This week I decided to review First Salik War: The Blockade by Jean Johnson.
The story begins just after the previous book ended. The capital of the V'Dan, a branch of humanity transplanted away from Earth in ancient times, was attacked by the Salik, who see other sentient species as little more then cattle. The V'Dan Empress was injured and her eldest daughter Vi'alla has been appointed regent. Terran Grand Ambassador Jackie MacKenzie made a demand of Vi'alla, the demand was refused and Jackie announced the end of Earth's aid to the V'Dan and their allies.
V'Dan Prince Li'eth, who is telepathically bonded to Jackie, tries to convince his sister to give in to the Terran demands but she refuses and arranges for him to be stunned and shipped away before he can invoke a law placing himself outside her authority. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself on a warship captained by one of his sister's followers. When he invokes the law placing him under the authority of the Tier Advocates and thus outside his sister's control, the captain resists but some of the junior officers aid Li'eth in obtaining a shuttle to return him to V'Dan.
Meanwhile, the V'Dan Empress recovers and promptly gives in to the Terran demands. But during a public ceremony announcing this, the shuttle carrying Li'eth finds itself in danger from a Salik force and Jackie uses her link to Li'eth to teleport to his side. The shuttle manages to evade the enemy and is eventually rescued by a Terran ship. Jackie finds herself given authority over Terran forces in the region while Li'eth, still legally under the authority of the Tier Advocates, finds himself caught in a political web. To buy time, the duo begins touring worlds where Terran troops are being deployed and find themselves overseeing the defense of a fuel depot, the first deployment of Terran undersea combat forces against the Salik, and the defense of the multi-species world of Au'aurrran against an insurrection by its supposedly neutral Salik population, equipped with military mechsuits and supported by Salik warships.
During the battle, a high ranking Salik officer is captured after his flagship is downed and the allies interrogate him to learn the Salik war plan. A plan to end the war is devised but the leaders of the various nations and species within the Alliance must be convinced that it is viable and even if it succeeds the cost could be very high.
I give this book 7 out of 10. The demands Jackie made at the end of the last book were ludicrous to the point that no competent leader would give in to them, but the majority of the characters in this book are shown as seeing them as perfectly acceptable with those who do not support them being portrayed as insane reactionaries blinded by pride. The first section of this book suffers greatly because of this. Once the story shift away from V'Dan, it improves greatly, however, with a variety of interesting battle sequences and it managed to maintain my interest despite my knowing how the conflict ended from reading the earlier sequel series Theirs Not to Reason Why. I'm hoping after this the author moves forward to the war that the heroine of the earlier series spent her life laying preparations for.