Before I say anything else about this book, I’ll start with this: If you love futuristic sci-fi action adventure served up with smart stories, well-built worlds, and just a dash of romance, you don’t need to read the rest of my review, you need to grab this book and start reading.
But hey, if you want to humour me first, here we go.
The Maverick Heart is a sentient AI ship, one of the rare survivors. That sentient being, Vrick, travels the systems with Keene and Lexa-Blue, a pair who do what they need to do to get by and earn their living and freedom to travel the stars. When a former flame from Keene’s past asks them for help (and doesn’t take no for an answer), they find themselves enmeshed in the middle of a culture clash rapidly turning violent that could spell doom for a whole world.
Soul’s Blood juggles a lot at once. The three main characters (I’m including Vrick among these, who is my new favourite AI ever) are all engaging in their own way. I freaking adored Lexa-Blue, the more “shoot first and then shoot second” of the trio, though I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a kick-ass lady in my sci-fi. Keene is more of a “fixer” and technological in focus, and while his relationship with his former love is the starting spark of the story, he’s not relegated to “romance plot” alone, and both men show clear growth from their days of young love; yes, they still feel the spark, but they’re also grown men now, and one of them has the weight of his world on his shoulders.
I already knew Stephen Graham King could write solid space opera, having read and enjoyed Chasing Cold, but with action, intrigue, tech, firefights, and just enough breathing spaces between the chaos, Soul’s Blood brings an A-game.
Best of all, world building is artfully balanced. At it’s heart, the main conflict of the story is one of culture: two vastly different races living on the same planet on the edge of a war that would devastate both sides. Keene’s former love is a technarch of a highly technological society, and trying to stop attacks from a genetically modified people who have a vast array of psionic ability and a hatred of the technology that was used to create them. As Vrick, Keene, and Lexa-Blue learn more of the players and issues at hand, the reader is brought with them in a way that feels very natural. We learn about the specific planet in enough detail that it lives and breathes, and gain glimmers of the other systems outside that world in teasing ways that paint an enticing picture and leaves the reader ready for the next voyage of the Maverick Heart.
I, for one, can’t wait.