This week I decided to review Jerusalem Fire by R. M. Meluch.
The story is set in the fifty-ninth century AD after the end of a long dark age that followed the collapse of humanity's first interstellar civilization. The Na'id Empire, descended from a colony that had cut itself off from the rest of humanity to build a society where appearance and ethnicity did not matter, seeks to unite mankind under its rule, selectively breeding humans until they all share one ethnicity, and destroy or enslave any non-human sentient species.
The story begins thirteen years after the fall of the city of Jerusalem, which had held out against a Na'id siege for a century. The Liberation, a rebel ship that smuggles dissidents to hidden independent colonies, captained by the renowned rebel Alihahd and surrounded by Na'id vessels as the rebel ship tries to lead its enemies away from the evacuation shuttles carrying its passengers. The Na'id are then ambushed by the Marauder, an infamous rebel ship using the guise of a legendary ghost ship to terrify its foes and a hologram of the ghost craft to draw their fire while it sets up the kill.
In the ensuing battlem both renegade ships are destroyed but the survivors of their crews are recovered by a craft unrecognizable to them and taken to their rescuers' homem the legendary lost world of Iry. Told they can leave the next time a ship leaves the worldm the rebels struggle to integrate into the Itiri civilization native to the world.
Their chance to leave comes when Ben, a human conscripted by the Na'id and then adopted by the Itiri before being cast out, goes on a quest for vengeance, targeting the Na'id installations where he had been brutalized as the Na'id tried to turn him into a good Na'id soldier. But eventually the Na'id locate Iry and Alihahd must face his actions during the final phases of the Siege of Jerusalem and their consequences while preparing for a final meeting with the Na'id forces...
I give this book 7 out of 10. The Na'id are an interesting example of a noble ideal gone horribly wrong becoming the very thing its creators opposed. But the story focuses on such a small area that we have no idea what is going on in the setting's big picture outside of the flashback to the Siege of Jerusalem. I think this would have been better if the author had written some other books in this setting, focusing on the big picture and the war between the Resistance and the Na'id before writing this one, because to me this feels like a side story within a larger setting with no novels covering the main story to support it. And, unfortunately, this long after the original release I have almost no hope for new books in the setting to fill in the gaps left by this one.