Cover Image: Prime Deceptions

Prime Deceptions

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Member Reviews

I just could not get into this book. The first ne had some fun ideas, but I didn’t love it. I was willing to try book 2, but it was clearly not for me. I’ll try back with this author in  a few years.
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A fun space opera, great sequel.. More focused on the characters than the first book, highly recommend.
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Valerie Valdes's 2019 debut novel Chilling Effect was one of my favorite books that year. Eva and her misfit crew of odd-job space travelers hopping from planet to planet, butting heads with everyone along the way, from Jane-Austenesque Dinosaurs, to mansplaining mad scientists, to gross alien bros with thin skin. It was goofy fun and often very funny. Now Eva Innocente and her crew are back for another adventure in Prime Deceptions, tracking down a scientist named Josh Zafone so they can deliver him to a mysterious employer. While there were some interesting parts and some decent worldbuilding, I struggled with parts of this sequel.

Prime Deceptions feels more focused than its predecessor, with minimal planet-hopping and a smaller cast of only six characters. After a brief introduction, Captain Eva Innocente and her crew make two short stops and then settle down on the planet Garilia, where they stay for pretty much the rest of the book.

Briefly, the two stops before Garilia were... okay. Aside from some minor hyucks about body odor at a perpetual Comic-Con on Charon, things were remarkably straight-laced. Even on the planet Abelgard, where the crew not only competes with robots but also engages in hand-to-hand combat with the use of power armor, nothing particularly exciting happens. Highlights include the return of a love-to-hate-him character from the previous book, and lightweight parodies of Samus Aran from the Metroid video games (renamed here as... sigh... "Nara Sumas") and Mega-Man.

Afterward, the search for Sue's brother (the aforementioned scientist) leads the crew to Garilia, and the book kicks into Pokémon Parody overdrive. I was occasionally impressed by how restrained the parody was but rolled my eyes when characters literally shouted things like "We've got to catch them all!"

The book was okay but felt overlong, as if someone had stuffed 450 pages of prose into a 300-page book. Conversations were so protracted and took so many breaks to explain what characters were feeling or what Vakar smelled like that a dozen lines of dialogue were sometimes spread across half as many pages. I get it, Vakar is an alien (resembling a cross between a pangolin and Dr. Zoidberg) whose emotions are transmitted through smell—but all these pit-stops to explain that he smelled like licorice or incense or whatever else mixed with jasmine and ozone really add up. There's also a lot of Spanish in the book, which was A-OK with me but might as well be redacted for readers who don't speak Spanish. Readers who took even one year of Spanish in high school should have no trouble getting the gist of what's said (from context if nothing else), and most of it is superfluous invective at any rate, but some phrases are either so long or so colloquial that they only serve to distract.

(Some examples: "Me cago en la hora que yo nací," "Nadando Contra La Corriente," and "Mierda, mojón y porquería," which translate as "I sh*t at the time that I was born," "Swimming against the current," and "sh*t, turds, and crap," respectively.)

One possible downside to the smaller cast is that I spent way more time with hot-headed Eva's thoughts than I would have liked. When she doesn't want to punch someone, she's taking the "Sympathetic Murder Backstory" trope to the extreme through painfully repetitive self-torture. Chapter 10, wherein she explains a previous mission to her crew, was a predictable, overly detailed slog. On the other hand, the psychic cat Mala has a much larger role this time around and even goes on a lengthy away mission. She was the best part.

Anyway, like I said, the book was okay. It was too easy to put down, and too hard to pick up again. I hesitate to recommend it, and I probably wouldn't read a third book in this universe, but if you read the first one (which I really liked) and are dying for more, then Prime Deceptions might be for you.

Huge thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Captain Eva Innocente, dauntless hero of Chilling Effect, is back in action, along with her crew that are more like family than her real relatives. And those real relatives are back in her life, catapulting her into another adventure. This time it’s Eva’s sister, offering a huge reward for a missing scientist who just happens to be the brother of one of the crew. The chase leads Eva and her friends from one planet to another, through the halls of Evercon – home of the eternal sf/f/costume/gaming convention – and finally to a planet that Eva would just as soon forget. Enter, also, Eva’s mother, accountant extraordinaire, and a plot to take over the universe via Pokémon-like intelligent toys.

