Continuing on from the excellent Empire of Bones (reviewed here) Veil of Shadows doesn’t let up any on the action and gets you straight back into the intrigue and goings on in the Kingdom.  While our lost bunch is no closer to finding a way home, they’ve managed to rescue Princess Kelsey at the end of Book 1 – although she was transformed by the Pale Ones into superweapon in the process!  Unfortunately rescuing Princess Kelsey came at a ruinous price for their ship and now, not only do they not know how to get home – they also don’t have a ship to transport them even if they had the map they needed!

Fortunately the crew are nothing if not resilient and with the help of the scientists on the Science Vessel that Commander Mertz was accompanying they are able to start repairs to the massive Old Empire BattleCruiser – Courageous.  Courageous while not quite able to decimate the entire fleet of ships in the new Terran Empire would definitely give a good showing of herself in any battle!

Unfortunately not all is pristine as while initial impressions might have indicated a world truly united behind their monarch, in actuality it seems that there is some rot behind all the sweetness and light and a rebellion is brewing to not only remove the King, but also to capture Courageous too!

What I liked and didn’t like

The length is probably the biggest fault that I have with this book … it was way too short and could have easily been several hundred pages more.  In fact I know that the author is planning on at least four books in this universe, but based on the length of the three that I’ve read, the story could have probably fit into a trilogy instead.  While I realize that there is a logical end to this volume and similarly to the third, it just feels unfinished and I personally think that the previous volume could have incorporated some of the elements from this book and similarly this volume could have had parts of Book 3 included.

The second fault that I had is actually probably with the underlying driver of the book itself … in this book a huge plot point is the conspiracy to remove the King and take over the whole Kingdom, eliminating the Terran’s along the way and capturing Courageous in the process.  It really wasn’t necessary and it did absolutely nothing to progress the story at all.  If anything it felt like Mr. Mixon was told he needed to add internal conflict to the story simply to make it more palatable and as such it really felt shoehorned in.  I think a great example of how to do this correctly is Weber and his Safehold series.  While I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Weber is too wordy and Safehold seems to be going nowhere fast, if you have to have internal conflict and conspiracy – well he’s definitely the master there and knows how to build up to it and sell it well.

I know that it’s perhaps a bit unfair to focus on the negative, but in all honesty aside from my small gripes noted, I don’t really have anything else bad to say about this book or the series in general.  There are definitely some awesome action sequences – both ship to ship and hand-to-hand.  Princess Kelsey has definitely grown on me as a character and while she’s not yet my favorite, she’s coming awfully close!  In addition the whole galactic mystery itself seems even more convoluted than initially postulated and in fact the old Terran Empire might still – somehow – be around!  Added to that of course is the dropping of an asteroid on one of our key characters … well no-one said exploring in space is easy or safe!!

Overall I really enjoyed this book and while it didn’t surprise me as much as the initial (Empire of Bones) did, to some extent that’s because I know now what Terry is capable of.  I’d absolutely recommend this one if you enjoyed Discovery of the Saiph or even some of the better Ringo titles.  Its a good read and absolutely engaging.

It’s not often that I find a new author that I fall in love with from the first book.  In most cases while I enjoy their first novel I tend to leave the effusive words till I’ve read more and can truly comment on their qualities, however in this case I have to be quite vocal.  The Empire of Bones by Terry Mixon is an excellent novel, it has everything you could need/want in any Military SciFi book and in fact has quite a bit more that you might not expect!

With the fall of the Terran Empire in a vicious no holds barred rebellion that left trillions dead across the galaxy, the last Emperor’s son fled to a distant planet – Avalon – for succor.  Here he and his descendants eventually settled and created a new Terran Empire with the intent of taking back what they had lost and restoring the legacy of Empire to those planets that had been lost to the darkness.  However with a significant loss of technology and resources due to the rebellion and its aftermath, the return from the darkness was a long and arduous process and the new Fleet while steeped in the traditions of the valiant old guard has neither the technology, resources or knowledge required to retake what was once lost.  The battle to restore the Galactic Empire across all the stars will be long, vicious and violent.

With thanks to Peter Cooke and the awesome Google+ Community at Science ∧ Sci Fi ∧ Fantasy (Art)
With thanks to Peter Cooke and the awesome Google+ Community at Science ∧ Sci Fi ∧ Fantasy (Art)

The new Terran Empire however is not without its own problems and issues – primarily in the form of a Royal bastard & his disputes with the existing projeny of the Emperor.  While Jared Mertz (the Bastard) is blameless in both his conception and attitude, the prevailing thoughts of his peers in the Fleet and his step-siblings are that he is playing of his royal connections to advance himself.  While his step-sister is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – the more so when she learns that his intrusion into royal circles is due to her father’s insistence and not in fact her step-brothers – her own brother is not so lenient and determines that Jared will pay for the slur to the family name.

Jared is a commander in the reborn Terran Imperial Navy and while he is more than capable of a greater and more senior role, because of his family connections (discovered when he joined the force) he’s always been overlooked in perhaps a form of reverse favoritism to ensure that no hint of nepotism is attached to him.  However when he’s sent out on a solo command to explore flip points for new technology and signs of Earth, he ends up saddled with his step-sister also.  While she’s along as the deputy ambassador on the mission, this role changes quickly into something quite a bit more serious when her mentor and the actual mission ambassador is found murdered in his apartment.

Exploring through a “weak” flip point they find themselves hundreds of light years away from home and without a way back as their maps do not include any information for this sector of space.  However when they come across a derelict craft from the old Empire, that is just the start of their true adventure and the real beginning to this story!

What I liked and didn’t like

Overall a really quick and easy read without too much in the way of grandiose world shattering conclusions or ideas.  While there are many books that explore brand new terrain, this is not one of them – most of the ideas used here have been used before, but that’s not always a bad thing when its done right and in this case that’s absolutely the case.  Jared Mertz and Princess Kelsey are both extremely likable characters and the gradual thawing out in their relationship is very easy to understand and believe.

I didn’t initially understand how a galaxy spanning empire could be taken out so quickly, nor did I grasp how there could be a total loss of information – not only in terms of technology but also maps and other resources.  How could only one scion survive and all the other elements of the greatest space navy be destroyed, but as the story progressed this started to make sense and I actually really liked the way Mr. Mixon explained it all.  Not only was he able to describe how this could happen he also put into words the pain, fear and agony of this galaxy spanning conflagration and really made me feel it.

While there are definite elements of Lost in Space and other Space Opera here, it flows really well and the enemy is not only ruthless and vicious they are also almost unstoppable.  The overall pace of the book is super tight and there is little if any wasted space here.  When it gets “real” you really feel for the characters and they are definitely not two dimensional at all.  This is one that I have absolutely zero fears in recommending and I only wish I’d read it myself prior to posting about my Top Kindle Unlimited posts as this would have definitely been included on that list!