Pen & Pagan Book Reviews

The teaser for this book hooked me. I picked it up and started reading. I did not research the author, or the book itself, as I probably should have. I simply sat down and read the whole novel, pretty much without stopping, except to feed the family and other impossible-to-ignore requirements. It was a wonderful science-fiction adventure, brim-full of politics, military action, and romance. I was so sorry to see it end, that upon reaching the conclusion, I immediately dove into the internet looking for more. I was thrilled to find another book in the series, as well as a third book by the author, both of which look very promising. I have bought, and shall happily start reading, all of Mr. Tolan’s books … probably as soon as I am done writing this review.

“Rogue Dancer” is actually the second book of its series. The first book is “Blade Dancer”, a 2009 Eppie Award finalist, and it looks like a grand adventure by itself. I usually feel cheated when I find that I’ve carelessly read serial books out of order, but not this time. “Rogue Dancer” stands on its own solidly. Bits of the past were folded into this story in a way that was seamless, and not at all distracting. I read the recent history as it was meant; as a foundation to the people and world. I didn’t get the impression that I was being fed a quick and dirty recap of the last episode. I honestly did not realize I was reading a sequel.

Mikial is a female leader in a military caste on a world where the citizens are literally born to fit a specialty. Meaning, they are genetically predisposed to fill certain roles – healing, communication, technical, and military. In their past, a non-talented servant caste was created, and abused, which is the primary cause of continued internal strife. This conflict was the basis of a recent civil war, part of the story from the first book, which was further inflamed by interference from space-faring, meddlesome humans. These tensions continue in “Rogue Dancer”. After surviving a difficult biological transformation that occurs in certain individuals who are destined to be leaders of their race, Mikial is again dealing with political upheavals that threaten her people with chaos. Facing prejudice and selfish treachery, she must fight to unite the nations of her world, as well as protect them all from extra-terrestrial dangers. Her political and diplomatic abilities are further tested by the introduction of a second alien race that has its own issues with human invaders. Mikial is the focus of this book, but she is surrounded by a multitude of very likable – or detestable, in the case of the enemy types – well-rounded supporting characters. I find myself wanting to know more of the hinted at side-stories and the histories of other personalities, and I do not believe these two books will be enough for me!

Mr. Tolan has done a wonderful job with the world he created for this series. It was steeped in a sense of deep history and detailed culture and I am amazed that he managed to fit so much into an average length novel. He painted vivid scenery and described, without seeming to describe, a mental eye-full of alien technology, and the old and new structures and cities visited in the story. Mr. Tolan also knows military. I’m an Army veteran and can honestly say that I’ve served with some of his characters, minus, of course, the space travel and their alien nature. Mikial’s race is handled deftly. The author brings them to exotic life. He makes the reader understand who they are, why they fight, what they think, how they love, and why they dance, all without interfering with his telling of the story. The culture has its own racial and caste complexity, as well as distinct gender roles, and again, we get all this detail without being taken away from the plot. Beautifully done!

I look forward to reading the two books, “Blade Dancer” and “Rogue Dancer”, in the order intended. I do not actually need to re-read the second book, but I will gladly do so as it is worth re-visiting a time or three. If there are more tales to be told about these people and of this world, I’ll read them too (Big hint Mr. Tolan! Please?). I also look forward to reading “Waiting Weapon”, a third book I found on the author’s website. Mr. Kerry Tolan is a talented storyteller, and I cannot wait to see what he creates next.

Pagan Elements:None

Cover (Rated 1-10): 9 – I like the colors and overall artwork. The cover is eye-catching and it fits the genre and this story. The font is great too. The woman’s pose is awkward. The character is supposed to be a strong, alien, warrior and dancer, but my arm hurts in sympathy for the position of her shoulder.

Reviewed by: C. LaForce