Sequella, Corey, and Kitty Review Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge by Fletcher DeLancey

Kitty: It’s a three-way!

Corey: A review, Kitty. A three-way review.

Sequella: A sequel! Finally! About time after that damn cliffhanger.

Corey: Do we even need to do a synopsis? I cannot imagine anyone jumping into this book without first reading Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge. But let the record show I sobbed with both happiness and angst almost immediately after tapping open Chapter 1.

Kitty: Oh please let me provide the synopsis! I bookmarked exactly —

Corey: Kitty! You will not give away the number of sexy times in the book. Let the readers discover that on their own.

Sequella: I think Kitty is still sitting in the co-pilot seat waiting for the Lancer.

Kitty: But… neck ridges… and… other ridges…

Corey: Just hush your mouth. Sequella, thoughts on the end to the cliffhanger?

Sequella: Just for the record, cliffhangers should be outlawed and it would have been no problem to end The Producer’s Challenge two or three chapters before it. However, the cliffhanger was a great way to shove the happy couple and me off cloud nine and start kicking some ass. (Them, not me. I was just cheering from the sidelines).

Corey: We’ll be of that generation that says “Remember when we had to wait an entire month for the sequel? Young readers these days get instant gratification, the spoiled brats.” Even then, it was only a download away from our e-readers once released. Did you go through a few recovery steps, Sequella, trying to deal with your reading addiction?

Sequella: Are you asking me how much time I spent on the Chronicles of Alsea website looking for updates or how often I googled Lancer Tal only to come up empty handed?

Corey: Ha! I just kept re-reading the completed books and cursing in Alsean. Anyway, The Caphenon was action-oriented, and Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge got down to both politics and romance. Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge seemed to bring back the action in a fierce way.

Sequella: The sword fighting was awesome!

Corey: Yes! And so much more intimate than the Voloth attacking the entire planet in The Caphenon. I really personalized my hatred of the bad guys in this book.

Kitty: Not ALL of the action centered around hate and swords.

Corey: Yes, Kitty. Now, let’s get down to other important questions. In an earlier review, I declared my caste to be scholar. Sequella, I am guessing you are a crafter?

Sequella: Of course. The caste system is something I like very much about Alsea. I like guessing castes for all people that are never directly mentioned but also part of Alsea. What about the Lancer’s cook or the people flying the public transports?

Kitty: I would be a religious scholar, because I love hearing all those women scream “Oh Fahla” when —

Corey: — when they pray. Ahem. Speaking of which… You know I love me some Lead Templar Lanaril. Who are you most eager for DeLancey to feature in future Alsean books?

Sequella: Ahhh…my favorite question, because that means MORE sequels. Lanaril is definitely someone deserving another story. Also, there is already a hint of another Lhyn and Ekatya story happening between the end of The Caphenon and the end of The Warrior’s Challenge. And the one I am most anxiously waiting for is Vellmar! She is a sword throwing Xena lookalike in my head.

Kitty: Colonel Razine. Someone with such perfect mental control who’s done such dark things for the right reasons, makes me shiver. So much promise for more intrigue with that one, and can you imagine if she ever did let herself give up some control… in the right situation, away from the job… Purr.

Sequella: What did you think about the end of the book? Too shiny and overdone?

Corey: Nope. In fact, I appreciated the time spent with Jaros in the aftermath, as well as with the rest of the Hol-Opah family/community. And Micah’s revelations, too. I was loving the eight whole chapters of reading in the final section; the opposite of a cliffhanger. Very satisfying, particularly because I am expecting many more Chronicles to come.

Sequella: Absolutely! So we agree we all liked it? I got the “stop-reading-rest-your-eyes” warning from my reading app five times. That’s how hard is was for me to put the book down and participate in real life.

Corey: Oh yes! I read so steadily that I had to stop and charge my e-reader even though it advertises “A single charge can last up to six weeks (based on a half hour of reading per day)…” You do the math on how much I read in one day. Kitty, what did you think? Kitty?

Kitty: Leave me alone. I’m checking out my bookmarks.

Sequella: And, last but not least, some survival tips for the looong wait until the next sequel:
1. Reread, starting with The Caphenon. There will be smaller things that you didn’t discover on your first hasty OMG-it’s-so-good read.
2. Check the Ylva site for any announcements about upcoming sequels or maybe a short story in one of their anthologies. You never know, there might be something for your inner Kitty McSaucerton in the next Slippery Folds anthology.
3. Make sure at least one of your friends also read the Alsea books. It’s nice to have someone with whom to discuss your addiction.
4. Read Fletcher’s Star Trek: Voyager fanfiction. It’s perfectly fine to never have watched the TV show. And I can promise you, Lancer Tal is in there waiting to be discovered. She is different from the improved version in the published books, but it’s still nice to visit with her.
5. Are you a writer yourself? Write Alsea fanfiction! This will help you AND us! Make sure you include some nipple clamps for Kitty’s enjoyment.

Corey: Okay, you went there. I’m just going to sit over here, blushing.

Kitty: Purrrrrrrrrr.

You can download a sample or purchase a copy of Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge by clicking here.

