Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dark Horse by Michelle Diener

Title: Dark Horse
Author: Michelle Diener

First line: Rose slipped her ticket out of hell over her head and tucked it beneath her shirt, where it lay against her skin, throbbing like a heartbeat.

Review: I'm a ginormous Diener fangirl, having read something like six of her novels, all of which are historical fiction -- so this is an unusual foray for her. Straight up scifi, this novel is a delicious mix of romance, adventure, and friendship that I inhaled in a few days.

Our heroine, Rose, was kidnapped three months back by an alien race known as the Tecran. At the novel's open, she has escaped thanks to the help of Sazo, an artificial intelligence, and launched into Grih territory, another species of alien who resemble humans.

Part of a collective of alien races who have committed to protecting (rather than experimenting on/torturing sentient species), her rescuers are horrified at what Rose has lived through and adamant at giving her life -- once they figure out just who was responsible for capturing her and just how dangerous she might be. Rose's liberator Sazo is learning how to live, guided by Rose, but just as she has some success in teaching him morals, she learns he's deeply unwelcome among her rescuers.

There were lots of ways this novel could have gone south for me -- an overly victimized heroine, aliens with Earth-like cultures, the artificial intelligence coming off as echoes of Hal, coincidences and easy ways out -- but Diener expertly unrolls a light sci-fi story that has emotional impact without melodrama, a little romance, and plenty of action.

Most refreshingly, and characteristic of Diener's heroines, is that Rose does the action stuff. Rescuing? She does it. Seducing? She does it. Being vulnerable, being wise? She does it. And she does it without being so good at it you want to roll your eyes. 

Fans of shows like Star Trek and Battlestar Gallatica will enjoy this one; if you're on the fence about sci-fi, this might be one to try. Longtime Diener fans will see in this the elements so enjoyable from her previous novels -- wonderful heroine, great sense of place, and brisk storytelling -- so give this a try even if you're dubious!

Genre: Fiction (Sci Fi / Future Era / Aliens / Kidnapping / Artificial Intelligence / Romance)
Publisher/Publication Date: Season Publishing (6/15/15)
Source: NetGalley
Reading Challenges: NetGalley & Edelweiss

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