By Justine Davis aka Justine Dare, 1995, Futuristic
Topaz, $4.99, ISBN #0-451-40491-2
Sequel to Lord of the Storm
The Skypirate is the sequel to Lord of the Storm, and it contains the most daring redemption story I’ve ever read. Like the original, it takes place in a futuristic world where the evil Coalition rules over all of the planets and enslaves many of the conquered populations. Califa Claxton is the former friend of Shaylah Graymist. Califa had given Shaylah a beautiful slave named Wolf as a "gift", and was subsquently forced to sell him when he became uncontrollable. In the first novel she is portrayed as a Coalition stalwart who enjoys entertaining sexual slaves while considering Shaylah a wimp for wondering if the tradition is cruel.
As The Skypirate opens, we meet a much different Califa. She has been thrown in prison and branded with a gold slave collar for letting Wolf escape and refusing to betray Shaylah. When Dax Silverbrake, a notorious skypirate from the conquered planet Trios, rescues her cell-mate, Califa demands to be taken along as well. At first Dax does not know that Califa is a former Coalition officer. He has his own demons - his family was killed along with most of Trios’ population, and he lives life on the edge in an unconscious wish to join them in death. When he and his crew discover the shocking truth about Califa’s past, she must convince them that she is an entirely changed woman. In one key scene, Dax must trust Califa as he has trusted no one since his family’s death in order to rescue a group of imprisoned Triotians. The final confrontation comes when Califa is face to face with Wolf and Shaylah, now rulers of Wolf’s home planet, and must make amends for her mistreatment of the golden warrior and her only friend.
As I said, this is a risky character to write. It took me about half of the book to forget that Califa was previously a selfish, possibly evil, bitch. The author helps by giving her a miserable childhood to explain that she joined the Coalition in an effort to find a place to belong. By the end of The Skypirate, when Califa and Wolf are actually friends, you realize the redemption is complete because you are rooting for a happy ending for this flawed heroine. And you realize that only a skilled author like Justine Davis could have pulled off this amazing transformation.
It seemed as if Justine Davis was planning on writing a third novel in the series, about Rina, the young Triotian rescued by Dax. Apparently, however, the publisher decided there wasn’t the right market for additional Trios novels - what a disappointment! I’m still hoping to see more of this futuristic world someday. Justine Davis also writes excellent category romances for Silhouette Desire and Intimate Moments, and she has started a new series under the pseudonym Justine Dare.
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