Without a Front by Fletcher Delancey

I don’t watch (or even own a) TV, consequently I rarely read fan fiction, because I’d never know the characters it’s all about. Aside from her *excellent* short stories, Fletcher DeLancey writes about the Star Trek universe, and so I was not too willing to tackle one of her novel-sized works. ‘Without a Front’, however, starts with the Voyager leaving the planet of Alsea, and the story develops without falling back on the series.

So, problem solved for the reviewer? Not quite. The problem is the ‘LABELS’ to be assigned to the reviews. Obviously, as a spin-off, this could be termed a ‘Star Trek Uber’, but it stands on its own. And though the main protagonists are both female, Alseans can conceive regardless of gender, so ‘F/F’ doesn’t seem to fit, either. I’ll take the coward’s way out, and leave the labelling to the Rev…

Andira Tal is the ‘Lancer’, the highest office on Alsea, and she is devastated to watch the Voyager leave, having fallen in love with Captain Janeway. Not only that, the new replicator technology, that needs to be introduced into Alsea’s economy, creates no end of problems for the head of state.

Salomen Opah heads a farm, and is thus a member of the ‘producer’ caste. When she stands in for another member of her caste in the Council, she and Andira instantly develop both dislike and respect for one another. She challenges the lancer to a ‘moon’ of sharing each other’s places.

Alseans are all capable of ’empathy’, but some of them are more so than others. It turns out that Salomen has the gift in extraordinary measure, but has never been trained how to focus it. Andira agrees to fill in on the training.

It is really impossible to summarise the interaction of Andira and Salomen, and while these are the main characters of this story, there are more besides — Micah, Andira’s chief guard and friend, or Herot, Salomen’s brother, are but two of the dramatis personae described in detail, that also contribute to the development of the plot.

Fletcher DeLancey does not shy away from confrontations, in fact, some of the most intense moments in the story are just about that. The reader may well be left breathless; a roller-coaster ride comes to mind. Come to think of it, it is also a perfect example of the ‘fear and pity’ principle I learned about in literature classes 🙂

By word count, ‘Without a Front’ takes up about one third of the bible, so set some time aside to read it. But it is time well spent; characters, plot, and editing are flawless, but then I’ve come to expect that of this author.

Highly recommended reading.

Campus by Anik LaChev

Anik LaChev took her time with this story, that’s for sure. Seven years, to be exact.

Well, I shouldn’t complain – I’m one of those lucky souls who stumbled upon this somewhere around chapter IX (there are thirteen, in all) so it was only (?!) two or three years of waiting for me.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve reread Campus. At least four of those times it was unavoidable – if I wanted to follow a newly arrived chapter a year later I had to brush up my memories.

The fact I didn’t give up on it, plus the fact I reread it at least five or six times more simply for the pleasure of it should be a clue enough: Campus was definitely worth waiting for.

There are quite a few well chosen and well prepared ingredients that make this story a perfect meal. First of all, the somewhat exotic, academic setting in the ex-Eastern Germany city of Leipzig. Then, of course, as the main course – our characters, one of whom is the double hit on the perennial fantasies (the beautiful, accomplished professor who is also the boss); the other the Uberish version of Seven of Nine (nuff said).
As a side dish, the many vivid, beautifully crafted supporting roles that are simply crawling out of the pages.

Is this Uber? The author is certainly not running away from it (even the somewhat clumsy title illustration pictures Janeway and 7 of 9). Still, I can not but wish that author pushed herself just a little bit more and turned away from the ready-mades. The story she wove, the many other original characters she’d created certainly deserve that. Oh, what the hell – to tell the truth, if it weren’t for that silly illustration and her disclaimers I wouldn’t even look for Janeway and Seven of Nine in Lil and Johanna.

Of course, Campus is a love story first and foremost. But, I have always admired the fiction which managed to teach me something without preaching or being overbearing on the issues that matter to the author.

Learning about the intricate ways of the academia, the city of Leipzig, some aspects of the classical music, or Italian and Hungarian cooking has been almost as satisfying as the searing hot love story she delivers.

I love finding authors like this one – where I can snuggle comfortably in a story, trust the author to deliver me safely to the end of the trip while teaching me about the landscape on the way.

Anik LaChev certainly knows how to weave a story. As her other stories prove, she is the Master of Angst. Perhaps one or two hand-wringing situations felt a bit forced or unnecessary, but overall Campus is a joy to read.

One of my top five stories of all time…×600/noframe/campus01.htm

Finding shelter from the storm by Gun Brooke

Laura Carter is a fugitive arriving at the River Meadows motel, recommended by an acquaintance of hers. She has been on the run for years, and there’s no end in sight. The motel’s owner, Sunny Stewart, does not know much about Laura Carter, but understands enough not to ask. The attraction between the two women was something neither planned for. When Laura needs her, Sunny does not hesitate, and insists on helping her out against Laura’s wishes.

Doctor Dawn Morrison and Joan Tremayne are two FBI agents assigned to the same case for years: tracking down a mad scientist. They find out, the hard way, that they’d been manipulated for years.

This is the first story I read by G. Brooke and I really liked it. The plot is very well constructed, the writign itself would have benefitted from a beta reader, but it’s good enough to keep you interested in the goings-on of the story. The characters are well constructed and very likeable, and the different stories and personalities make for a very interesting cast.

Definitely recommend it, but you have to disregard a lot of small errors.