Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes

The Last Watch is the debut novel of J. S. Dewes. It’s an intense sci-fi military adventure that begins The Divide series. I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

At the edge of the universe is the Divide where the expansion of the universe has stopped. Sentinels are posted to guard the Divide to make sure that an ancient alien enemy won’t attack humans from there. But everyone knows that nothing survives the void on the other side of the Divide, and the post is in fact a punishment for criminals and demoted soldiers.

Their commander is Adequin Rake, a decorated hero of the latest war with the aliens that ended ten years previously. For the outsiders, it looks like she’s been promoted to her post, but she knows the placement is a punishment for something she did at the end of the war. But since she’s punishing herself for it too, she’s determined to be the best commander the outpost on Argus, a decommissioned starship that houses the Sentinels, has ever seen. She’s respected and capable, but then the universe throws a problem at her that she has no idea how to handle. Namely, the universe.

For some reason the universe has begun to shrink fast and the closest thing on its path is Argus, with a few hundred soldiers and nothing to evacuate them with. All communications to the command centre are cut. But since the only other option is to be devoured by the void, Rake sets out to do her best to save them.

The book is pretty much action from start to finish. A problem after a problem is thrown at Rake from evacuating Argus to finding fuel to establishing communications to fighting aliens to saving the universe. Rake is indefatigable; I don’t think she eats or sleeps for days. Her physiology is assisted with Imprints, alien technology inserted under her skin that makes her stronger and helps her heal faster, but it’s still impressive. She’s fuelled by her duty and her personal relationship with a fellow officer who has gone missing with the crew of his repair ship.

The other point of view character is Cavalon Mercer, grandson of the ruler of the universe and the sole heir. He has a toxic relationship with his grandfather, which has led to him being banished to the edge of the universe, hopefully to die there. Privileged and unaccustomed to military life though he is, he nonetheless manages to make himself an indispensable part of Rake’s team—mostly because he has several useful degrees from genetics to astromechanics. He’s a great character, a coward who rises to the occasion time after time.

This was a wonderfully solid book, with language that grounded the reader to the world and action with ease. There was nothing unnecessary; the backstories and the world were given only as much space as they needed, and it didn’t try to be anything other than it claimed, a sci-fi adventure. Politics and romance were background noise.

With only two POV characters, I expected the relationship between Rake and Cavalon to be the driving force of the narrative—whether antagonist or romantic—but while a friendship of sorts forms between them, they have their own storylines that only occasionally meet. Even though the action was almost non-stop, there was time for their personal stories, growth and grief too. All in all, a great book that instantly made me want to read the next one too.

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