Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review of Doubleblind

Doubleblind is the third book in the Jax series by Ann Aguirre. This romantic space opera series should definitely be read in order - Grimspace, then Wanderlust, and finally this book. The fourth book, Killbox, is scheduled for release in October 2010, and there are supposed to be six books total.

Note: There are spoilers for the previous book in the plot description. If you haven't read the first two books and want to avoid spoilers but still want to hear some about the book/series, skip past the part of this review above the horizontal line. Everything below the line is safe.

Sirantha Jax now finds herself in one of the most precarious situations yet - as a diplomat to Ithiss-Tor, a planet inhabited by a bug-like race of aliens who despise humans. If Jax does not succeed in procuring an agreement with the Ithtorians, all of humanity will pay the price for her failure. More and more human settlements have been attacked by the Morgut race of aliens, and the only way they can think of to protect themselves is to get the Ithtorians, whom the Morgut respect and fear, on their side. Since Jax is in the unique position of being the only human to befriend an Ithtorian (the bounty hunter Vel who once tried to kill her), she was chosen to represent humanity with Vel's assistance as a guide and translator.

Meanwhile, Jax must also contend with the problem of March, who has still not recovered from the war he fought in the previous book. Ever since then, he's been ready to kill anything that moves, and he no longer feels anything for Jax although he sticks with her because he can remember caring for her once. Jax refuses to give up on him and keeps him as part of her entourage even though she worries he may go crazy and jeopardize their mission. Instead of having to do one impossible task, she has determined to do two - secure an alliance with the Ithtorians and fix whatever is wrong with March.



Ever since I first read Grimspace shortly after it came out, Ann Aguirre has become an auto-buy author for me. The moment one of her books comes out I run to the bookstore and buy it. Actually, that's not quite true - ever since I discovered books are sometimes on the shelves before their release date, I've tried to find her books a little early. I was so excited about Doubleblind that I looked for it three times in the same week and was rewarded by finding it one week early. As soon as I finished the book I was reading at the time, I started Doubleblind (which is rare for me as I tend to have book ADHD when it comes to what to read next).

This series appeals to me because they are fast-paced, entertaining, and have some great characters that I really enjoy reading about. Sometimes they are humorous, other times they are touching and they are always pure fun. They keep a great balance between character development/relationships and a plot that moves at a pretty good clip. Plus they are relatively short and easy to read (while I love long books, sometimes it's nice to read something that isn't going to take me more than 2 or 3 days to get through).

This newest novel was a little slower paced at the beginning and a bit harder to get hooked on than the previous two books for me. As with the previous book, the first chapter was largely summary of who everyone was and where the book had left off, but I was still completely unable to put the previous installment down by chapter 3. Although I did get to the point of not wanting to put this one down as well, it did take a bit longer than normal compared to the other books in the series.

Doubleblind was less action-packed than the previous books and more about politics and diplomacy, which I rather enjoyed once it did get going. One of my favorite types of space opera is the type in which a different people or species with a very different way of life is explored. Learning more about the Ithtorians was the main highlight for me, particularly since it revealed a lot more about the alien former bounty-hunter Vel.

Vel has become the most interesting character in the series to me, although perhaps that's at least partially because I like outcasts as well as inhuman characters who occasionally show glimpses of humanity. Not only do we get to see the planet he came from in this book, but we also get to find out more about his past and why he left his home in the first place. Plus there are a few little bits of information about him that will hopefully be described in further detail in future installments. One of my favorite parts of Wanderlust was Vel and his developing friendship with Jax, and their interactions remained one of my favorite parts of this novel as well.

Jax herself has also grown a lot, as can be seen from her refusal to give up on March and her seriousness about her role as a diplomat. The roles have been reversed in her relationship - March used to always be the one looking out for Jax but now she's the one looking out for him. Their situation (referred to in the above plot summary) provides some conflict for their relationship, but ever since the second book I've felt the focus has shifted away from the romance and more toward friendships. This one has more romance than the previous book, but I still felt that the plot and friendships were a better reason to keep reading.

Other than Vel, March and of course Jax herself, most of the other characters are in the background in this book. They show up but they don't undergo any major development.

Although I do find the Jax series to be immensely entertaining, this does not mean I don't have to suspend my disbelief quite a bit when reading them. I don't mean because it has psychics, aliens, genetically engineered super people, talking computers and all the things I love about space opera. In this book, I found it difficult to believe that anyone would send Jax on a diplomatic mission of supreme importance. Although it becomes clear in this novel that she's matured a lot, not all that long ago Jax was a party-girl infamous for getting drunk and flashing her tits in bars. She does not seem like the responsible type one would trust with the fate of the galaxy. Sure, she had a genuine Ithtorian to help her, but Vel was an outcast on Ithiss-Tor since he ran away from it and lived among the humans. So I don't see why his presence would help endear them to the Ithtorians, although it was useful that he could teach Jax what she needed to know about their customs. Not only did they send Jax to Ithiss-Tor as a diplomat, but they did not send any humans with actual experience in this arena to keep an eye on her and make sure no disasters occurred, which would have at least made a little more sense to me.

Also, there was one point toward the end where Jax and Vel were trying to solve a mystery and the solution seemed rather obvious long before they figured it out. Although I can see Jax having difficulty putting two and two together, it really seemed like Vel should be smarter than that, although I suppose he didn't have some of the information that Jax did.

Even though I did find it difficult to believe at times and a bit more difficult to get into than the other two books in the series, Doubleblind was as much fun as the previous books once it got going. Jax is still a great heroine to read about, and if you are a fan of Vel or curious about Ithiss-Tor, you definitely won't want to miss this one!

8/10

How I got my reading copy: As mentioned in my review, I bought this one.

Read an excerpt

Other Reviews of Doubleblind:
Reviews of other books in the Jax series:

9 comments:

orannia said...

I really, really need to read Grimspace!

Thank you Kristen!

Kristen said...

Orannia - Grimspace made me into a complete Jax addict. I hope you enjoy it too!

orannia said...

Thank you! Oh, and The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit has arrived. It's HUGE! Not sure when I'm going to start reading it, but when I do I'll let you know :)

Fidelius said...

romantic space opera?? sounds like a genre I could enjoy :)

Kristen said...

Fidelius - If you like the sounds of space opera with romance, Grimspace is of course a fun book. I also really enjoy Linnea Sinclair's Dock 5 series starting with Gabriel's Ghost and Catherine Asaro's Skolian saga for some science fiction romance.

For more ideas, there is also this blog dedicated to science fiction romance.

Christine said...

Your review is congruous to the few reviews I've read for DOUBLEBLIND so far. I'm looking forward to reading it. I just love Jax.

Kristen said...

Christine - Hope you enjoy! This series is a lot of fun to read. A couple of days ago I was thrilled to see that the next book is supposed to be coming out one month early.

KIWI said...

loved your review! I just finished doubleblind and really enjoyed it :)

Kristen said...

Thank you, Kiwi! Glad to hear someone else enjoyed Doubleblind! :)