the Little Red Reviewer

To Guard Against the Dark (Reunification book 3) by Julie Czerneda

Posted on: September 27, 2017

This review is part of the #GuardAgainstTheDark blog tour!  To learn more (and enter a give away!), click here.

 

Cover art by Matt Stawicki http://www.mattstawicki.com

To Guard Against the Dark (Reunification #3) by Julie Czerneda

publishes Oct 10th 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (Thanks DAW books!)

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Thesaurus.com has been no help whatsover. What’s that word for when a long series that you are emotionally invested in has come to a close, and while you’re sad it has ended, you’re happy because you can just pull the books off the shelf and visit the characters anytime you want?  I feel certain German, or perhaps Norwegian has a word for this.

 

To Guard Against the Dark has been 20 years in the making.  It was 1997 when Julie Czerneda published A Thousand Words for Stranger, the book that started it all.  The year I graduated high school was the year her novel A Thousand Words for Stranger came out, the year the world met a species that was in danger of breeding itself out of existence. Their lives a secret, their homeworld unknown, the Clan hid in plain sight, amassing fortunes and enemies.  Three trilogies and twenty years later, here we are.

 

Does that mean You need to read all eight books that came before this one to enjoy To Guard Against the Dark?  Certainly not. This is, however, book three in this particular trilogy, so you will want to read the two preceding books. You’ll be in good company, as I came to this series myself by starting at This Gulf of Time and Stars, which is the 1st book in this trilogy.  If right here, right now, is the first you have ever heard of this series, you are going to feel a little lost reading this review. It won’t help you newbies very much that there are a ton of intertwining plotlines in this climactic last novel and I am trying my hardest to avoid major spoilers.  But minor spoilers? Sorry, unavoidable. Continue at your own risk.

Picking up shortly after the events of  The Gate to Futures Past, Sira has learned the frightening truth about her people’s past, and now she has to deal with the consequences, made even harder by the fact that she is facing it without Jason by her side. She and her family have fallen into one of the oldest secrets in the galaxy, one that all races have been trying to unravel for eons.  The way this valuable information affects Sira and her family though, it’s one of those secrets that once that they know about it, they simply stop caring about everything outside their bubble. Sira can either continue to care about Jason, or she can permanently be with her family, she can’t have both.  She might be pissed off at her people, but she doesn’t hate them enough to completely abandon everything she means to them.

 

Over these last few months, Jason has put on a happy face. But he’s a wreck and just going through the motions of living. Without Sira, his life is empty.

 

Over the course of only three books (so far), I’ve become so invested in the lives of Sira and Jason that it was weird, even for me, to have them separated from each other like this.  Weird isn’t the right word. Soul crushing  and heartbreaking is more like it.

 

As always, Julie Czerneda writes amazing characters. With  many disparate parties coming together in To Guard Against the Dark, people we haven’t seen in ages and new characters are stepping out of the woodwork.  And yes, there is a list of characters in the back of the book, for those of you who like to have those handy.  Instead of infodumping, Czerneda lets the reader get to know (or re-know) these people through dialog, people teasing each other, people trying to explain in-jokes, aliens not understanding our slang and humans not understanding theirs. Thanks to those kinds of details, you know that none of these characters exist in a vacuum – they all have lives outside this novel, and for most of them their life will go on after they step off the page. It’s so nice to run into such fully fleshed out characters! Long time fans of the series will enjoy seeing old faces return, and readers who are new to the series will feel welcomed by the inviting references and jokes that give conversations and characters more depth and dimension, while hinting at what came before.

 

There are still some Clan members alive in Trade Pact Space. Sira abhors her immediate family (long story, which you can read), and doesn’t much care that they were left behind.  What strange bedfellows those in mourning make. It’s not that Jason teams up with people he hates, it’s that he realizes the man in that stasis chamber didn’t deserve the horrible things that were done to him.  And they have the same goal, right?  And when Jason comes face to face with another one of Sira’s relatives, there’s something about her.  Something that tells Jason she won’t betray him.

 

And because this is a Julie Czerneda novel, there are of course the amazing aliens! The Assemblers creep me out too much to talk a lot about, but if you’ve enjoyed your visits to Claws & Jaws, you’ll be thrilled to know that Huido’s nephew Tayno plays a large and important role in bringing everything together, even though he doesn’t realize it at first. This is a fairly serious and somber book, so the hilarity of Tayno taking a pregnant humanoid under his, er, wing, and cluelessly trying to figure out what she’ll be needing as the birth gets closer makes for a nice balance of serious and funny.  I absolutely adore Tayno!!

 

Sira isn’t quite committed to eternity without Jason, so when she’s offered a sort of “one last mission”, she’s not entirely sure what to make of that either, especially due to the complication that she’s not exactly in the physical body she was born with.  The “one last mission” bit reminded me a little of Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades, where Mulaghesh is brought out of retirement for one last mission, and she has a personal mission of taking all those things she’s been responsible for up until now, and making them matter.  Well, for Sira, this matters too. And everything that came before? She’s got to make all of that mean something too.  This is one of those missions that if you’re successful, you’ll probably still lose.

 

I want to talk about some of the brilliant reveals at the end, but nope, not going to!  So I will give you some cryptic hints instead!

 

Hint the first: pay attention to everything. All that worldbuilding and characterization?  That’s just the first layer. There’s so, so, SO much more to be found for those willing to dig a little.

 

Hint the second:  Remember how when the Clan first came to Trade Pact space, and they figured they could just blend in and hide in plain sight? They thought they were so smart with their little secret society that no one knew about.  They, and anyone else who thought they could hide their identity and stay secret, all those peeps are complete amateurs.  You’ll be meeting the master secret watchers at the end of The Guard Against the Dark, and let me tell you, these folks are beyond brilliant.

 

To Guard Against the Dark was compelling, beautiful written, had surprises around every corner, and successfully brought everything together for a complex and satisfying ending.  A triumphant conclusion to a space opera series that revolves around genetic engineering, mind control, romance, and family drama.  Highly recommended for readers who enjoy the long game. If you’ve enjoyed series such as Kage Baker’s Company series, or Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, you’re sure to enjoy Julie Czerneda’s Clan Chronicles.

 

About the series:

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce
among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification concludes the series, answering these questions at last. Who are the Clan?
And what will be the fate of all?

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1 Response to "To Guard Against the Dark (Reunification book 3) by Julie Czerneda"

Oh my goodness!! You make this whole series sound so amazing! I can’t wait to read it (adding to wishlist). 🙂

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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