Good morning, literary foodies! It’s time to open up the pantry and pull out a new recipe to sample. Today’s narrative treat is a military space opera from local Florida chef, T. Allen Diaz. Promising thrills, action, intrigue, and sci fi drama, Procythian Reign sounds like the perfect treat for a connoisseur of science fiction and fantasy as yours truly is … but will it fill me up or leave me wanting?
Before we find out, let’s speak the oaths of the Starving Reviewer:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
The best way to find out is the usual way, targeting the usual trifecta of characters, plot, and theme. First off, Reign does a pretty great job fleshing out and giving that certain spice of life to its wide cast of characters. Much of this future alien world makes sense and is fairly well grounded in our own world and that makes our major players relatable, transferring much of the class tension of 21st century Earth to this distant world.However, this does dovetail into my one big criticism of
However, this does dovetail into my one big criticism of Reign: there are too many characters given too much time to the point that it makes it a bit hard to truly bond with anyone. It’s an ensemble piece, which can work, but there was a very disturbing tendency that every character I started to really connect with died. It’s not that I mind a character I love dying (I’ve even killed my fair share of those I love the most in my own books) but if they ALL die, it leads me to check out. This is a very subjective criticism, though, and others may very much enjoy that aspect of the tale.
The plot is a deeply tangled one, living up to the promises of political intrigue. Alliances, betrayals, spycraft, deal making and breaking, pretty much every aspect of the political thriller is alive and well here. Most importantly, it all works. Everything weaves together and you can work out the threads of each move and countermove. One of the biggest sins that a plot so full of this style of intrigue is to not have it hold together so the chef really gets it together on this aspect.
Thematically, Reign paints a dark picture of a space opera, definitely more Empire Strikes Back than Return of the Jedi, regardless of how the plot winds up. There are few truly ‘good’ people with most painted in varying shades of gray, even the ‘bad guys’. Death is common, the galaxy is a pretty crappy place, idealism outside of a few centers of faith seems pretty dead, and the military engagements are played straight for deadly seriousness. The theme is steady consistent and for fans of dark sci-fi, it should be a treat.
A side-note, a minor critique that isn’t critical, is that while the majority of the world building is solid, there are elements that are vague, especially in terms of the actual technology level of the galaxy. While this isn’t a hard sci-fi book, there was enough vagueness and a lack of explanation of several major bits that I had to do some rereads to get the proper inference of things (I really thought that indigos were actually, you know, indigo for a large portion of the book). I don’t think it’s anything that readers won’t be able to figure out but still worth a note.
To sum everything up, Procythian Reign is a solid military space opera cake, run through with dark flavors, with only a few flaws to muddle the mix! If you love dark themes, political intrigue, and military elements mixed with your space opera, you should pick this one up. If you prefer brighter themes or more straight forward plots, you might want to go for a more ‘pure’ space opera.
FINAL VERDICT: **** (A solid military space opera cake, run through with dark flavors, with only a few flaws to muddle the mix!)