This is a review for the second book in a series. You can read the review for the first book here.
Genre: science fiction: space opera
Pairings: nonbinary/f, nonbinary/m
Queer Representation: nonbinary
Warnings: violence, gore
The attack did not stop at nightfall. The sunset truce lay shattered, the hour of the goddess defiled.
Dalí is once again tapped to play negotiator in this action-packed sequel to DALÍ. Recalled from their undercover op by the Remoliad security council, Dalí is asked to look into events related to Ursetu’s emergency petition to join the Reoliad. Their crown princess has died, leaving only the queen and grandson alive. Her death is deemed an attack by the Shontavians–genetically engineered mercenaries considered nonsentient by their creators.
Was it a directed killing or a botched group assignation? Was the Shontavian breeding and engineering facility attacked as well, or did the creatures plan their own escape? Either way, Shontavians are on the loose, a monarchy’s line of ascension is in trouble, and Dalí seems to the only negotiator anyone can agree on.
Dalí, unfortunately, is still battling personal demons. They’re back on their addictive vape, which almost cost a friend their life. They’re still haunted by the murder of their husband and wife. Rage comes so, so easily to them, as does passion. But compassion, both to themself and those around them, is a skill Dalí must learn if they are to negotiate for the royal line and the Shontavian, who are much, much more than they seem.
Fans of sci-fi action, bio-engineering morality questions, and fast pacing will enjoy PEACEMAKER. Readers are thrust directly into the action that does not let up until the end, journeying from mines to addition, to violent fights, to passionate alley sex.
Although technically a space opera, the book paces more as military sci fi, with little time spent on character development (relying on book one’s work) and focusing almost solely on plot. It is for this reason that I failed to connect as deeply with PEACEMAKER as I did with DALÍ. There’s action, yes, and politics, yes, but the heart seemed to be missing that had so entranced me in book one. Dalí doesn’t connect so much as they fight–everything–which is plot relevant but also not a strong way to hook readers looking for sympathetic protagonists.
The biggest emotional connections come from the Shontavians and the complexity of their bioengineering. Their development, history, and mythology are breathtaking both in simplicity and effect. Their training will crush you. Their dreams will destroy you. How Dalí negotiates for them, and their eventual solution, is both perfect and deeply moving.
E.M. Hamill’s trademark humor is still present in PEACEMAKER, though somewhat more buried:
“You get off on this, don’t you?” I accused her.
“I want your body. For experiments, anyway. Shut up and close your eyes.”
And of course, the representation presented by Dalí, of a blend between intersex and nonbinary (Dalí can change their sexual anatomy and hormone profile at will, which drags their gender along with it. This makes them both gender fluid and sex fluid, though Dalí identifies as third gender, and defaults to a sexless state when among friends) is very well done:
In the warmth and vibration, I shuddered as the last of the physical characteristics I’d adapted to pass as male shifted back into my neutral, sexless state. My crewmates didn’t expect me to assume a gender, something for which I remained grateful. Without hormone stimulation to drive the change, the process was more painful, and my shoulders complained against the grind of bone and muscle.
As an intersex person with hormone fluctuations that physically impact how my body showcases my secondary (and sometimes primary) sex characteristics, I found Dalí’s explanations of the hormone surges and accompanying body changes very relatable (though of course extended out for sci fi), and appreciated how the mental gender moved but didn’t necessarily change as a result. For that reason alone, this book is an excellent read. Representation matters, and there is too little in the intersex world, especially at the intersection of intersex and nonbinary.