Proud Pada
by S.G. Blaise
Lilac Grove Entertainment

"A five-foot-tall young merchant, with four ears, jumps in front of me and bares his small fangs. He raises a dagger with curving blade to attack…."

Lilla is excited that she is about to marry Cullum, the muscular son of Caderyn, leader of the Teryn Praelium. The Teryn empire is efficient and ruthless in its pursuit of order and glory, and it is also the only force standing between the galaxy and its takeover by a truly wicked force. However, many of the people ruled over by the Teryns are tired of trying to meet their quotas and the punishments faced for failure. On top of that, those Teryns who don’t pass their trials to become warriors are also treated like second-class citizens. Understandably, their anger is growing. When members of the royal family are murdered, Lilla and Cullum must put their wedding on hold and pledge to find the criminal. Their search leads them to the monks and monastery on the planet Pada. As the couple and their friends begin following leads, the dangers intensify. When Caderyn is kidnapped, Cullem uses new technology to disguise himself as his father as the group frantically searches for the kidnappers and murderers in an attempt to stop a Teryn civil war which would allow the greater threat an easy victory in its war.

Blaise’s book combines science fiction and fantasy in a wild and imaginative journey. Her writing is easy to read, and the adventure immediately takes off at a rapid pace that the author manages to continue throughout the work. Blaise enjoys playing with fantastical races and aspects of both technology and magic, as her characters display widely diverse sets of abilities, races, and armaments. Readers who love seeing strange races and mixtures of various elements of different types of fantasy will be delighted by the book’s inclusion of so many differing ideas. The battles are quick and interesting and are more about showing off the varied talents of the combatants than showing gritty realism. As a result, the book is more family-friendly than what a reader would expect from an author such as George R.R. Martin, for example. However, in a fashion similar to Martin’s involved political machinations in his series, A Song of Ice and Fire, Blaise also enjoys twisting the politics and motivations of her characters to a point where morality and ethics aren’t black and white but rather shades of gray. The addition of extremely powerful, supernatural gods and goddesses with their own mysterious motivations and heavy-handed interference helps the author infuse bits of chaos and uncertainty throughout the plot.

In some ways, this title is reminiscent of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series. Blaise shows more grace in her writing when it comes to avoiding a lot of the common clichés, but both authors convey the less-is-more adage. The narrative moves with speed and imagination, but the characters and plot are not as developed as they could be. However, where Blaise will resonate with readers is in her exuberance for the fantastic and the speed at which her story moves from scene to scene, tension to tension. Readers already enjoying The Last Lumenian series will find this third volume to be another exciting and entertaining choice.

A 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

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