Through The Hostage
J C Steel
I was gifted a pdf copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and here it is.
Khyria Ilan is a commander in the Cortii, the most elite mercenary organisation in known space. With a past she can’t remember, and commanders who would love to see her dead, her future is likely to be short: her command faces their ultimate test to prove their right to survive. When the odds are impossible, sometimes the only thing to do is play the game …
Through The Hostage is a complex sci-fi novel that, in my opinion, bites off more than it can chew. I really liked many of the characters J C Steel created; Khyria Ilan is flawed, and dangerous, and complicated, and very interesting, but it felt as though not enough was shown about her, from the beginning it’s revealed that pretty much everyone around her wants her dead, but at no point is a solid reason given, nor is it revealed why she has apparently abandoned her command. Jack is another interesting character, and I would have liked to have seen more of his efforts to learn about and understand this alien world he finds himself in.
Many of the other characters have an equal amount of potential, but it feels too much as if the reader only gets a surface view of things. There’s the suggestion of so much, but not enough detail to help the reader navigate this strange world.
Adding to my difficulties with this book are the details you do get about the organisation Khyria Ilan and her group are part of; I suspect J C Steel has limited military knowledge or experience because the group describes themselves as mercenaries, when everything in the book indicates they are in fact part of an army working for a council of some kind, and they undergo up to 10 years of training before taking a test to determine if they are fit to join the ‘army’ as a fully qualified unit (as someone with, admittedly limited, military experience, it seemed very unrealistic that what was essentially a platoon-sized unit would spend such an excessive amount of time in training before qualifying; training may continue after qualification but in general the training to qualify in an army is measured in months, not years, even for special forces units).
I found little in the way of tension in the book; all the way through the reader is told that Khyria Ilan is under constant threat of assassination, but the few attempts that take place happen off-screen – as it were – and seem so feeble as to be easily dealt with. Because of that, I found the book fairly flat; even when it finally reached the much-mentioned Crossing, there seemed little in the way of danger, and it was all over with far too quickly and easily.
I think with some work, this could be a very good novel, it’s longer than it really needs to be in my opinion, has themes that could be more fully explored, and it lacks enough tension to keep the reader hooked and get them concerned about the characters, but it does end with a very nice scene with Jack back home and unable to tell anyone about where he’s been and what he’s been doing and I’m pleased about that.