Rating:

4 Small Stars
Steal from the Dead

This is a new author to me and the book was pretty good, but nothing spectacular. There were a number of different concepts and ideas to figure out which didn’t distract from the story, but made it a little more difficult to navigate through the book. At least the number of main characters really boiled down to only four.

Elm Caden, Shard of the Empress, is a dark operative who, as stated, works for the Empress and only the Empress. As such, he has unlimited resources and authority to carry out his mission, whatever that may be. We do read a little about his background, but not enough to understand just what a “Shard” is or how he came to be. He is a warrior, though, but also a thinker. He gets the job done, but does it in his own way. He’s also got something going on that is never really explained. I don’t know if he’s haunted by something of if the Empires new enemy knows about him from some previous encounter.

Shard Caden is not alone in his mission endeavors. He has a couple of side-kicks, one of which is Rendir Throam, who happens to be a Captain in the Imperial Military, but doesn’t go by his rank much. He’s the muscles for Shard Caden, although the Shard doesn’t really need that kind of help. Still, Throam is around to basically protect the Shard and make sure he can complete his mission. Then there’s Euryce Eilentes, designated pilot for the Shard. While the Shard and his team do fly around the empire in starships, they occasionally have to land on planets or take off in a shuttle to do certain things. This is where Eilentes comes into the story as she is the eminently skilled pilot that can fly just about anything. She can also fight which helps her fit in well with the team. She and Throam appear to have had a previous relationship and seem to pickup where they left off after a ten year separation. That’s not a large part of the story and I’m not sure why it was even included.

So, as I said, the Shards team has to be conveyed from place to place by starship in order to accomplish their mission. The time it happens to be the ICS Hammer with Captain Aker Santani, commanding, which has drawn this particular mission. Captain Santani isn’t all that impressed with carrying a Shard aboard her starship and believes it’s necessary to explain to Shard Caden that it is still her ship and she it the Captain. Shard Caden doesn’t react to Captain Santani’s demonstation of command because he’s seen it before and he knows that he answers to no one but the Empress. Captain Santani also knows this, but she doesn’t like the idea of doing something because a Shard says so. Apparently, not all Shards are as competent as they should be nor do they worry much about the ships and personnel that are aiding in their missions.

Shard Caden is very competent and he knows exactly what his mission is. There have be numerous small incursions along the Empire and Viskr border. The Empress wanted to know why after all these years of peace this is now happening. One initial attack had been an an isolated research facility which at first seemed kind of strange. When Shard Caden went to investigate he found nothing. That is he found no sign of an enemy and no indication that anyone had attacked the facility other than all the people, mostly scientist were gone. There were no bodies and no apparent damage to the entire place. Who or what had attacked the place and why. As for the why, Shard Caden would soon learn that this facility was not only isolated, but it was also a very secret research base looking into biochemical weapons. Those weapons and all the people were missing! Shard Caden had to get them back and very soon.

The story takes a pretty long time to get started. It’s also kind of hard to understand what a “Shard” is supposed to be and why this term was introduced. Still, once you figure that out, then you just understand that you’re dealing with a special forces operative and he is on a very deadly mission. The writing was fine and the editing was very good. I’m just not sure there was enough interest in this story for me to continue with the series. I might, but it just depends on what else I have to read.