The Skypirate, by Justine Davis

>> Thursday, August 04, 2005

After finishing Justine Davis' Lord of the Storm, I went and splurged on a copy of the sequel, The Skypirate. I was really curious to see how Davis was going to redeem Califa, who's pretty horrific in LOTS.

He is Dax, the skypirate hunted to the ends of the universe by the cruel interstellar Coalition. He has survived the destruction of his planet, but he can't escape the demons haunting his soul - or the allure of the woman captive who wears the notorious golden slave collar.

She is Captain Califa Claxton, once the Coalition's top battle strategist. Only a great cosmic irony has her rescued by Dax, the Coaltion's deadliest enemy. Although she knows secrets that can make him triumphant, he possesses the collar controller which can break her will. But his touch alone arouses her passion.

If she can gain his trust, a chance to destroy the Coalition together awaits them among the stars. And in the white heat of their explosive union a new bond may be forged - souls joined by a magnificent love!
On its own right, The Skypirate is a good read. Compared to LOTS, however, and given my expectations for it, I can't help but be a bit disappointed with it. It's a B read, but please forgive me if my review centers on what I found lacking about it.

My main problem was with how Califa was redeemed. Ok, I totally bought that this Califa was a completely different person to the one she'd been in LOTS, but maybe that was because she was a completely different person? I just couldn't see anything of the old Califa here, other than certain skills and knowledge.

Maybe if Davis had shown us her mental process, but no, when the book starts, Califa has been a slave for a year already, and her change of heart about the Coalition and its methods is pretty much complete. There is no actual process of change, no increasing realization that the system she had mindlessly upheld was corrupt and wrong.

And another thing, I just couldn't get over the fact that until Califa was put in the humiliating position of being a slave, there was never even a glimmer of suspicion in her that there might be something wrong with this system. Ok, all right, it's harder to see the flaws in a system from the inside, blah, blah, blah, but I'm sorry, it takes no courage to decide slavery is wrong when you've been made to feel what being a slave really means. Even the action that brought Califa's downfall, her refusal to betray Shaylah's identity, didn't come as a protest against this, but was a result of her feelings for Shaylah. I can understand why Califa became who she was as Major Califa Claxton, but doesn't mean I admire her for it.

Another problem was that, for someone who's been a slave for an entire year (an entire YEAR of being constantly mind-raped and mistreated!), Califa seems to have awfully few lasting psychological issues. There were a couple of days of being hesitant to ask any questions, of being a bit unprepossesing, but pretty soon, Califa is right as rain again. Softer and kinder than she once was, sure, but no problems at all. She doesn't even have any problems at all in climbing into bed with Dax.

Other than Califa's change of heart, my main problem was with the last pages, once the action moves to Trios. Just like Califa did, Wolf seemed to have undergone personality-replacement surgery since the end of LOTS. His self-righteous, hysterical overreaction to what Dax had been doing wasn't like the old Wolf at all, and that travesty of a trial... oh, please!

Number 1: If you're forced to put your best friend on trial, shouldn't you at least try to ascertain the truth about what exactly he did? Sure, Dax was behaving like an idiot and not saying a word, but there's no indication that Wolf even tried to speak to someone else. Maybe not Califa (though for his best friend, I still say he should have talked even to this woman he hated), but Rina? Or any of the Triotians he'd rescued? And number 2: that ending with everyone cheering the betrothal was so out of place!

I know, I said it above, all this grousing doesn't sound like a B review. Well, there was a lot I liked, too. First of all, this type of futuristic is something I've a weakness for, so right there, there was a lot of enjoyment for me.

I also adored Dax. The guy was a real sweetie, a tortured hero who didn't take out his emotional angst on people. Instead, he developed a kind of hero complex, all the while taking insane risks with his life, a life he felt he didn't have a right to. I loved how, even when he thinks the absolute worst of Califa, he is absolutely incapable of doing even a tenth of what the Coalition would do. He just can't kill his tenderness and caring for her.

And Califa, if you ignore all I mention above, is actually a very decent kind of heroine. Smart, resourceful, sensible and a lion when it comes to defending the man she's come to love.

Even though I did enjoy this one, it came nowhere near to how much I liked LOTS.

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