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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Dark Skies: Storm Knight I by Zachary Watson is the first in what appears to be a science fiction series featuring a human young woman Ashe’lori. Although human, Ashe was raised in a Trachon birthing facility where she adapted to Trachon ways and language, never having contact with other humans. She was well accepted by her Trachon pack mates but when she turned fifteen Ashe was forced out of the facility and conscripted into the Imperial Forces, as required by law. With an inquisitive and inquiring nature, her dream was to ultimately join the Empire’s Intelligence Forces. Her first contacts with the Empire’s divisions were disastrous, with her seemingly unable to fit in with other members of her new packs and upsetting them with her investigations of corruption within the Empire’s ranks. A series of demerits and forced transfers meant Ashe struggled to find her place. She hoped her latest transfer to a mixed-race colony on Oshflara would finally allow her to find a home and pack mates who liked and understood her. The fact that humans were also present on Oshflara might also finally allow her to connect with her species. Despite their initial reservations, her new pack did welcome and embrace her and, for a while, all seemed to finally be working out before Ashe’s ever-inquisitive nature would get the better of her.
Dark Skies is a fun read and the type of science fiction I appreciate - light on high-tech and futuristic wizardry and heavy on character and story. Zachary Watson has created a wonderful personality in Ashe that many readers will instantly identify with. She is different from those around her and that makes for suspicion. Metaphorically, Ashe straddles two worlds, human and Trachon, with neither of them fully embracing or accepting her. Many readers will readily identify with the bullying and judgment that can accompany anyone different trying desperately to fit in. I enjoyed the relationship between Ashe and her lover, Fyth, and was intrigued by the idea of inter-species relationships and couldn’t help but wonder about the mechanics of the whole process. I particularly liked the loyalty dilemmas Ashe was frequently faced with. She sought to balance her natural inquisitiveness and her moral code against her low rank, lack of authority and power, as well as the express wishes of her pack mates who demanded and expected total loyalty and obedience. This was an easy and enjoyable book that anyone who has ever been bullied or made to feel inferior simply because they were different will enjoy. The story is well set up in the finale for the next iteration of Ashe’s journey in the Imperial Forces and I am looking forward to Book II. I can highly recommend this fascinating read.