I recently came across an ebook fantasy/scifi series by Michael R. Hicks titled In Her Name. The story is that of humans versus Kreelans, a blue-colored cat- and human-like race whose members are connected to each other through “blood song” and who do everything in the name of their empress.
Currently, there are five ebooks in the series, with a sixth book due in fall 2011. The books, in the author’s recommended reading order, are:
- In Her Name: Empire
- In Her Name: Confederation
- In Her Name: Final Battle
- In Her Name: First Contact
- In Her Name: Legend of the Sword
- In Her Name: Dead Soul (coming in fall 2011)
The first book in the series, Empire, is available free at Smashwords.
I admit I was perplexed by the author’s recommended reading order as the fourth book, First Contact, really is the beginning of the story. The explanation I received when I inquired was that the author had written the first three books — Empire, Confederation, and Final Battle — and was then asked by fans for more, which led to the Star Wars imitation ordering. Regardless, the books are certainly readable and enjoyable in the recommended sequence, and I am anxiously awaiting Dead Soul.
As readers of An American Editor know, book reviews are intermittent and then only of those books I consider to be the better indie books I have come across (although occasionally I do review some of the worst), that is, indie books that are 5-star or 5+-star rated. (For star definitions, see On Books: Indie eBooks Worth Reading (I).) Overall, the In Her Name series is a 5-star series.
The books are well written and the characters are interesting. (One error that did stand out as a sore thumb, however, was the use of Forward for Foreword. The homonym gremlin strikes yet again!) I found myself becoming increasingly absorbed in the emotional and physical transformation of the lead character, Reza Gard (i.e., lead character of books 1, 2, and 3 of the recommended reading sequence), from human to Kreelan, which occurs in the trilogy.
Also of interest is the ever-evolving view of humans by Tesh-Dar, the high priestess of the Kreelans, and the Kreelans in general. First viewed as soulless animals because their blood doesn’t sing, humans earn the respect of teh Kreelans and rise, especially when Reza Gard’s blood begins to sing and the Kreelans can “hear” it. This evolution does carry on throughout all of the books.
The story revolves around a 100,000-year-old Kreelan prophecy that condemned male Kreelans to procreation followed immediately by an agonizing death, which had the effect of creating a female-dominant warrior society in which males have no role (because of the curse) outside propagation of the Kreelans. At the beginning of the First Empire, which is the empire in which the In Her Name series takes place, a series of events lead to the first empress cursing her people but offering a way to remove that curse. The story chronicles broadly the centuries-old search for the prophesied male whose actions will lift that curse, but focuses on “current” events in the search for that male.
To lift the curse, a male who is not born a Kreelan but whose blood “sings” like a Kreelan’s blood must be found. To find that person, the Kreelan Empire goes to war with sentient races that it comes in contact with, looking for both worthy opponents and the singing blood. The war is to the death and prior to the current century-old war with humans (i.e., by the time of In Her Name: Empire the war with humans is 100 years old), multiple sentient races have been annihilated because their blood didn’t sing. Now it is humans who face extinction unless they are found to have a “soul,” that is, their blood “sings.”
Interestingly, although the Kreelans are significantly more techologically advanced than humans and could wipe out humans with ease, the Kreelans prefer to fight one-on-one and with a level playing field. Consequently, they determine where in the technological continuum humans are and “degrade” their own capabilities so that the humans have at best a slight advantage and at worst equality with the Kreelans. The fighting is for the honor of the empress, not merely to exterminate a sentient race.
Enough of the story. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy fantasy/scifi and well-constructed alien civilizations, then Michael Hicks’ In Her Name series is an excellent read. Even if you don’t normally read fantasy/scifi, you may find this series enjoyable. The author does delve, although perhaps not as deeply as he could have or should have, into what honor means and how it can play a role in the clash of civilizations. The first book, Empire, is free, and the other books in the series are reasonably priced at $2.99. Even before I finished reading Empire, I bought the other four available ebooks — I found that I wanted to continue reading the story without interruption. (My biggest disappointment is that I need to wait for the sixth book’s release! Hopefully I will remember to buy it when it is released. This is one of the problems with series that are published independently; one can’t preorder and if the wait is too long between books, there is a tendency to forget both the author and the series because the reader has moved on.)
Hicks has an excellent grasp of drama, along with excellent story-telling skills. His books are generally grammar and spelling error-free so the reader is not distracted while reading the story (the notable exception being the Forward/Foreword error noted earlier). Hicks has imbued the characters with believable traits; it is easy to believe that a sentient race like the Kreelans exist, just as it is easy to believe that the lead human characters are people we all know. His characterizations involve the reader, but don’t quite cross that emotional barrier that absorbs the reader in a character-driven work. These books are more predominantly plot-driven, which is why remembering to buy the forthcoming book may be problematic. (For a discussion of approaches, see On Books: Plot-Driven, Character-Driven, Hybrid? For a discussion of approaches and the difficulty of being remembered, see On Books: Plot, Character, Hybrid & the Long Tail.)
If you are looking for a well-written, engaging, “short” series to read, give In Her Name a try. You certainly have nothing to lose with the first book being free, and the first three books — the trilogy of Empire, Confederation, and Final Battle — stand on their own; the other three books, the prequels, do not need to be read to understand or appreciate the trilogy.