Desert World Allegiances is the first book in a two book series by Lyn Gala. The science fiction world is very well developed, even if based off a familiar premise of terraforming a new planet. The characters in this first book are pretty immature and they honestly drove me nuts. While I really quite enjoyed the writing and world building, I disliked almost every single one of the actual characters. This does give them room to change and grow but since this is just the first book, they don’t actually make that big of a change in the space provided so it’s more of an interesting idea that I’m waiting to see how it ends.
The story starts with the main protagonist Temar Grazer and his sister snooping on a neighbor’s property. Their incompentance leads to a horrific water accident on a world that needs every single drop. Due to the amount of water wasted both Temar and his sister are both sentenced to ten years of slavery in punishment for their deeds. Temar is sold to what seems like a kind neighbor but who turns out to be a nightmare. Temar’s only hope is the local priest, Shan, who is not the best priest and dealing with his own demons.
First off the world building is really stunning in this book. The desolate world where water is essential is well crafted. The sand dunes, the general low level desperation, the feeling of isolation from anything they knew or were told to expect all combine to create a complex and compelling backdrop to the story. The concept of terraforming a new planet going badly, which leads to almost colonial conditions is not a necessarily a new idea or innovative concept. It’s pretty standard for science fiction but the story is interesting anyway. It adds a few good twists such as the slavery for punishment angle. Again this isn’t very new or original but it’s not sexual and instead strictly a way to maintain civility and sharing in a cut off world.
While the writing is very good and the world building as intricate and complicated as it’s needed, the characters and plot are where the story stumbles for me. For starters the plot is very basic and doesn’t really come together until the very end. There is a complaint about stolen water, a huge thing on their planet, but this takes almost the entirety of the book to understand exactly what is going on. Instead the first part sets up Temar’s immature actions, repeatedly, and lands both him and his sister in pretty bad slavery. The rest of the plot is taken up with pretty long asides, such as Shan’s journey in the desert, their hiding, and the resolution. It’s not a bad pace but it does tend to be slightly choppy.
Additionally the characters just flat out drove me nuts. I didn’t like a single one except perhaps Naite towards the end and he’s anything but a sympathetic character. Temar and Shan are the main protagonists and the love interests but they come across as very immature, weak, and damaged. Now I do love a damaged man with some angst that finally grows up and heals but unfortunately all that happens in the first book is that we learn the pretty deep extent that both men are damaged. The real resolution and growth is lacking, supposedly to take place in the second book, so I guess I just have to be patient for the characters to redeem themselves. In the meantime they simply made me want to throw the book with their actions time and again.
So really this is a book I’m torn on. I think the writing is very good and the world building fascinating. The story managed to keep my attention for long stretches based on the writing and science fiction aspects alone. Unfortunately the characters have to act or speak sometime and that would always renew my frustrations with them and make me not really want to read the book. I think it’s a decent first book but likely needs the second book to let the characters grow and become better men to really satisfy within the story arc. I’m not sure where else this world can go, plot based that is, as the world is pretty simplistic and works that way. I’m definitely going to read the sequel so I can see where Temar and Shan go from here so I cautiously recommend this one. I like the world building a lot but the characters need the sequel to satisfy as a romance.