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“The Secret King: Lethao” by Dawn Chapman

26220955THEIR SUN is dying, and Kendro, King of the Aonise, has to evacuate his people from their planet. With merely a handful of ships and resources, the Aonise take off into space, in search of a new home. A space opera, brimful of battles, futuristic technology, and an epic plot, The Secret King: Letháo is the beginning of a beautiful saga.

There are plenty of wonderful things to say about this novel, but for me, the world-building of the Anoise was the most interesting. We get tantalizing tidbits of their biology and psychology throughout the novel, and the following is the best I was able to piece together, but is by no means canon.

The Anoise’s life forces are full of light, or croex, and the brilliant color seeps through their skin in an almost artful pattern. They are connected to each other through this light, and one of the reasons Kendro is king, is because he connects to them all. Their croex also has a power, or energy, which they can harness, sometimes randomly, and often to their own peril.

For an empathic people, the Anoise are often hard on each other, enforcing harsh discipline. They have a strict hierarchy, and won’t think twice about pushing a broken soldier to keep fighting to their death against their alien enemy. They are also oddly complacent. Their planet is dying, falling apart all around them, and quite a few of them take their time, gathering their possessions from their old homes/lives. One of our characters is also aware of two people who would want him dead, but he chooses to spend time with them, vulnerable. To explain these observations, I’d hazard a guess that the Anoise believe in fate, and part of their life’s purpose is to accept their place in the galaxy, which some do with more grace than others.

Perhaps also due to their empathic abilities, the Anoise often feel sick. Their croex is the center of their health, and whenever it’s in danger, they are in danger. As I said, they are a very interesting people, and while not everything is fully explained about their abilities, I am looking forward to the next books to illuminate some of the mysteries.

As for character, Kendro starts out as the protagonist in the first part of the book, and initially seems to have the most conflict, with the weight of his entire culture on his shoulders. However, we eventually enter another’s head, the one who carries most of the story for the rest of the book: Octav Brodi, Ainoren of the fleet.

Octav’s story is the most LGBTQ+ of any of them—if there is such a thing in Anoise culture. I can’t decide if Octav’s conflict with loving another man is because he is married, and is expected to provide the bereft culture with heirs, or if he is unsettled because of his idea of his fate, and feels he may be pushing his own destiny harder than he deems prudent. Either way, Octav has some tough choices ahead, and I do not envy him, but I am interested to see how he handles himself.

If you like Star Wars, or other space operas, you’ll love The Secret King: Lethao. One of the fun facts about this book is that it was apparently originally designed as a screenplay, which makes perfect sense, because the dialog is done so well. I also enjoyed the veiled mystery of the plot, the characters, and the worldbuilding—Chapman masters intrigue.

Chapman has a blog and website, where she talks in depth about the TSK, and blogs about everything from her struggles to her joys—one of her pleasures being her koi. Visit her at: http://kanundra.com/


 

B. A. Brock is a reviewer for DSP and QSF. He enjoys reading, writing, running, family and food, and fills his life with bent bunk. He especially loves to discuss LGBTQ+ literature. His website is http://www.babrockbooks.com. You can find him on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BABrockBooks.

 

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