“Kendro, king of the Aonise, watched as his nemesis, Dalamaar, and
his second, Trax, stormed away down the ship's corridor. The encounter
left the breath thin in his lungs, and a sour taste rose in his mouth. This
had been much more than a personal attack. If only he'd not been left
alone, but circumstances with Chace and Taliri had not allowed his usual
guard to be there.
“Dalamaar's words echoed in his mind, I thought it was time you met the
next King. And what really injured the most—if your wife weren't pregnant, I
would crush you now. But, Dalamaar needed Kendro to do all the negotiating
work on Earth.”
The above first paragraphs from Dawn Chapman’s First Contact, volume two of her Secret King series, drops readers immediately into the action with no preliminaries and economically tells us about a central conflict to follow. From that point on, we’re on a roller-coaster ride that doesn’t let up until the appendices.
For roughly two-thirds of the book, we’re given two main parallel story lines. One deals with the Aonise, an alien race on a spaceship carrying 2 million survivors from their doomed home world. Kendro, King of the Aonise, hopes our earth will offer his people a peaceful place to settle. At the same time, earth’s leaders worry about what a race of aliens will bring us. So we witness a spaceship full of aliens divided over what to do on earth and humans divided over what sort of reception to give them.
The parallel plots are shown in character interactions mirrored in both settings. For example, we see aliens and humans in hospital rooms in dire circumstances both in the spaceship and in England, the main earth setting where the Prime Minister is eager to find a way for peaceful co-existence. In both settings, romances are sparked, blossom, and face bumpy roads. Aliens and humans clearly have much in common.
Chapman is especially good at crafting a large cast of sympathetic, three-dimensional characters resulting in a number of plots and subplots. It’s often pointless trying to determine just who is a main and who is a supporting player as so many storylines are woven together in an epic going back-and-forth between people and aliens. Chapman is vividly descriptive with her aliens who look very human except for their colorful “birthmarks” that illustrate their bodies. Each of them has a “Croex” with varying degrees of energy and power. These “croexes” bind the aliens together spiritually and provide metaphysical threads that can cure or protect.
First Contact can’t be considered “hard science fiction” as the emphasis is on the characters and situations, not plausible scientific explanations for anything. There’s considerable metaphysical use of the “Croexes” as well as prophetic dreams that can reach over time and space. These powers worry Kendro who wants these abilities used as little as possible so not to enflame the passions of earthers already fearful of sharing their land with all these strange new immigrants.
Chapman has been dwelling in the realm of The Secret King at least since 2005 when she wrote scripts for a proposed 13 episode series on British TV. In September 2015, volume one, The Secret King, Lethao, was published. In July 2016, two novellas appeared as audiobooks, The Truth Hurts and Bree’s Results. At the end of First Contact, Chapman makes it clear a sequel is in the pipeline as well as a Secret King anthology.
So if you’re captivated by the tapestry of Chapman’s characters, there are previous works to enjoy and delights to anticipate. I can’t remember aliens I’ve liked as much as the Aonise. I’d welcome many of them as neighbors.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com at: