Sureblood
by Susan Grant, futuristic (2010)
HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77466-1


Sureblood is set in the same setting as the previous books in Susan Grant's galactic action space opera series for HQN. I believe that this book can be read as a standalone pretty well, because the plot is self-contained. New readers may experience a little bit of confusion at first when a few characters from previous books show up in some major scenes later in the book, but I'm sure everyone can catch up eventually.

It may be too late for me to warn you of this, but the back cover synopsis of Sureblood actually gives away the whole story, give and take the final few chapters. Therefore, if you do not want to be spoiled and you still have not bought this book yet but intend to soon, do not even look at the back cover. Likewise, try not to read the reproduced synopsis on the product page of any online book retailer. You will enjoy this book much better as a result, trust me. As for this review, I'd do my best not to spoil the story, but this means my synopsis will be less substantial than the official two-paragraphed synopsis, heh.

In the lawless Borderlines, various clans follow their own clan code of behavior and they are not exactly on good terms with each other. When the story opens, pirate ships from the Blue clan and the Sureblood clan clash when they both target the same spacecraft carrying the valuable ore called zelfen. Both crews believe that they saw the ship first. However, when the angry aliens called the Drakken join the party and attack both crew, the pirates of both clans make history by working together for the first time in ages to repel their mutual enemy.

This is how Valeeya Blue, daughter of the Blue clan leader eager to prove her worth, and Dake Sureblood, the captain of the Sureblood pirates, meet for the first time. The attraction is there, and for a while, it seems like both clans could actually join in an alliance through the developing relationship between Val and Dake. However, Val's father's unexpected death sunders the relationship apart, especially when Dake and his crew are framed for the man's death.

Sureblood is a very readable story. I read this book in one sitting without feeling bored by the story. However, this story is also packed with many familiar twists and turns. This comes as a bit of a disappointment as the two books that came before this one managed to avoid coming off like a space opera version of a typical melodrama involving star-crossed lovers. It also doesn't help that the book is populated by familiar characters. The heroine is a tough cookie and the hero is a rare man of authority who is nonetheless devoid of clichéd alpha male antics, but we also have stereotypical secondary characters like the heroine's mother and her mentor who believe in the hero's innocence no matter what, the sole vocal bad guy in the heroine's clan who lusts after her, the cartoon villain who can get away with his antics for so long despite the good guys instinctively detecting his villainy the first time they meet this villain, and so forth.

But more significantly, the plot of this book feels too big to be compressed within the length of this book. About half the book is allocated to the scenes of our lovers meeting and eventually reeling from the assassination of Val's father. This is fine, but the short period of time during which Val and Dake know each other makes their whole grand romance rather hard to believe. The second half of the book is devoted to Dake proving his innocence to Val's people, making up for lost time, and everyone smashing the villain to live happily ever after. The thing is, during this second half, Dake gets the people that matter to believe in his innocence way too easily. Seriously, you have to read this book to believe how quickly he manages to accomplish his task.

If I could change things about this book, I'd reduce the lovey-dovey early parts of the story into flashbacks, giving enough details just for readers to fill in the blanks, and focus the bulk of the story to Dake proving his innocence and Val trying to reconcile her feelings for Dake with her status as the leader of the enemy of his people. Reeve and Ferren make a very interesting couple - their secondary romance could have been left to develop in another book, I feel, as these characters never really come alive in their roles as second fiddles to Val and Dake.

As it is, Sureblood is a decent read and a pleasant way to spend a few hours away from real life, but it is also a story that feels rushed especially in its second half. It's a decent entry into the author's Borderlands series, but I've read far better efforts from her in the past and therefore, I can't help feeling disappointed with this one.

Rating: 78


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