In the first book of an epic futuristic trilogy, this is the coming-of-age story of Reza Gard, a young boy of the Human Confederation who is swept up in the century-long war with the alien Kreelan Empire. Nightmarish female warriors with blue skin, fangs, and razor sharp talons, the Kreelans have technology that is millennia beyond that of the Confederation, yet they seek out close combat with sword and claw, fighting and dying to honor their god-like Empress...
The blast caught Solon Gard, an exhausted captain of New Constantinople’s beleaguered Territorial Army, completely by surprise. He had not known that the enemy had sited a heavy gun to the north of his decimated unit’s last redoubt, a thick-walled house of a style made popular in recent years. Like most other houses in the planet’s capitol city, this one was now little more than a gutted wreck.
But the Kreelan gun’s introductory salvo was also its last: a human heavy weapons team destroyed it with a lucky shot before the Territorial Army soldiers were silenced by a barrage of inhumanly accurate plasma rifle fire.
The battle had become a vicious stalemate.
A woman’s voice suddenly cut through the fog in Solon’s head as he fought his way out from under the smoking rubble left by the cannon hit. He found himself looking up at the helmeted face of his wife, Camilla. Her eyes were hidden behind the mirrored faceplate of the battered combat helmet she wore.
“Solon, are you hurt?”
“No,” he groaned, shaking his head, “I’m all right.”
She helped him up, her petite form struggling with her husband’s greater bulk: two armored mannequins embracing in an awkward dance.
Solon glanced around. “Where’s Armand?”
“Dead,” she said in a brittle voice. She wiped the dust from her husband’s helmet, wishing she could touch his hair, his face, instead of the cold, scarred metal. She gestured to the pile of debris that Solon had been buried in. The wall had exploded inward a few feet from where he and Armand had been. The muddy light of day, flickering blood-red from the smoke that hung over the city, revealed an armored glove that jutted from under a plastisteel girder. Armand. He had been a friend of their family for many years and was the godfather of their only son. Now… now he was simply gone, like so many others.
Solon reached down and gently touched the armored hand of his best friend. “Silly fool,” he whispered hoarsely. “You should have gone to the shelter with the others, like I told you. You could never fight, even when we were children.” Armand had never had any military training, but after his wife and daughter were killed in the abattoir their city had become, he had come looking for Solon, to fight and die by his side. And so he had.
“It’s only the two of us,” Camilla told him wearily, “and Enrique and Snowden.” Behind her was a pile of bodies in a dark corner, looking like a monstrous spider in the long shadows that flickered over them. The survivors had not had the time or strength to array them properly. Their goal had simply been to get them out of the way. Honor to the dead came a distant second to the desperation to stay among the living. “I think Jennings’s squad across the street may be gone, too.”
“Lord of All,” Solon murmured, still trying to get his bearings and come to grips with the extent of their disaster. With only the four of them left, particularly if Jennings’s squad had been wiped out, the Kreelans had but to breathe hard and the last human defensive line would be broken.
“It can always get worse,” a different female voice told him drily.