As in the previous book, smooth prose and colorful characters team up with a complex, long-view plot that has lots of action reversals, and quieter moments. The center of the story, though, is the love that binds together the crew of La Sirena Negra into a family-of-choice.
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I reads the first book when it first came out and its sequel did not disappoint! I actually liked this one more, mostly cause it had more psychic cat scenes, haha. If you are into space adventures, found family, and just plain old funny dialogue, then you'll love this duology.
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I loved the characters and story in this book and am really looking forward to reading more from this author. Valdes is great at creating humorous moments to an epic space adventure that makes this a captivating page turner. Highly recommended!
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ANOTHER HOMERUN FROM VALERIE VALDES! I loved this sequel. Like Chilling Effect, it was super fun, humorous, and heart-warming. I feel like I know Captain Eva Innocente and I would love to hang out with her, tbh. I love the pop culture winks, the characters, the adventures, the Spanish vocab lessons ;). Truly one of my favorite series from the last few years, it has a special place on my bookshelf.
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Valarie Valdez has given reader the tongue-in-cheek space opera series we didn't know we needed and it is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Funny, thought-provoking, and all the geeky nods and references that I could hope for. Readers are treated to hints of favorites like Mass Effect, Firefly, Gundam, Pokemon, Cowboy Bebop, and no doubt more that I didn't catch on the first read through.

Quick paced and filled with action and dry humor, Prime Deceptions felt much smoother. Partly owed to already being familiar with the crew, but it also felt like the author not only knew her characters but also found a way to share that with readers. I love that we have the chance to see the impressive range of Eva's personality. Strong, a bit haunted, and incredibly funny, Captain Innocente is a force to be reckoned with. Both romances were adorable and a fun little aside from the main plot. Each member of the crew is vibrant and so easy to love and root for! I could happily read this series over and over again.

My favorite part? This had all the psychic cats I was missing in Chilling Effect! Mala was a great sidekick serving up plenty of typical feline antics while Eva's begrudging acceptance of her tagging along is a battle we all knew Mala would win.

Clearly, I adored this book and I am desperately awaiting the next installment. It didn't necessarily end with a cliff hanger but that was one hell of a carrot dangling that had me wishing I could immediately dive into the next! Absolutely recommend! More exclamation points!!!
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I struggled getting through the first book and won't be able to finish int n order to give a review for this second book. I love the concept and the primary character, but the style was hard for me to follow as a reader. I appreciate the chance to review!
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This was the perfect blend of things like Firefly and others of its kind.  I fell in love with the characters and the story.  Valders does a great job bringing laugh out loud times in this space story that I couldn't put down.  I need book two ASAP!
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Another great space opera adventure by one of my new favorite authors, Valerie Valdes. Still trying to save face from being kidnapped by The Fridge, Eva is asked to locate Sue’s brother to help on a mystery project. Eva revisits and faces her past and has to go through some tough battles to achieve her goals. There is a little “Team Rocket” pokemon stuff going on and a super awesome mech battle. A comic con that never ends and more psychic cat action. New relationships, and new planets to explore. I didn’t think it possible but Valdes makes this second addition to The Chilling Effect series just as good if not even better than the first. Fans of the Murderbot books that are unsure of what to read anymore would be right at home in this series.

I believe there will definitely be a third book as Valdes tells us a tiny bit more about Proarkhe tech and leaves off with an open ending. I’m super excited to find out what happens next.
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A stellar follow-up to Chilling Effect! I loved the world-building and character development in the first novel in this series, and Prime Deceptions built out on it beautifully. This is a funny, fast-paced, and feminist space opera. Highly recommend for readers of Becky Chambers and John Scalzi, and fans of Firefly.
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I am still deeply in love with the cover art for this series. The Cat floating in space! The neon text! The gorgeous colors! I would totally hang this up near my bookcases. This is the second in the Chilling Effect series, so there a!re spoilers for the first book in this review

I came out of the last book disappointed because I was expecting something, well, not as dark, plus I’m not a huge fan of plot lines that revolve around the main character lying to everyone. So I wrote my review of Chilling Effect and figured it would fade to the back of my memory. Instead, I would randomly remember a scene and start giggling – Tim, “well, actually,” the cats. And I kept recommending it to my friends, random people I would meet at the bookstore, my librarian, etc. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m as much of an idiot as Eva, and my reread prior to jumping into this book confirms it. It’s an amazingly funny book with a messy heroine and a sweet romance – and that description applies to Prime Deceptions as well.

