One of my favorite things about reading a series -- especially a series like this where I've grown to really love the characters -- is revisiting those characters. I was attached to them after just a few pages in Renegade, and even though I started this book almost immediately after completing the first, it still felt like I was being reunited with old friends whom I hadn't seen in years.
Erik and Trace continue to be wonderfully complex and well-written characters, and I absolutely love their banter and the way they bounce off one another. Erik's relationship with his spacer crew and Trace's relationship with her marines are both humorous yet realistic and powerful. As a whole, the crew of the Phoenix really is one big family, a theme that is revisited several times throughout the book. I also loved how so many of the other characters got a chance to shine too. In the first book, the only POV characters were Erik, Trace, and Lisbeth, but many of the secondary characters still made a valuable contribution. Now some of those characters have become POV characters, and I absolutely love the way this was handled. They probably wouldn't have been able to carry these scenes in Book 1 because the readers didn't know them well enough. But like I said, now they're like old friends.
Erik and Trace are both essentially trying to figure out who they are and where they belong, and events in the series have been such that they're both getting pushed in directions neither of them expected to go when the whole story started. We see Erik take a big step at the end of this book, even more so than in Renegade. The jury is still out on Trace, though we're seeing hints of her inner conflict as she tries to figure out what she believes in. Her development is more of a slow burn, but if it happened any faster, it wouldn't be realistic for her character.
I also enjoyed seeing a bigger variety of alien species in this story. All the political/diplomatic aspects of the relationships between all of these civilizations help give the world (or should I say universe) a lot more depth. As with Renegade, it gave me a lot of Mass Effect vibes, and I love that.
In terms of story, there was a lot of building on events and plot points from Book 1 that I'd either forgotten about or that seemed insignificant at the time. In Renegade it's established that there's something big going on behind the scenes, and in Drysine Legacy all the clues finally start to make sense and come together to form a bigger picture. I shouldn't spoil anything, but...sentient machine race that's been lying dormant for thousands of years? Yes please. This is a story about alliances, secrets, camaraderie, and trust, all with awesome combat sequences (which I'm pretty sure contributed to an absolutely insane dream I had the other night). The tension in the last several chapters of the book left me exhausted.
All in all this was an excellent second installment in this series. I'm not sure if I liked it quite as much as the first one, hence the 4.5-star rating -- parts of it moved a little slow and I had hoped Colonel Khola would play a larger and more threatening role. But of course there's still a third installment coming, one that will likely contain a variety of highly-anticipated final showdowns, and even when the plot moves a little slow, the characters are still consistent. I can't wait to find out what happens next!