Farryn's War (Exiles of the Drift)
by Christie Meierz
Review by Sam Lubell
CreateSpace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781516892129
Date: 24 September 2015 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Farryn's War is a futuristic space adventure novel with strong romance elements. This is the first book in the Exiles of the Drift series and is set in the same universe as her earlier Tales of Tolari Space series. Although many readers are understandably suspicious of self-published works, these are becoming more common as ebooks continue to change the publishing industry. (For instance, both Wool and The Martian started out as self-published ebooks.) Farryn's War was edited by professional writer Laura Anne Gilman, and Christie Meierz won the 2013 PRISM Award for Futuristic Romance from the Romance Writers of America for the first Tolari book. The book's combination of space adventure with romance should appeal to fans of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden novels while the use of psionic powers is reminiscent of Julie E. Czerneda's Trade Pact Universe.
Farryn's War opens with a prologue showing Farryn leaving the residence of the Chairman of Central Command, having saved the life of the Chairman (told in narration but not shown) in order to irritate the Sural, the leader of Tolar's ruling caste. Narration further explains that Farryn is "one of the finest minds his world had ever produced" and the former ruler of the province of Monralar before being exiled from Tolar. Fortunately, once past this prologue, the author's exposition becomes less blatant.
When the main story begins, Farryn has become a crime lord on the world of Far India, using his camouflage power as a paid assassin. He feels betrayed by his former bond-partner Sharana who he thinks severed their bond and conspired with his enemies to make him an outcast. Meanwhile, Sharana, one of the most powerful empathic sensitives on Tolar misses Farryn and regrets the changes in the man she still loves. After leaving Tolar for Far India, hoping to find Farryn, Sharana is captured by the ambitious Adeline Russell, Chief of Operations in Central Command's Department of Security. Adeline wants the secrets of Tolar and a hold on Farryn. Although Adeline drugs and tortures Sharana, threatening her life if Farryn does not kill at her command, Sharana resists and reestablishes her bond with Farryn. The bulk of the book is spent with Farryn going to ever-greater lengths to rescue his bondmate, even returning to Tolar and tapping the abilities of his fellow outcasts.
Christie Meierz is strong on characterization. Although Sharana spends much of the book as a captive, she is not a passive figure but strong in her resistance. She pushes her psychic power beyond physical and ethical limits. Adeline is not evil, but ambitious. She honestly believes in doing what she feels is best for the Six Planets, and not incidentally her career, and is willing to exploit every opportunity--and everyone she encounters--to do so. She is also convinced she knows better than anyone else, even her superiors. Unfortunately, Farryn is harder to characterize. He kills people for money, runs a criminal organization, and killed a child for power. Yet he repeatedly risks his life and freedom for Sharana. He would be more sympathetic if the author showed him regretting or apologizing for his murders, other than saying he was mad with ambition.
A reader who has not read the author's previous books may be confused by the lack of definition given to the Tolari's psychic powers (although, to be fair, the book shows Sharana to be uncertain as to their limits too) as well as the politics involved. Also, the last third relies overmuch on coincidence and a resource not even hinted at in the previous chapters.
Readers who can accept a flawed, criminal hero will find much of interest in Farryn's War. There are strong romance elements here, but as Sharana is captive for much of the book she rarely interacts with Farryn. Her love for Farryn is the reason she tries to return to him in his exile and forgives his criminal actions. Far more of the book is spent on Farryn's efforts to find her and outsmart Adeline. Fans of space romances, such as the Liaden series, will enjoy this book. I purchased this book after talking with the author at a convention and consider it worth the ebook version's $3.99 price, although I doubt I would have paid the cost of the trade edition.