Book Review: The Spectras Arise Trilogy by Tammy Salyer

From the archives (aka Goodreads)! I read these books back in late 2014 and early 2015. If you're a fan of military sci fi, heists, and a good resistance-versus-evil-empire setup, check this series out.

Book 1: Contract of Defiance


I can't remember exactly how I stumbled across this book and the rest of the Spectras Arise trilogy, but I thought to myself, "If the story is half as good as the cover art, I'm in."

I made the mistake of starting this book at a bad time and didn't get a chance to pick it up again until almost two months later. That tripped me up a little and I spent some time being confused because I couldn't remember what I'd already read, but the plot is structured in a way that it wasn't hard to get back up to speed. We receive reminders and get new glimpses into the characters' background information throughout the story, and motivation to learn more kept me hooked. 

One of my favorite things about sci fi stories is that every author has their own idea of what the future (or the alternate-universe equivalent) will be like. Contract of Defiance's setting reminded me a lot of Firefly; rich, upscale worlds are controlled by the Admin, and the outer planets are home to settlers -- farmers, miners, smugglers -- who are fighting to get by. The cast of protagonists also reminded me of Serenity's crew. They're a likable bunch of characters who each have unique qualities but still mesh perfectly. It actually took me a while to warm up to them, but that may just be because it took the main character a while to warm up to which case they were written flawlessly!

Aly Erikson is the epitome of a strong female character. She's literally strong, a badass hardened soldier who always has a gun at her side, but she's also strong in the sense that she's well-written. We catch glimpses of her humanity as she devotes all her energy toward finding her brother. She doesn't want to care, but she knows she does care, and that makes for a really interesting character.

I've already downloaded the next two books and can't wait to see what becomes of Aly, Vitruzzi, Strahan, and the rest of the Sphynx's crew. If you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed story with awesome sci fi tech, strong female characters, and an intriguing plot, this book is for you.

Book 2: Contract of Betrayal


Once again, flawless cover art. I love how it's unique but still maintains continuity with the first book. I know they say to never judge a book by its cover, but when I see a book with awesome cover art, I expect that book to be good.

And it was good. But I'm not sure if I enjoyed it as much as Book 1, hence the 4-star rating. I wasn't a huge fan of the whole love triangle thing, even though I had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn't last. It just added some unnecessary drama, in my opinion, even though it ended up being pretty relevant in terms of character interactions during the later parts of the book. The whole 3rd quarter or so of the story seemed to move a little slow for me too, but that may just have been because I got really busy and wasn't able to devote the proper time and energy to reading.

The pace definitely picked back up at the end, and I finished the book in one sitting. We get some plot twists thrown at us and get to see some intense action. One thing I've appreciated about this series so far is how Ms. Salyer writes fight scenes, something I've always struggled with as a writer. Hand-to-hand brawls in particular are very well-done, and as I'm reading I can almost feel everything happening.

One of my favorite things about reading a series is re-visiting familiar characters. It always kind of feels like being reunited with old friends; when the story begins there's sort of a "where-are-they-now?" effect and you see one of the characters and think "Hey, I know that person!" That's always a lot of fun for me. I've really enjoyed Vitruzzi's character from the beginning but I felt like she really shined in this book.

I've got Contract of War already loaded onto my Kindle and I can't wait to get started on it and see where this story goes!

Book 3: Contract of War


*insert obligatory praise for the cover art*

Realistically this would probably have a 4.5/5 rating, but I'm rounding up. I'm not sure if I liked it quite as much as the first book, but I know I liked it better than the second. Really though, what an enjoyable series. You often see sort of the same setup in sci fi stories, with government-controlled central planets and independent outer planets (this is by no means a complaint!) but Ms. Salyer's in-depth worldbuilding gave everything a unique twist that I found really interesting.

As with the second book, this one started out with kind of a "Where are they now?" element as we were re-introduced to all the characters we've come to know and are brought up to speed on current events. The plot progresses steadily via [what seemed to me like]  unrelated flashbacks intertwined with the action-packed missions that have become fairly commonplace for these characters throughout the series. Small twists keep getting thrown at us, keeping us guessing as to where exactly the plot is headed. Then, at around the 2/3 mark, everything starts falling into place. Those flashbacks that seemed unrelated are suddenly very related. I was glued to my book for the duration of the climax. And at the risk of spoiling everything, I'll just say that I was starting to predict a certain thing would happen, then the book made it seem like that thing was going to happen (I think I would have thrown my Kindle across the room, although I don't think it would have necessarily been a bad ending). But then the thing didn't happen, and I was happy -- these poor characters deserved a nice ending.

Certain characters have really stood out to me in each of these books too. In Book 1, it was just Aly as we were introduced to her and got to know her. In Book 2, it was Vitruzzi -- we got to see some elements of her character that we'd never seen before. In this book, I think it was Karl. In the first book, he was still just "Strahan" as far as I was concerned because Aly -- and subsequently, the audience -- hadn't gotten to know him as a person yet. With all the drama surrounding him in Book 2, I still didn't really feel like he had the chance to shine, and I think that finally happened here in this book. I also think I finally managed to nail down my mental image of him (he got progressively more attractive in my head from book to book!) and that might be part of it. But he turned out to be a really great character, tough as nails but with a sensitive side that I never would have expected after reading Book 1 alone.

And now, as is the case after finishing any series where I've become attached to the characters, I shall go mope around for a while before convincing myself to move on to something else :)

Conviction: A Prequel Novella

This was a fun, quick read and a great addition to the Spectras Arise series. It's perfect for introducing potential new readers to the story, but it's also great for readers like me who have already read the main series. I loved getting the chance to go back and get a glimpse of how the characters got their start. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed the main series or is planning on reading it.

The Spectras Arise series is available in ebook and paperback formats across all platforms, including Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks, while Conviction is always available as a free ebook download. You can also get all four stories in a single omnibus edition.

About Tammy Salyer

Tammy is an inveterate verbarian who spends her day surrounded by the written word, both hers and others'. As an ex-paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, her stories are often as gritty as a grunt's pile of three-week-old field gear. Her military science fiction novel Contract of Defiance is the first book in the Spectras Arise trilogy and debuted to acclaim in Spring 2012. Contract of Betrayal is the second in the trilogy, and the final book, Contract of War, completes it. When not hunched like a Morlock over her writing desk, Tammy runs and bikes silly miles in the playground of Southern California and spends an inappropriate amount of time watching Henry Rollins videos on YouTube. Feel free to visit her blog and sign up for her newsletter to be the first to know of contests, new releases, and special events you might enjoy, or stop by and say hi on Twitter @TammySalyer.

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