#sciencefiction #scififantasy #scifi #scifiromance #romance #topread
I read Mercy, the first book in Catherine Miller’s Dredia series earlier this year and quickly became hooked, immediately downloading and reading the rest of the series, Trade and Mercy.
I loved this series! I’m partial to science fiction romances, in particular when they focus on relationships between different races and this theme is at the very heart of this series, which explores human relationships with aliens. The setting for the series is the planet Dredia, where the ancestors of a group of human colonists had the misfortune to land. The existence of the humans is desperate. Some are barely tolerated by the planet’s indigenous races and eek out a meagre existence in the Wastes, whereas others have even been enslaved by the planet’s violent race of slave owners.
Each book deals with how a different human female is either compelled or chooses to leave all she knows and is thrust into the society of another of the planet’s races. In Mercy Prim’s life is so desperate in the Wastes that she offers herself to one of the visiting Arterians who is on a trade visit. In Trade the Marzons insist that one of the human colonists bond with one of their own, it being their custom to form such alliances to solidify both peace and trade. Finally in Thrall, Ness who has failed to perform her tasks to the level expected by her harsh Narada slave masters is given as part payment to visiting traders.
I found each read to be compelling in its own way as they each explore what it is like to be different and/or reviled by society and the challenges faced by couples whose relationships challenge the accepted norms within their society. Each romance is very different and each a slow burn and there is a great deal of emotional angst. Not only do all the women experience very real difficulties in adjusting to their new realities, but each of the males have their own personal struggles to contend with. I hugely enjoyed the author’s voice and found each book an emotional rollercoaster of a read.
In Mercy Rykkon the healer is viewed as an outsider by his own village and his decision to return home with Prim, a human woman, is not one that his people accept easily. Also how will two individuals from such diverse races possibly bond given all their differences?
In Trade Heather is compelled to sacrifice herself for the good of the human community. Her marriage to Machrus one of the Marzon necessary to ensure her people’s safety. The twist here is that her bridegroom too is far from willing. Their story was a compelling read as the couple at first formed an uneasy alliance, then respect for one another before a slow burn romance developed. And what of Machrus’ people, will they accept her?
Thrall was a particularly emotional read as Ness, a slave, has been made to feel utterly worthless by her former masters and finds adjusting to life with Olivar, the man to whom she has been given as part payment for goods, extremely difficult as she has never had the freedom to think or act for herself.
Such are the slurs cast upon Rykkon, however undeserved. As the only village healer, his people cannot cast him out entirely, but there is little comfort in such a life when he has long known that no mate from his clan would willingly join with him. It is a lonely fate, but one Rykkon has learned to accept. That is, until one tense exchange between his people and the humans brings him an offer he simply cannot ignore.
The humans are not their slaves. Nor their property. Nor of any great concern. But neither are they free. It is by the provisions of the Arterians they scrape out a sorry existence in the Wastes, and by their goodwill alone that they continue to survive. Scavenging for hasart beetles under the two suns is the only life the desperate colonists have known since their ancestors first landed on the desolate planet. It was all they knew. It was all they hoped for.
Until one day, a young female dares to ask for more.
She had always done as she was told. She dug in the sands until her fingers bled so that her people could have something to barter. She packed up her sparse belongings without complaint when it was time to flee the Wastes, leaving behind the only home she’d ever known, and the site of the bittersweet memories she carried of her lost family. It was easier that way, to obey and not to question, knowing her own judgement to be faulty.
But when her people learn that the exchange for living on alien land and securing their safety is the price of one of their unclaimed women, the limits of her compliance are tested, as she is given in marriage to a man she does not want from a species and clan she does not know.
Only to discover that he feels precisely the same about their ill-begotten trade.
Ness had always tried to do as the masters told her, tried to fulfil her expected purpose within the time allowed. She was a thrall and nothing more. Every pain was a lesson, every hurt was for her betterment. And someday, perhaps, she could earn honour enough to serve the Narada in a household.
But when the masters tire of her repeated failures to produce the allotment required of her, she is chosen, not for the death she expects, but to serve as payment to a people she has never seen, whose ways are strange and utterly impossible for her to accept.
Taken in by a man who claims that he is not her new master, she is troubled when he does not comprehend the defective nature of the thrall he has been given, and how unworthy she is to be in his service.
And, perhaps even more concerning, his persistent belief that she is no slave at all.