Before I dig in, I should warn you: If you haven’t read this series, you might want to just read the next paragraph or two. I can’t guarantee that I won’t inadvertently reveal something about books one and two in this review. But if you haven’t read this series I’m left to wonder…What are you waiting for? Get your hands on a copy of Grimspace and I promise you, you won’t look back.
Why? Well, since you asked…
What marks this series as excellent is the complexity of character, and I’m not just talking about Jax, though she is arguably a wonderful mess of a woman, a contradiction of strength and insecurity that infuriates and soothes because, I think, there are sides of her that are recognizable to most anyone. But no, not just her; the others that form her inner circle each have their own issues and demons, lashing out, reigning in, and generally poking and prodding the reader into feeling for them. Plus, there’s the fact that Ann Aguirre tells a good story, plain and simple. So definitely do yourself a favor by letting Sirantha Jax take you full speed into Grimspace.
Now, on to Doubleblind.
When I finished Wanderlust my stomach was twisted up in knots. March had tunneled back into darkness after immersing himself in Keri’s war, Jax was torn up, steeling herself for a fight or the loss of another loved one, not to mention that their world was coming to pieces at the hands of the Morgut and, surprisingly, someone much, much closer to Jax. I was eager and hesitant at the same time to start Doubleblind. But once I turned that first page, I was in, and it was a wonderful ride that kept me up until 2:00 am reading.
I’ve said in the past, and actually just now, that I have much love for the characters of this world. But the one that I failed to mention before now is actually one of my favorites: Vel. This book sends Jax on an ambassadorial mission to Vel’s home planet, Ithiss-Tor, where one wrong move could see her entire crew sent to the mines or, more likely, killed. Now, Jax is a speak first, think later type of girl in most situations, but the weight of responsibility is finally settling on her shoulders, forcing her to take her role seriously. This means learning about Ithtorian culture in order to avoid accidental insult. Vel proves to be invaluable, of course, but not just because Ithiss-Tor was once his home. No, this book illuminates the development of Jax and Vel’s friendship, and I soaked up every moment between them.
There are so many exchanges between Jax and Vel I could choose to quote, but I’m going with this one, one because I think it’s beautiful, but two because I was also intrigued by Ithtorian customs, such as bowing or offering a wa.
In a reflex that’s become second nature, I greet Vel with a warm, affectionate wa, layered from the angle of my head to the fold of my fingers behind the slant of my forearm. This time I know exactly what I’m saying:
Brown bird welcomes white wave. Wander no more, dear traveler.
Vel pauses so long that I think I got it wrong. Then he returns the greeting with heartbreaking sincerity. Brown bird honors white wave. The sea ever seeks the shore. Something tells me the chip is incapable of processing the nuances, but I can read between the lines. I’m pretty sure he’s telling me he feels at home with me, and I could never seek a higher compliment.
See? My heart was in my throat so many times. And not just because of these two because, well, there’s still March.
He’s not the same March, obviously, but we learn more about what he’s going through, and we see Jax’s determination to hold fast and fix him. Theirs is a relationship I can get behind fully because they’re willing to fight for each other, with each other, and their understanding of each other is uncanny. This part of the storyline is an emotional live wire, trust me.
And if that’s not enough…There’s diplomacy, threats, strange foods, tight caves, and just about anything else you could want. All in all, Doubleblind was a fantastic installment in the series, and while being immensely satisfying it still left me wanting more in the best possible way.