Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kinsmen #2
Source: Personal shelf
Claire Shannon is a Kinsman, a woman gifted with enhanced mental capabilities. Her skills and her life were taken over by the military to fight in war that has raged on her home planet for decades. But as the war ends, she is forced to hide her abilities in order to make a new life for herself as a civilian. It’s a new persona, a new planet and new job that has her crossing paths with the powerful and alluring Venturo Escana. Is she strong enough to hide her true nature from her perceptive new boss? And as they grow closer, will she even still want to try?
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I automatically buy Ilona Andrews‘ work. They (Gordon and Ilona) blow me away every time. It took me a little while to get around to the Kinsmen novellas but I’m so glad I did. I really liked Silver Blade (my thoughts here) but I was blown away by Silver Shark. This is partially due to the fact that I was familiar with the world of the Kinsmen but I think the credit goes primarily to Claire. Claire is a vibrant protagonist with strong mental powers and acuity, a desire to survive, and a keen sense of responsibility, and she just grabbed my attention right from the start.
The novella opens on the planet Uley, where two kinsmen families have been at war for 68 years. Everyone exists to fuel the war effort and Claire, with her strong mental powers, leads a team of psychers for what ends up being the losing side. All of the non-kinsmen survivors are deported and Claire manages to disguise her abilities long enough to make it to Rada, where Silent Blade, the first Kinsmen novella, is set. The Rada immigration office has set up job appointments for all refugees and the regufees only have a few tries to find a job before getting sent back, which would lead to certain death, so Claire has no choice but to go where they send her, even when her interview is at the worst possible place: a firm that provides security on the bionet, which is where psychers operate.
Watching Claire adapt to her new life was a lot of fun. Her reactions to the opulence and freedom of Rada were real and touching. The contrasts between Uley and Rada are so vivid that I almost felt overwhelmed, too. She’s bold but cautious and it makes her actions and reactions thrilling, particularly when it comes to Ventura Escana. Claire’s inner monologue had me about her dealings with Ven captivated. There are also some fantastic sequences on the bionet, which was probably my favourite addition to the Kinsmen world. Ilona and Gordon Andrews write with such amazing detail and colour that I feel immersed in each of the worlds the moment I open the cover (or e-reader, in this case), and the bionet was no exception.
We also get to revisit Meli and Celino from Silver Blade, which was a lot of fun. I always enjoy getting glimpses into the lives of characters from previous stories. It makes me really happy. Perhaps too happy but I choose to view that as a testament to the skill of the writer(s) involved.
I’d like to take a quick moment to say that the prologue to Silver Shark made a huge difference for my reading experience. Silent Blade didn’t have one and it was okay — I got into the world quickly enough — but having the prologue really throws the reader into the world of the kinsmen and it was great. A well-written prologue can really improve my opinion of a story, no matter the length, but I find it most helpful with novellas. So thank you very much, Gordon and Ilona!!
Before I get back to the dread dissertation, I should also point out that the book closes in a very unconventional matter. It reminds me a lot of movies where they use the last scene to set up a sequel, with the heroes leaping into a new battle. I’m sure there are some who would find this irritating but I really liked it, once I turned the page and got to the epilogue. The authors did a marvelous job of ending Silver Shark with an injection of humour. I don’t know if they would get away with doing something like that if they hadn’t self-published but it was an unexpected jolt at the end that I quite enjoyed.
I truly hope that we’ll get to see another Kinsmen novella soon!