While I wasn’t really looking for something as unusual as Bonaparte on a dragon, Fae in space certainly fit the bill. After lingering shamelessly for multiple readings of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, I was having that bereft feeling you get when you finish a fabulous series and wonder where you can possibly find to read that will fill that empty space, when along came Pippa DaCosta’s Messenger Chronicles. Don’t you just love it when synchronicity serves you up something luscious to read? And best of all, it’s a series.
What I was actually, half heartedly, looking for was an interesting reverse harem read. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. After reading up a little on the genre, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found that while reverse harem novels are now hugely popular and maybe more restrictive, they’re nothing new, and neither is the concept. While reverse harem has a strong connection to anime, my first encounter, though I didn’t know it at the time, was with the musical, Paint Your Wagon-- the film version, in which Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood shack up with Jean Seberg. When the movie came out in 1969, it was way too scandalous for me see as at the ripe old age of ten. What I remember about it when I did see it, as an adult, was how disappointed I was when the trio broke up and Lee Marvin went his own way so the movie could redeem itself with a more traditional, socially acceptable happy ending. I wanted Jean to have them both. That much hasn’t changed. I still want the hero or heroine to have them both, to have them all.
I was reading and writing stories with a strong reverse harem element long before they were called that. I wove reverse harem undercurrent into the plots of many of my erotic romance novels exactly because I wanted my hero or heroine to have them all. But I also wanted to add a little more complication to the dynamics of the relationships, to throw in another person or two and see what happened. That’s exactly why I created the reverse harem elements in the first two Medusa’s Consortium novels. In short good reverse harem stuff is really nothing new. It was always alive and thriving under a different name. But now, it’s trendy.
That being said, when Pippa DaCosta, haled her new Messenger Chronicles a slow burn reverse harem series, I figured I had my chance for a seriously good “research” read.
I’ve loved DaCosta’s writings since I binge-read her Veil series two years ago and convinced hubby to go and do likewise. When Shoot the Messenger, the first book in the Messenger Chronicles, launched, I nabbed my copy.
DaCosta’s series are often rooted in a single act of betrayal with wide ranging repercussions. The tales themselves are the long circuitous road that lead to the redemption the hero or heroine doesn’t believe they deserve. The Messenger Chronicles is no different.
Shoot the Messenger takes place in the Halow system, one of Earth’s three sister star systems. Halow is a place where technology and magic are at war and so are humans and Fae. Oh, and those Fae, well they haven’t really showed up just for the fun of a good invasion. They’ve always been hanging out in space because, well they created all the inhabitants of the three systems, therefore it’s certainly their right to use them as they see fit, or destroy them entirely if they're impertinent enough to create technology which might defeat, even destroy their Fae masters.
Kesh Lasota is a ghost in the machine. She is invisible to technology and is working as a messenger for the criminal underworld throughout the Halow system. But when one of those messages kills its recipient, Kesh finds herself a fugitive with a bounty on her head and a quick-witted marshall on her tail.
The evidence that would have proven her innocence is stolen by a warfae, and Kesh’s carefully crafted lie of a life crumbles around her, and she knows being invisible is no longer an option. To hunt the warfae and stop him from destroying a thousand-year old peace, she must resurrect the horrors of her past and renew a dangerous association with the Fae.
The two people who can help her are the two least likely to want to, Marshall Kellee, who is himself not human, and the mysterious Fae, Talon, who is an exile and Kellee’s prisoner. She trusts neither of them and they certainly don’t trust her, but nobody gets out alive if they don’t work together.
The tale is a slow burn reverse harem. I like that. I like that the story is plot driven, and the plot is character driven, and the tale is just as fast-moving and eye-popping as one would expect with powerful, arrogant Fae in space and three miss-matched, dark horses with chemistry through the roof on whose shoulders the salvation of the Halow system rests.
DaCosta shines at creating villains who we’re never sure if we want to run away from or fuck, and the Fae prince, Eledon, AKA the Dreamweaver, is no exception. A fae who manipulates dreams and perception and feeds on the results, he has it out for Kesh. Also known to the Fae as the Wraithmaker, Kesh is a classic example of just exactly why DaCosta is the queen of the anti-hero hiding a dark secret. Kesh has done bad things, and she’s not so much about redemption as she is about getting the bounty off her head and being left alone. But the past that comes back to bite her in the butt isn’t about to let her off the hook that easily, no matter how much she pretends not to care.
DaCosta’s world building is rich, multi-layered and gritty. The contrasts are striking, the physical attraction is rampant and fraught with self doubt and self loathing. The story is fast-paced and breathless and putting the books down is a daunting task for any reader. I’ve just begun the second novel, Game of Lies, which is perfect timing because I’m on holiday and more than ready for a good binge-read. Whether it’s The Messenger Chronicles, The Veil Series of the Thousand Revolutions Girl from Above series, Pippa DaCosta’s books are definitely on my highly recommended list.