Berkley Sensation, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-19655-0
Sci-fi Romance, 2004
Filled with tortured heroes, psychic heroines, road cabins masquerading as spacecrafts, and other standard staples of the futuristic romance subgenre, Kinsman’s Oath is a well-written story that yet leaves me unmoved. That’s probably because it’s a well-written story that I’ve encountered so many times before with very little that is new to provide some sparks.
Ronan VelKalevi has been captured by nasty aliens called the shauuri when he was six and now, twenty-three years later, he is finally on what seems like a certain flight to freedom this time around. He finds safe haven in the Pegasus, a spacecraft piloted by our heroine Cynara D’Accorso. See what I mean? Even the heroine’s name feels like a cliché, although it sure beats LadyDamsel LiliTiara T’WillowBark FleurLilyIris HeeHeeHee or some other girlish variation of the Pink Pukeworthy Princess names found in some futuristic Virgin Kitty stories.
In the world where this story is set in, aliens and humans are going at it hammer and tongs. The shaauris – naughty alien kitties to you and me (well, at least these kitties aren’t cutesy familiars or shape-changing aliens with prodigious erections) – control the wormholes that allow interplanetary travel. They cut off human access to these wormholes, leaving human colonies on distant planets cut off from each other and in trouble. Cynara is one of the Kinsmen, humans with telepathic powers who try to mediate matters between the humans and the shaauris (and obviously not doing too well in the process). She now sneaks into wormholes using the specially-modified Pegasus to covertly aid the human populations of distant planets that are in need. When she rescues Ronan, she wonders whether he is really fleeing the shaauris or he’s actually a spy. There is some communication barrier in Ronan acting more like a shaauri than a human being and this leads to some conflict between the crew of Pegasus and Ronan.
Ronan’s character is supposed to be a mystery and so I won’t delve too much into him. He’s definitely a tortured character with a wounded background, but he never really comes alive to me. I find him a straightforward and standard hero who just needs a good and understanding woman to heal his wounds. Cynara is an even more familiar heroine, from her apparently compulsory “standing up to her male-dominated society” baggage, among many others, to her rather naïve faith in Ronan.
This book also suffers from too much exposition. The pace drags especially towards the middle.
I find the world-building interesting and there are some interesting twists in the plot. But on the whole, I am reminded of the author’s previous full-length excursion into futuristic, Star-Crossed, which never did as well as her werewolf books when it came out. The writing is clean, the characterization is definitely more than competent, but everything feels like standard tried-and-tested futuristic clichés that are put together very well. I’d take Susan Krinard’s futuristics over badly-written virgin-healer-barbarian space capers or Girly Sexy Kitty Space Care Bear softporn anytime any place, but I can’t helping wishing also that there’s something a little more original in Kinsman’s Oath.