A guest review by Sirius
Summary: A fun and exciting fantasy adventure which explores the “from enemies to lovers” trope.
It’s lonely at the top for Commander Villam Elding, who has always ranked loyalty to the empire and career ambition over romance. He finds it easier to love ideas than people; without military life, he’s lost. Even so, it’s his close relationship with Kardiell, a popular officer, that tears him from his life. Those with competing ambitions try to take Villam hostage to leverage Kardiell’s soft spot for him. In the struggle, Villam crashes the small spacecraft he’s riding. All hands perish except he and Luke, his kidnapper.
Luke Sicinik travels the galaxy performing dirty missions for money to send home. Born on a desert colony abandoned by the empire, he has no love for imperial soldiers. He spent his childhood in a monastery which taught the evils of anything impractical or sentimental. Yet when he crawls from the destroyed spacecraft, his first instinct is compassionate: he drags Villam’s unconscious body free of the wreckage. Stranded together on a wild planet, Villam and Luke know that survival means cooperation. A truce becomes trust, and trust turns to passion, as they struggle to find a new life together — just the two of them against an entire world.
The blurb sounded as if this book would have my favorite romance trope “from enemies to lovers,” so of course I was unable to resist it. While I had some niggles, overall it was a fun and pretty decent read.
I thought that the moment Luke and Villam landed together among the wilderness their struggle to survive was pretty well done. I also thought that the changes in them were actually pretty well done as well. Villam’s priorities transform from being an ambitious Imperial officer in the beginning of the book to somebody whose main priority is the person he loves at the end of the book. Luke’s journey shows even more significant change as he actually allows himself to exhibit emotions, which is a very significant adjustment especially because of his upbringing.
I really liked how their feelings about each other change as well and they very slowly establish trust, although I thought the love came a bit too fast. Do not get me wrong, the love does not come before they become friends, but I thought that between the reveals about Luke’s upbringing and him deciding to embrace what Villam was offering, well I was not sure if enough pages passed between these two events. I am not complaining much though, as I said overall at least I was sold on them becoming friends. They started as real enemies, so I suppose I can live with a little too much speed of them becoming lovers after all, even though I would have loved to see Luke’s acknowledging and accepting that need within himself. I also liked how the author managed to make them accept each other while helping each other out, saving each other from the dangers of wilderness. I thought it sounded believable and credible.
The world-building, while showing some interesting things, was like a little bit of philosophy and religion; we get to glance at through both guys’ eyes, but overall it was a bit too trivial for me. It is basically Empire with the spaceships and colonies. I experienced a little bit of “been there done that” and many times feelings. I also felt that the secondary action storyline kind of lost steam by the end of the book. I had so much hope to see more of well-drawn Kardiel and Hije dishing out revenge for what was done to Villam, and eventually we only hear of it and not see.
Having said all this, while the book was a fun read, it was not an outstanding read for me, and the guys, while likeable, did not make me fall in love with them, just like them, which is no small achievement in itself.
If you like fantasy adventure reads, I do recommend this one.