Posted in: AztecLady Reviews
Reader beware: In compliance with the FTC guidelines, be aware that I bought this book.
Parallel Attraction, by Deirdre Knight
The first in the Midnight Warriors series, Parallel Attraction is also Ms Knight’s debut novel. And boy oh, boy, talk about starting out with a bang! This is very much a romance novel (and there is some sexxoring in it, if you are wondering), but it is also a science fiction story, in which the author takes a well-known twist and… well, twists it some more.
The world Ms Knight creates seems quite simple at first, but pretty soon into the story the reader realizes that there are layers of complexity there, many of which are hinted at almost carelessly—one phrase, one short passage—until their time to shine comes. Here’s the back cover blurb:
It has been years since exiled alien king Jared Bennett thought of anything other than his people’s fight for freedom. Now his rebel force has the one weapon that can turn the tide against their enemy: the key to the secrets of time. Victory has never been closer, but one woman has the power to change everything.
Kelsey Wells can’t deny that there is something unearthly about her fierce attraction to Jared Bennett. His revelations about alien wars and time travel can’t possibly be fact. Yet with every seductive touch, every searing kiss, Kelsey circles closer to the truth: Although Jared is exactly what he says, he hasn’t told her everything. And when the future crashes into the present, Kelsey must decide if Jared’s deception will cost them the love that should have been their destiny.
For starters, let me say that, had I read the blurb before picking up the novel, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the story half as much as I did. It is not, mind, that it contains inaccuracies, but I would have had expectations based on it that have nothing to do with what the novel is about, because the blurb emphasizes one aspect of the story that is not actually revealed until well into the book.
The book starts with a brief excerpt from an alien text, followed by a prologue—a truly wonderful prologue, too; one that grabbed me immediately by the throat and made me read the book in one sitting. Yes, it’s that good. I mean, get a load of the first sentence, for crying out loud: “It wasn’t every day that you managed to lose your king while on a security mission to an alien planet.” Honestly, now, can you stop reading after that?
In this prologue we meet our protagonists, Kelsey and Jared, as teenagers. They bump into each other near the Teton Mountains, in Yellowstone. She is an only child with an almost obsessive interest in geology. He is an alien king, orphaned for several years and in the cusp of maturity. There is a wonderful realism to their immediate attraction—hello, uncontrolled hormones ahoy!—but Ms Knight takes us past their physical reaction to each other and shares with us their fragile, innermost selves. These passages are both sweet and gripping, and work very well in setting the stage for later events.
The novel proper starts some fourteen to fifteen years after that, with neither of our protagonists remembering the events of the prologue, when, as fate would have it, their paths cross again—in a rather spectacular fashion. Within a few pages, the US Air Force shoots down Jared during one of his stealth missions to a hidden alien compound in the Tetons while Kelsey, now a geologist working on her doctorate, is nearby on a study trip. Hijinks are sure to ensue, all the more interesting because neither of the two remembers their previous meeting—thanks to the nosey offices of a rather overprotective advisor to the young king.
Just the differences between alien and human culture would make this an interesting romance, yet with the added complication of a war between worlds that is sure to reach Earth soon—unless Jared and his people find the answers they seek in the mountains of Yellowstone—there is another layer of intensity to the story. Mss Knight, however, goes quite a bit further; she does something unusual, and she does it extremely well.
Allow me to elaborate: when reading Parallel Attraction, I got the impression a few times that there was something missing—perhaps a previous book setting up some of the overarching storyline. There are so many narrative threads intertwined, so many layers to the political, racial, and historical conflicts going on within the story, that I felt sure this was the second or third installment in a series. (I checked, obviously, and no, this is definitely the first book in the series. Did I mention it is also Ms Knight’s debut?)
Interestingly, this feeling didn’t frustrate me, at all, because this complexity, these layers, are all so organic to the world these characters live in. None of the characters, events, histories between the different characters and the different groups, feel like sequel or series bait. It feels as if this universe, these worlds and their peoples, up to the last little detail, had lived in Ms Knight’s imagination well before she set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
And there is where the time element plays such an important part. Generally speaking, time shifts in a story seem like a cop out to me—what does it matter what a character does or doesn’t do, feels or thinks, if things are going to be magically erased, fixed if you will, later on? What kind of conflict can there be under those circumstances?
Well, in this book, Ms Knight takes care of that, by taking into account the element of choice—she allows her characters to change their minds.
I have no doubt that someone more widely read in fantasy and science fiction than I am will come up with hundreds of novels in which this has been done, but it felt very, very fresh to me.
I do have quibbles, of course. There are a couple of characters whose motivations seemed sketchy for a bit too long into the story—both Thea, Jared’s cousin and apparent mate, and his best friend and second in command Scott, come to mind. And later, when we get some information on these two, there is a bit of info dumping. Then, there is some repetition, particularly pertaining to Jared’s dual nature and how it affects the succession. This bothers me more than usual, by the way, because the repetition does not make the issue any more clear—there are some blanks there that I really would have liked to have filled.
Finally, there is the matter of having all these people—hundreds at least, between pilots, engineers, soldiers and more—running around the mountains, with cars and airplanes and what have you, and yet managing to stay hidden from the government for the most part (Jared’s being shot down aside). In a world of aliens and shapeshifters, it strains the willingness to suspend disbelief because there is no attempt at explaining it away.
All in all, though, Parallel Attraction is a good novel and a very solid debut. 7.75 out of 10