.

The Cyborg Guard of the title is Seren, one of the female cyborgs who are part of the House of Rone. Unlike many of the cyborgs we’ve met previously, Seren’s suppression of her emotions is training rather than programming. She FEELS emotion, but she’s been taught to rigorously suppress it – kind of like a Vulcan.

(It’s rare to be able to mix Star Wars references and Star Trek references in the same review. Achievement Unlocked!)

Another thing that makes this romance a bit different is that the person Seren is guarding is Xias, one of the non-cyborg members of the House of Rone. Cyborgs are not allowed to compete in the Kor Magna Arena – as they certainly do have an unfair advantage. So the House of Rone has a number of unenhanced members who compete under their banner. Xias is their champion.

While both Seren and Xias are warriors, Seren sees Xias as more than a bit of a showboat, someone who competes because they love the attention – and revel in it. When their mission to retrieve a map of the Edull compound goes completely pear-shaped, Seren is finally able to see that none of her assumptions about Xias were true – except the one about whether or not he’s good in bed. That one was right on the money. And once Seren discovers the man hiding behind the showboat, she’s all in – not just for the sex but eventually for the love that she never believed she was capable – or worthy – of.

Escape Rating A-: All in all, this was a VERY fun entry in this long-running series. It had a whole bunch of elements that I just loved. I’m always a sucker for a good cat story, I love a well-done origin story and I really enjoyed seeing a romance break the established pattern for a series. AND we got to see the other side of the House of Rone, so a real treat all the way around!

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