Title: In Enemy Hands
Author: M.A. Church
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 214 Pages
At a Glance: A fascinating new world from M.A. Church.
Reviewed By: Jennifer
Blurb: Two very different civilizations—one bathed in bright sunlight, and the other veiled in shadow.
Bad decisions, declining resources, and a king on the brink of madness force Prince Varo Kutchif, third son of the royal family and a starship captain, to attempt the impossible: barter for Black Phospolrock, an energy source the mysterious Helkan kingdom has in abundance. Varo opens a line of communication with Adlar, an intriguing Helkan who seems to reciprocate Varo’s interest. He hopes so, because if negotiations collapse, Varo has orders to attack.
The Helkans preside over a planet shrouded in perpetual darkness. Several species have tried to exploit its natural resources through trade with them, but all have failed. Adlar Mondur is the older brother to the Helkan ruler. An assassin of the highest order, he’ll do anything to protect his king and his people—including tracking down the Yesri prince who crash-lands on their planet, leaving an ugly scar across its untouched beauty.
Thus begins a journey where two men from disparate civilizations grow from enemies to lovers.
Review: If you’ve read M.A. Church’s sci-fi series before and enjoyed them, then you’re in for another great book with In Enemy Hands. I enjoyed this new universe with the Helkans and Yesrians.
Prince Varo, the third son of a despotic ruler, is sent to get materials from the secluded, mysterious planet where the Helkans live. This race is shrouded in mystery and no one really knows who they are, except for the fact that no one lands on their planet—and anyone that does, never leaves. After a solar storm forces his people to abandon ship, Varo decides to crash land on the Helkan planet. When Adlar finds him, he is immediately taken prisoner. However, as time unfolds, it becomes clear that Adlar and Varo are beginning to care for each other more than as just master and prisoner.
I truly enjoyed the story. The Helkans are an advanced race that, while they might seem primitive to other races, have found a way to live with their land rather than on it, and that is one reason they fiercely protect their planet. After all, the Yesrians have all but destroyed theirs. Who would want to let them near their own precious resources?
Varo is an interesting character to read. While he is strong and fierce, he is also innocent and naïve. Adlar is immediately attracted to him for his light hair and darker skin as well as that innocence. Varo, though attracted to Adlar, doesn’t want anything to do with him. As a prisoner, he thinks he has no choice. When Adlar treats him with respect and consideration, he isn’t sure how to react. As the third son, he’s not used to respect. When he thinks Adlar will force him to have sex, all he has to say is no and Adlar retreats.
Adlar was also fascinating. His race of people are vampiric, and seeing that paranormal/fantasy element blended so well with the sci-fi was interesting. The reasoning for it is built into the story well, and how the species handles it on a cultural level is also explored. While I wasn’t sure I understood the entire reasoning for it on an evolutionary standpoint, I still enjoyed that element.
Of course, over time the two fall for each other, but there are people who want to prevent them from being together. Adlar and Varo will have to prove to themselves, their families, and their people that their bond is strong and true. They face some unexpected twists and turns at the end that had me worried about the outcome, even if the final resolution was a bit too tidy.
This is a world I would love to revisit again. Perhaps another book with Adlar and Varo, showing how they are faring? Or even of Varo’s brother, Wrief? I don’t think there will be more, but Church has crafted a memorable world.
You can buy In Enemy Hands here: