Tanya Huff knows how to tell a rip-roaring, military sci-fi mystery story like few others. Her latest, A Peace Divided, follows Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr a year after her death-defying adventure in An Ancient Peace, when, disillusioned, she walked away from service in the galactic Confederation she’d served and protected for years—and chose to form instead an elite squad of her fellow ex-Marines, continuing to fight the good fight on her own terms.
On another mission to save the lives of a group of archeologists who may have uncovered a weapon that can combat the alien menace responsible for starting a massive war, Kerr and her Strike Team once again serve as the peacekeeping Wardens of the Justice Department, sent to do the jobs no one else can take on. Out to rescue the hostages alongside members of the Primacy, with whom they were previously enemies during the war, Kerr must balance the politics of maintaining a tenuous peace with completing her mission. And with multiple players, each with their own secret agenda, discovering who is working toward the greater good is tougher than ever—even for a paranoid former Marine with the strongest Strike Team.
One of the things I enjoy most about Huff’s writing—aside from the awesome kick-butt characters—are her action scenes, and how she never wastes time jumping right into the fray. We join Kerr’s Strike Team Alpha in the middle of a shootout, and things never really slow down from there. Even during a debriefing or when en route to another planet, we know we’re only experiencing a brief pause before the team is back in the thick of things, fighting to save lives.
Huff’s military background shines on every page, lending an authenticity and depth to the characters. The subtle nuances in Kerr’s personal interactions and internal dialogue are sharper than sharpshooter Binti’s aim, it took me back to my own days in the Marine Corps. Kerr is a hardcore, highly trained, and intelligent Warden suffering from PTSD and the sometimes difficult transition from military to civilian life. In each book, we learn a little more about the worlds within the Confederation and Primacy, and their requisite alien races, through Kerr’s interactions with each—and get to know Kerr and her team better at the same time.
The true strength of this series is in its characters. Kerr and her team are a cohesive unit that has come together after surviving torture and prison camps. Each member bring something to the table, and each is respected for their strengths. The focus is on how well they work together and what each can do to help the team, even beyond completing the mission. Their camaraderie and their relationships keep us invested on a level that goes deeper than the visceral enjoyment of all that action.
In each book, Kerr’s team engages in another mission, but there is also a larger background mystery about mysterious, manipulative aliens that prodded the Elder Races into starting an interstellar war. So while you can read A Peace Divided on its own, you will get more enjoyment, and more pieces of the puzzle, if you read An Ancient Peace as well. Huff does a wonderful job of sprinkling in clues to the larger mystery here and there, such that you can’t quite figure it out—but you know you want to keep reading.