Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard

Enemy Within
Marcella Burnard

This book has been on my radar due to it being Science Fiction Romance from a new to me author. This is a review of an ARC that was passed along by a fellow blogger.

The Premise: Captain Alexandria Rose Idylle (Ari), is working on her PhD thesis on her father’s ship, the Sen Ekir, when it is commandeered by pirates lead by a man who calls himself Cullin Seaghdh. As a recent survivor of months of capture and torture under the Chekydrans, Ari lost her crew and then her command, and her father, friends, and the Tagreth Federated Command are all unsure she came back whole.  But this hijacking by Seaghdh, followed by one surprise after another, suggests that Ari may be right in questioning everything and everyone.

My Thoughts: Ari is a heroine with an interesting background. She’s been captured and released by the Chekydrans, had a distinguished military career, holds a degree in xenonanobiology, and ranks in energy blade competitions. On paper she’s borderline perfect, if not for how broken she is from her captivity. Most of the time, Ari is determined in and strong in adversary, but she also is prone to flashbacks and crippling insecurities.  Cullin Seaghdh’s character on the other hand, is sort of the handsome stranger, full of secrets that he keeps from Ari, but he’s not alone in doing that. I liked the idea of a relationship that develops along with the secrecy, however I have mixed feelings about how the romance was written alongside the space opera elements.

This science fiction romance definitely falls under the “sexy” umbrella. There’s lots of sexual tension between Ari and Seaghdh. For that reason I think that this book would appeal to romance readers who enjoy speculative fiction world building (I would compare the ratio of romance to world building and action to Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changling series). For space opera/science fiction fans unused to romance reading,  your mileage may vary on the lusty parts. Ari and Seaghdh’s attraction is a large part of the story. I personally tend to go for a low level of heat, and although there was not much actual sex in this story, the descriptions the hero and heroine’s physical reactions to each other are numerous. That’s usually OK with me, but I found that some of the situations felt a little forced or repetitive, such as stripping down naked in front of each other for a decontamination shower in the first 20 pages, or Ari’s frequent flip outs about Seaghdh’s true feelings and her the descriptions of Ari’s response to Seaghdh. This feeling that the story is being forced extends also to the space opera parts, and I think the overworked feeling I get from the story, is my biggest problem with this book.

The book is chock full of space opera goodies. Aliens, space fights, hijacking, there’s always some action going on, and plenty of conspiracy to go with it. The way Ari and Seaghdh look at every situation from the angle of people familiar with Military Intelligence can be dizzying to follow. Most of this is good and I would usually eat it up with a smile, but there were some parts where the logic jumped a little fast for me (I think one day I’d like to do a reread to see what I missed the first time), or parts where right after one near missed disaster, another occurs, followed by yet another. If I take each event individually, they are fine, more than fine in fact, but there is just so much going on.  If the book had been fiercely edited to remove the chaff, we’d be left with a book I’d love – with a great mix of romance and action, but as it is, there are actually too many ideas and extra scenes because of it.

Overall: Enemy Within takes science fiction romance and makes it it’s own. It shares tropes I’ve seen before, but the mix of breakneck action, a bit of angst and lots of lusty tension is a combination that feels unique in this genre. There was a lot I liked about this book, but there were also things I found problematic – mostly the parts that felt forced – one twist after another, Ari’s mood swings regarding the relationship, and the general feeling that too much is going on. I have hopes that this will improve, and am game to try the second book in this series, Enemy Games (May 2011), which features a hero and heroine introduced in Enemy Within.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
The Good, The Bad, and the Unread – A
The Book Lush – 4
Babbling about Books, and more – B+

Interview @ Babbling about Books, and more
Guest Post @ Galaxy Express – Parallel Universe: Extraordinary Heroines by Marcella Burnard

13 thoughts on “Enemy Within by Marcella Burnard

  1. I have to say this cover doesn’t appeal to me at all, but your description of the story makes it sound like I might love it. I love lusty romance and space opera and lots of action. Totally going to add it to my Christmas wish list.

    • Ooh, I like the cover! Well, not so much the skinsuit with the boobage, but I love the colors, the dystopian background, and the big shield that the title is on.

      If you like that stuff, yes, do get this one. I saw a lot of reviews without the too-much-going-on niggles I had.

  2. I’ve been trying to read this book for a fortnight but I’m finding it impossible to get through. Part of it is Burnard’s writing style, which I find expository, bland and in need of serious trimming. The other part is just an overall feeling of unevenness about the main couple. I /really/ wanted to like this book but at this rate, I’m not even sure if I’m going to be able to finish it. I hate when this happens 😦

    • If it’s been that long it may not happen. The need of serious trimming was my biggest issue, but I saw so many good reviews I thought it was only me. Blandness and the writing style weren’t things bothering me. :\ Sorry it’s not working out.

      I think you should read SONG OF SCARABAEUS though! 🙂

      • I’m reading SONG OF SCARABAEUS right now and /loving it/, thanks for the rec! I’m having to ration my reading time with it though so that I can try to finish ENEMY WITHIN.

        I’m interested to read ENEMY GAMES when it comes out simply to see if it’s more cohesive. Burnard’s style of writing doesn’t appeal to me but she certainly has a lot of interesting ideas in ENEMY WITHIN. Ideas that could potentially make her work shine. I have maybe a third of the book left to go and it feels as though diversions keep being thrown in to extend an already adequate story.

        You hit the main issue on the head when you said there’s too much going on. I don’t think I would be having nearly as much trouble finishing ENEMY WITHIN if it didn’t keep twisting and turning in excess – it feels repetitive. I love hot sci-fi action but sometimes less really is more.

        Ah well, I don’t regret giving this one a shot even if it’s ended up being a difficult read. I enjoy checking out new SFR authors and who knows, ENEMY GAMES might end up blowing my mind 😉

    • If you like Nalini Singh’s level of heat mixed with worldbuilding you’ll like the parts I liked, but the parts that felt like.. too much, that I don’t know how people will take.

  3. I adore Nalini Singh’s work, so anything that is even partially comparable is worth a try for me. Plus, I’m eager to take a break from the usual fare of vampires, witches, and demons … but still get the lust and fervor that tends to come with paranormal romances. Space operas aren’t entirely my thing, but science fiction romance could very well be my next phase. Could you recommend some other titles or authors?

    • Linnea Sinclair is my go-to recommendation for science fiction romance. I lurves me her books. 🙂 AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS and GAMES OF COMMAND are both good places to start.

      I’ve also enjoyed SONG OF SCARABAEUS by Sara Creasy. She has a much more subtle, slow moving romance in it – it’s almost not there.

      • Song of Scarabaeus has been on my wishlist for a while. Looks like I should bump it up a few notches — I love subtle romance. I find that those are the stories that really pull me in and stick with me forever. Meaningful glances… cautious overtures… ahh, l’amore.

  4. I’ve been eyeing this one – thanks for the review! I love space opera and military SF, so you’ve totally sold it to me.

    And this is the first time I’ve heard of SONG OF SCARABAEUS – am intrigued now…


  5. Pingback: Books I Sort of Want | Me and My Books

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