Veil of Shadows – Terry Mixon (Empire of Bones II)

Continuing on from the excellent Empire of Bones (reviewed here) Veil of Shadows doesn’t let up any on the action and gets you straight back into the intrigue and goings on in the Kingdom.  While our lost bunch is no closer to finding a way home, they’ve managed to rescue Princess Kelsey at the end of Book 1 – although she was transformed by the Pale Ones into superweapon in the process!  Unfortunately rescuing Princess Kelsey came at a ruinous price for their ship and now, not only do they not know how to get home – they also don’t have a ship to transport them even if they had the map they needed!

Fortunately the crew are nothing if not resilient and with the help of the scientists on the Science Vessel that Commander Mertz was accompanying they are able to start repairs to the massive Old Empire BattleCruiser – Courageous.  Courageous while not quite able to decimate the entire fleet of ships in the new Terran Empire would definitely give a good showing of herself in any battle!

Unfortunately not all is pristine as while initial impressions might have indicated a world truly united behind their monarch, in actuality it seems that there is some rot behind all the sweetness and light and a rebellion is brewing to not only remove the King, but also to capture Courageous too!

What I liked and didn’t like

The length is probably the biggest fault that I have with this book … it was way too short and could have easily been several hundred pages more.  In fact I know that the author is planning on at least four books in this universe, but based on the length of the three that I’ve read, the story could have probably fit into a trilogy instead.  While I realize that there is a logical end to this volume and similarly to the third, it just feels unfinished and I personally think that the previous volume could have incorporated some of the elements from this book and similarly this volume could have had parts of Book 3 included.

The second fault that I had is actually probably with the underlying driver of the book itself … in this book a huge plot point is the conspiracy to remove the King and take over the whole Kingdom, eliminating the Terran’s along the way and capturing Courageous in the process.  It really wasn’t necessary and it did absolutely nothing to progress the story at all.  If anything it felt like Mr. Mixon was told he needed to add internal conflict to the story simply to make it more palatable and as such it really felt shoehorned in.  I think a great example of how to do this correctly is Weber and his Safehold series.  While I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Weber is too wordy and Safehold seems to be going nowhere fast, if you have to have internal conflict and conspiracy – well he’s definitely the master there and knows how to build up to it and sell it well.

I know that it’s perhaps a bit unfair to focus on the negative, but in all honesty aside from my small gripes noted, I don’t really have anything else bad to say about this book or the series in general.  There are definitely some awesome action sequences – both ship to ship and hand-to-hand.  Princess Kelsey has definitely grown on me as a character and while she’s not yet my favorite, she’s coming awfully close!  In addition the whole galactic mystery itself seems even more convoluted than initially postulated and in fact the old Terran Empire might still – somehow – be around!  Added to that of course is the dropping of an asteroid on one of our key characters … well no-one said exploring in space is easy or safe!!

Overall I really enjoyed this book and while it didn’t surprise me as much as the initial (Empire of Bones) did, to some extent that’s because I know now what Terry is capable of.  I’d absolutely recommend this one if you enjoyed Discovery of the Saiph or even some of the better Ringo titles.  Its a good read and absolutely engaging.

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