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Reviewed by Matt Lebois for Readers' Favorite
Barons of Oartheca is an ambitious genre-blending space adventure, the second book in James Siewert’s Oarthecan Star Saga, and the merest taste of it will compel you to seek out the first book with haste. It launches into action at lightspeed with a vicious alien assault and kidnapping of the first main character: Toar, one of the bear-like humanoid race of Oarthecans who will fascinate readers on this journey. Toar’s main goal is protecting and rescuing the titular Barons, the physically weaker breeding-class members of this all-male race, from the dominating, insectoid Pryok’tel and other extraterrestrial hazards. Meanwhile, Rowland Hale, human rogue space captain and cybernetic hacker, risks interstellar warfare as he leads his crew on his own perilous mission to rescue Toar, the man-bear he loves against all odds.
I was continually entranced by the well-thought-out complexities of Oarthecan society, a mammalian eusocial race with a rich culture guided by its biology, history, and spirituality, and how these factors interacted with the impossible romance between Rowland and Toar. I loved the intelligent design that went into crafting every species, technology, and character to create a believable, living universe. The detailed and cohesive science fiction elements are balanced so well with the honest, heartfelt, and hot M/M xeno-romance that the book is utterly unique. Both sides of this genre mashup are treated with utter seriousness without ever losing sight of the fun, joy, and hope inherent in each. James Siewert's Barons of Oartheca is a smart solarpunk explicit romance; it’s a deep alien ethnographic study wrapped in a rollicking space adventure; it’s a shining example of authentic and hopeful sci-fi for open-minded modern readers.