narfna’s #CBR5 Review #59: Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

doubleOkay, this book delivers on the promise I saw when I read Grimspace a couple of weeks ago. Wanderlust was kind of a mess, but I’m glad I stuck with this series, because Aguirre’s writing has improved by light-years just in the space of three books (I think at this point she had also starting writing one of her other series, so she was getting in A LOT of writing in a short period of time — practice makes perfect, and such). Unless this book is a fluke, of course, but I don’t think that’s likely.

Doubleblind (not sure why it’s called that, kinda driving me crazy), unlike Wanderlust and even Grimspace, has a tight, focused plot. Jax and her crew arrive at Ithiss Tor on a diplomatic mission, and if they don’t succeed, the human race is pretty much doomed. The Ithtorians are crucial in defending human civilization from the vicious aliens, the Morgut, who see humans as yummy snacks, but have historically feared the Ithtorians, whose blood is poison to them. Jax’s friendship with Ithorian outcast, Vel, makes her uniquely qualified among humans to negotiate the peace and bring the two races together as allies, but she’s got her work cut out for her, to say the least. The Ithtorians are isolationists in the extreme, having cut off contact with the rest of the universe 200 years before, and most of them are xenophobes. Jax has to not only navigate the tricky terrain of learning Ithtorian culture and how to be a diplomat (hint: no shooting), but she has to do it all without starting a galactic incident. All the while she has to deal with her lover, an extremely PTSD Marsh, whose trigger-happy presence could easily start said galactic incident.

I loved this book. Of course, I love these kinds of stories. Cultural differences, bridging gaps, conspiracies, aliens and spaceships, diplomacy, murder . . it’s good stuff. But this was also just a really good book. Having it set in one place did wonders for Aguirre’s writing, gave it purpose and focus, and she lent a bit of that to her characters. Jax has character growth up the wazoo, her relationship with Marsh in this is really good (if a bit intense), and her friendship with Vel is just great. And it was so much fun watching her navigate the tricky terrain of Ithtorian society, and yes, win the day. Really excited about reading the rest of the series now.

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