Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Metal Reign by Nathalie Gray

TITLE: Metal Reign
AUTHOR: Nathalie Gray
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 23k)
GENRE: Sci-fi romance
COST: $3.50

Earth has been lost to humanity for centuries, invaded and taken over by an alien race of living metal. Men and women have scattered to the stars, but their resources are slowly dying out, their future as a race dim. Commander Frankie Beaumont has a plan to take back the planet, but it’s a suicide mission, one that she’s keeping secret from even her best friend. As the ship’s cook, John O’Shaughnessy has stood by Frankie for years, and loved her just as long, but the last thing he would ever do is jeopardize their friendship by making a move. That is, until she tries to leave him behind…

After reading the first story by this author, I went out and bought a lot of her backlist, both in e and in print. More and more, I’m finding myself drawn to her work, because I’ve yet to be disappointed.

The story starts with John and Frankie in one of their poker games, private times they spend together. John isn’t pleased with Frankie’s plan to bomb the pipeline the Imbers – the invading force that’s taken over Earth – have to the planet, but he’s doing what he can to be supportive because he knows she’s going to do it anyway. Frankie hasn’t told him that the aircraft can’t be flown remotely, which means she’s going to have to fly it herself, and probably die in the process. When her initial craft is destroyed, John provides her with an alternative, then realizes at the last moment about the lack of remote flying. He goes to confront her, and ends up joining her onboard, ready to stand at her side to help her mission succeed.

There’s so much to love about this short, action-packed novella, it’s tough to know where to start. The pace is relentless, hurtling from one plot point to the next at a breathless speed. The writing is very visual as well, making it easy to imagine what is going on without getting caught up in the prose. This type of cinematic writing seems to typify this author’s style, and though some romance readers might not be as interested in such a driven, event-oriented story, I love it. The vast majority of the conflict in this is external, providing a vivid backdrop for the characters to come to their senses about each other.

Which brings me to John and Frankie. Frankie is the commander of the fleet, widely respected and fiercely independent. She wears a firm mask for everyone but John, who provides the anchor she needs to let loose every once in a while, and though she’s a strong woman, she doesn’t come across as bitchy or over the top. I completely believed this was a woman who had trained for the career she wanted, and succeeded based on her own abilities rather than attitude or stepping on others. She had just enough flaws to highlight her strengths and make her human without weakening her character or making her unlikeable.

In many ways, John is the beta to Frankie’s alpha. Instead of being military, he’s a civilian who’s opted to take this post on Frankie’s ship, simply so he can be closer to her. He recognizes her strength and power and loves her all the more for it, but while he might acquiesce to many of her superior traits, he makes her fight for that lead. His dedication to both her command and her private side doesn’t make him a lesser man. In fact, it endears him to me all the more, because he is neither weak nor simpering. The simple truth of his admiration for Frankie when he himself is such a strong character only makes him all that much stronger.

If I have any complaints about this novella, it’s that I would’ve loved to see more of it. The characters leap off the page, even secondary characters like Womack, the world-building is fascinating, and the action is crisp and continuous. I can easily get lost in books like this and relish the chance to do so with other of this author’s works. Because even when they’re short, they’re still worth all the time and money I invest in them.


9/10 – Swift, clean, and action-packed


8/10 – Adored his dedication, smarts, and admiration for a strong woman


8/10 – I can almost always count on this author to provide me with a heroine I feels earns and deserves her power

Entertainment value

9/10 – A breathless, action-packed read, I only wish it was longer

World building

8/10 – Believable and vivid



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