by Ilona Andrews, Luisa J. Preissler
Series: Kinsmen #1
Also in this series: Fated Blades
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Publication Date: December 31, 2018
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
This is an anthology edition of the Kinsmen Universe, which includes SILENT BLADE, SILVER SHARK, plus a new short story, and three original illustrations.**
Family is everything. Talent is power. And revenge is sweet.
In a distant, future world Kinsmen-small powerful groups of genetically and technologically advanced families-control vast financial empires. They are their own country, their own rulers, and their only limits are other Kinsmen. The struggle for power is a bloody, full-contact sport: in business, on the battlefield...and sometimes in the bedroom.
Old hatreds die hard. Old love dies harder.
On the planet Rada, Meli Galdes' family is of minor rank, and were relying on her marriage to Celino, the razor-smart, ruthless leader of the powerful Carvanna empire. When he abruptly breaks their engagement, he ruins her family and guarantees that Meli will never marry, as no suitor will oppose the rich and influential Carvannas.
But Meli has a rare, secret, lethal-and valuable-talent. As a melder of energy, she's capable of severing anything in her path. So she 'leaves' her family and trains to become one of the best and most lethal of assassins, all the while covertly guarding her family's interests. Now she's ready to quit; but she has one more assignment.
To kill the man who ruined her life.
Claire Shannon is a killer...and her weapon is her mind.
Born on a planet torn by war for over 300 years, Claire is a soldier: a psycher, with the ability to read, control, and destroy the minds of enemy psychers and to infiltrate the biological network where they battle to death.
When Claire's faction loses the war, she barely escapes extermination from both sides, as her talent brands her as too dangerous to society. By so-deeply burying her ability that she avoids detection, Claire is instead deported to Rada as a refugee, where she must find work to remain. She finds a job as personal assistant to Venturo Escana, a premiere kinsman; one of Rada's most wealthy entrepreneurs—and most powerful psychers.
She thought she had left war behind, but now she must hide her skills and her growing feelings from Venturo...and this battle might just cost her everything...
A Mere Formality
The leader of the fierce Reigh people expires during an intergalactic summit, putting 30 million colonists' lives and livelihoods in jeopardy. When the new heir to the Reigh throne, Lord Nagrad, demands restitution, the phrase "'a life for a life" turns the intergalactic calamity into an arranged marriage contract between Lord Nagrad and sharply intelligent diplomatic analyst Deirdre Lebed... and the negotiation of terms becomes anything but formal!
This is a set of two novellas and a short story all in the Kinsmen universe. These predate a lot of the Andrews’ later work, so you can see the genesis of some ideas that are refined in later work, like the concept of the kinsmen families which become the houses in Hidden Legacy, or the Reigh who are similar to the vampire society from Innkeeper. These stories are tropetastic, ocasionally ridiculous, and utterly amazing, plus the art by Luisa J. Preissler is perfection. The first two stories are set in New Dahlia on the planet Rada, where biologically engineered soldiers settled and formed families, each of which controls a section of the city.
“Love was a rebellious emotion, Meli decided. It defied constraints of reason.”
“Silent Blade” – A retired assassin takes one last case. The target? Her ex-betrothed whose refusal to go through with the marriage led to her being excised from her family – and to her career as an assassin. The heroine, Meli, is amazing and so thorough in her revenge, which I really appreciated since the hero is an absolute alpha jerkface. While I’ve joked before that Ilona Andrews can make me love even the most egregious alphahole hero, this one was a bit of a stretch for me. While he does eventually get hit by the clue-by-four in a devastatingly epic manner, I think I wanted more of him and Meli together after that revelation. But what I really liked about this one was how it went all in on the fact that the lack of intent to cause harm doesn’t negate your responsibility for that harm.
“You have no weapons, no combat enhancements, and your mind is inert. Are you planning on beating Sangori’s assassins off with that tablet or were you thinking of a more theoretical approach? Should I look forward to you giving me a detailed analysis of a knife sticking out of my back? If I happen to die, will you deliver a slide point presentation describing my valor at my funeral?”
“Silver Shark” – This is one of my absolute favorites. After her country loses a planet-wide war, a hotshot military captain must pass herself off as a psychic dud secretary in order to remain a refugee. Oh, and avoid having the hots for her boss. This is basically a lust-at-first-sight boss/secretary romance with a dash of Cinderella, complete with a golden god of a boss and the quiet mouse of a secretary (who can kill people with her mind). There’s lots of found-family goodness, perseverance, and just generally being a badass. I love Claire, I love how much of the book is spent with her being so bewildered by how different New Dahlia is from the war-torn mining planet she grew up on, how obviously traumatized she is but also how resilient and how it hasn’t stopped her from caring. The fact that she’s got psychic powers but has to hide them? Chef’s kiss.
“A Mere Formality” – This is a short story and also the only one not set on Rada. A diplomatic analyst finds herself being bargained away in a marriage of convenience to guarantee the survival of a race and to prevent her government’s colonies from being plundered. Part of the bargaining? Porn, for absolutely hilarious reasons. While this one made me laugh like a loon, this is my least favorite of the collection. A good chunk of the story is spent setting up the political machinations to make the marriage of convenience seem reasonable, and then not enough time with the couple themselves. The moments with them, though? Excellent.
Overall, I absolutely adore this universe and would love another dozen stories set on Rada! Highly recommended to anyone looking for some tropey scifi romance with amazing characters and high bodycounts.