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Ares by K. A. Finn

Ares (Nomad Book 1) - KA Finn, Keith Michaelson

Gryffin is the human/cyborg captain of the Nomad ship Ares. Here in the Outer Sector, Nomad and the Foundation fight for domination over the scattered colonies. Lt. Terra Rush serves on a Foundation ship, following in her father’s foot steps. However, when she crosses paths with Gryffin, her loyalties become divided. Gryffin has spent the last 20 years attempting to suppress his human nature, but his feelings start to unfurl once he meets Terra.

So, basically, this is Sons of Anarchy in space. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it does mean it’s a little predictable. Gryffin and the Nomads are basically outlaws, and look the stereotypical part with long hair, leather clothes, piercings, tattoos, etc. They make individual agreements with the settlements, providing protection for a place to set down when needed and favorable trade arrangements. Gryffin is the heir to the Nomad leadership, having pushed for more trade and less pirating. When traveling around on the surface of a planet, the Nomads have black, sleek motorcycles. Then there’s the Foundation, which represents law and order for the story. When a colony aligns with them, the Foundation makes all the rules and the settlement abides. Even some of the character names in this book are the same to characters in the TV show: Terra (the main love interest) and Clay (Gryffin’s second in command).

Once I got beyond the bikers in space idea, I was really intrigued by first Gryffin but then also the politics surrounding him (much of which he is unaware of until the end of the book). Gryffin was abducted as a teenager and spent some years being transformed into a partial cyborg before he was able to escape. Now in his mid 30s, he has a successful life with the Nomad which gives him purpose. However, some implant in his head is making him freak out more and more often and his crew has the injuries to show for it. For some reason, Gryffin can’t read. We never find out why and it bothered me a bit that it was never really explained. He was old enough to have some basic reading skills by the time he was abducted, so did one of those implants give him a reading disorder? Anyway, while it’s a small thing, the author could easily have taken 2 sentences to easily explain it. Gryffin’s illiteracy, his anger management issues, and brute strength made me picture him like a Conan the Barbarian in space. Though Conan got more play; Ares doesn’t allow women on board, believing they are bad luck. Snort.

Terra Rush started off as an interesting character. Her father is dead and her captain, Ramon, was his good friend. She sees Ramon as an uncle or perhaps surrogate father and he sometimes treats her as a daughter, watching out for her. She’s the newest member to the ship but still has a fair bit of training under her belt. She can put up a decent fight, is a fair shot, and can improvise as needed. However, once she meets Gryffin, she turns into a klutz and is repeatedly tripping, running into people, or falling into pits. Hence, Gryffin has several  opportunities to rescue her. For much of the book, she’s the love interest and spends her energy in trying to puzzle out Gryffin and provide him some comfort.  The sex scenes are non-existent, having some heavy kissing, close the curtain and time passes, and then how Terra feels afterwards. I would have enjoyed a bit more detail, but that’s me. I was sad to see that Terra’s character didn’t develop further once she became the love interest.

There’s some interesting side characters. On the Foundation ship, there’s the ship’s Doctor, Mila (spelling?). She’s become a good friend to Terra and they often confide in one another about men and romance. However, Mila has this important, sometimes tense, job of doctor and that makes her more interesting. There’s also Ylena (spelling?), a leader of a settlement that the Foundation and the Nomad are currently duking it out over. She’s also somewhat of a friend to Gryffin, having known him for some years now. She has to walk this careful line, trying to keep not only the Nomad and the Foundation happy, but also nearby colonies. Chase is Gryffin’s personal aid and perhaps even a friend to Gryffin, though Gryffin prickles when anyone uses the word around him. Clay is definitely a bit more hard-nosed than Chase, often giving it to Gryffin straight and usually not backing down.

Then we get into the politics, which were pretty darn entertaining and interesting for much of the book. There’s the surface stand off between the Foundation and the Nomad. But then each side has their internal politics. On the Foundation side, there’s the super secret cyborg program of old that some active politicians and military leaders want to keep buried. So they are pulling strings from behind the curtain to try to capture or kill Gryffin. Ramon gets an unexpected entanglement concerning Gryffin that weighs heavily on his decisions regarding the Nomad throughout the book. This particular piece was very well done and I was thoroughly caught up in wondering how things would play out for Ramon. In the last quarter of the book, the politics get pretty muddy and convoluted as backstabbing, betrayals, and previously unknown allegiances come out. It felt a little rushed and a little more complicated than it had to be, but it also provided a ripe situation for everything to go wrong. And that provided a lot of tension for the ending, which I totally ate up and couldn’t put the book down. The story ends on a tense, even sad note. However, once I finish posting this review, I’m going to download Book 2 to see what happens next for Gryffin and Chase and Ramon and Mila. And perhaps Terra too, though I do hope she gets some real character development.

I received a copy at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration:  Keith Michaelson did a really good job. He gave Mila (the Foundation doctor) an Irish lilt, which was nice. He had gruff voices for the men when they were ticked off. His female voices were believable. He really brought the characters’s emotions to life. His native accent sometimes just barely slips into each character here and there but it’s a pleasant accent and doesn’t detract from the performance.