Where duty and passion collide.
With characters that jump off the page, love that is forbidden yet unstoppable mixed with top-notch worlds and technology, sci-fi has never looked so good or become so addictive! ~ InD'Tale Magazine, February 2018
A woman in peril. A ruthless warrior. A dangerous contract.
THE CARTEL,- The Apprentice Volume 1
Raised to wealth and privilege, Lilian’s future was shattered when her father was convicted of terrible crimes. By law and custom she should have followed him into death to redeem her corrupt genetics. Desperate to avoid execution for crimes not her own, Lilian accepts an indenture contract with a powerful warrior. For three years he will have total control of her body, will and intellect.
Lucius Mercio commands one of the most powerful Cartels in the Twelve Systems. As clever and ambitious as he his ruthless, Lucius' wealth, influence, and power are place him among the elite of the warrior caste. It is not enough. Lucius intends to take his Cartel to unimaginable heights with the aid of Lilian's brilliance. He faces only one obstacle. Lucius must keep Lilian alive.
BRIGHT STAR - The Apprentice Volume 2
In the second volume in the Twelve Systems Chronicles Lilian’s enemies are more determined than ever to see her destroyed. A ghost from her past will imperil her future and threaten to destroy Lucius’ slowly developing trust. To survive the next set of challenges Lilian will need to find new reserves of courage, wit and determination.
When Lucius’ motivations and ambitions are revealed, they are far more extraordinary than Lilian imagined. His rivals are about to increase in number and ferocity as they seek to limit his expanding wealth and power. They will use any means to undermine and destroy his plans including his notorious apprentice. To advance his ambitions, Lucius must be more ruthless and devious than ever before. To succeed, Lucius requires Lilian’s brilliance. To make use of it, he must keep her alive. It is going to prove more difficult than he anticipated.
Didn’t care for It
I just couldn’t stay interested it. It seemed to wander around just filling up space. I just bored reading it. I even put it away for a bit and came back to it twice. Sorry.
I wanted to read this book because of its Dune-like elements. An indispensable substance called Vistrite is controlled by a single cartel, and the cartels compete with each other for dominance. It reminded of the spice in Dune. The author does a great job building her world – its classes, history, even a bit of religion, and I thought the formal language worked because the world has such a rigid hierarchy.
I’m so partial to this kind of thing that I read the book despite the presence of my most-hated trope: the sexually enslaved woman. Now I love sexy times in my books, but I can’t buy a woman having mind-blowing sex when her bodily autonomy has been stolen from her. Yes, I recognize this trope is popular, and I tend not to discount an otherwise entertaining book because of my personal tastes. At least in this book, there are a few scenes in the beginning where Lilian, the main character, views her sessions with the man who “owns” her as a duty, something to be endured. Also, in this world, men are enslaved too, which makes it an element of class and culture rather than gender.
Besides, enslaved women can be great characters, which is certainly the case here. Lilian is the scion of a powerful family brought low by the crimes of her father. She has to pay for his crimes by being indentured to the cartel. She’s bizarrely passive for a woman raised to be a leader, but her strength comes through endurance. I admired her iron-willed stoicism. She’s also brilliant and hyper-competent.
The man who owns Lilian’s “bond” isn’t developed much as character until later in the book, but a complex story in a complex world can take a long time to tell, and this series has a lot of volumes. The Cartel is a fine first installment. A major bit of intrigue is left unresolved, but it’s a good set up.
That said, I would have enjoyed a little more action. In one plotline Lilian discovers something fishy happening in the cartel’s mining operations. The way the author constructed and resolved the scheme was some of her best world-building, logical and realistic. It was great, but the resolution was too static for me. I have a high tolerance for exposition, but I found myself itching for something with more bite. Mostly, the plotline wrapped up with discussions about archived records and things that happened off camera, so to speak. Although the story got much livelier near the end on almost every front, and left me looking forward to the second installment.