“You are so violent, I swear,” Pink said.
“Violence isn’t always the answer,” Eva said. “I just ask a lot of violent questions.”

We jump right back into the action a few months after the end of the last book. Eva's still messy, and she’s done some things she’s not particularly proud of, but my God, is she trying to do better. The crew of La Sirena Negra are her family, so when a mission comes in from the Forge – the secretive agency that Eva’s sister Mari works for – to find a crewmate’s brother that’s supposedly been kidnapped, Eva can’t say no, even if it does have uncomfortable echoes of what happened the last time she went looking for her own supposedly kidnapped sibling.

“You gonna forbid me from other fun stuff, too, like punching people and setting things on fire?”
“Those things are not fun, you anarchist.”
“Is anarchy bad now? I’ll update my translator nanites.”

What I particularly loved about this book is that Eva’s learning to work in a team – passing decisions by Pink, her co-captain, and making use of Vakar, Min, and Sue’s talents. She still agonizes about putting them in danger, but she’s slowly realizing that holding back information and making decisions for them is, well, not cool. The relationships between the crew continue to develop, though my favorite is the romance between Eva and Vakar. They’re just so ridiculously sweet together! Of course, the crew end up haring off to new destinations and running into new trouble. There’s also some cameos from old favorite and “well, actually” not so favorite characters. In addition, the plot feels tighter in this one because each mission they go on is in service of finding Sue’s brother.

“Ultimately, we each must make our own choices. Whether to fight with words or weapons. Whether to fight at all.”

One of the best things about these books is that they take scifi tropes, relentlessly poke fun at them, and then reinvent them into something thought provinkingly new and even more hilarious. The main item in this book is the Pocket Pals – or Ball Buddies, as Eva insists on referring to them – that are a ridiculously hilarious riff on Pokemon. I’m sure there’s more references I missed, but my personal favorite was a one-liner about Bioshock that had me spit out my tea. That’s not to say that it’s all light. Woven into the humor are musings on the prime directive, redemption and how scars – physical and mental – affect us. In the last book, we learned that one of Eva’s major regrets – and the reason she swore to never lie to her crew like her old captain lied to her – was her actions on Garilia, though what those were was never revealed. In this book, we finally found out, and it’s a doozy – and it makes me hate Tito and her dad even more. Eva’s got some serious PTSD from that event and I thought the way it was handled was brilliant.

“It’s nice to be appreciated,” she said. “It’s nicer to get paid. Adiós, hasta luego.”

Overall, this easily gets 4.5 stars, and it’s my favorite science fiction read fo the year so far. Highly recommended!

I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Eva Innocente doesn't want to talk to her sister again.

She doesn't want to call her mother anytime soon.

She and the rest of the crew of La Sirena Negra want paying jobs to pay their bills, and rescue crew member Sue's brother Josh from the Fridge. (It's not clear what the psychic cats sharing the ship want, but they like at least some of the crew members, and know where their purrs are most needed.) An evil organization that is forcing him to work on its nefarious high-tech projects involving banned technology. Sue has been making ransom payments, but no matter how much she pays, Josh doesn't get released.

They're working on what their next move will be when Eva's sister, Mari, an officer with the Forge, contacts her.

The Forge is an organization that is at least nominally on the side of law and justice, and which wants to destroy the Fridge, possibly as much as Eva. (There is backstory for this, told in full in the previous book, Chilling Effect, but provided in enough substance here to avoid confusion.)

The Forge wants to find Josh, too.

The Fridge doesn't have him anymore. He and another scientist escaped, and have vanished. If they were safe, Josh would have contacted Sue, right?

Eva hates doing any favors for her sister, but the Forge is willing to pay, very well indeed. They really need the money, and it's a chance to get paid for doing what they want to do anyway--find Sue's brother.

Unfortunately, this is going to mean asking her mother, the kickass auditor, for help, going places she really doesn't want to go, and confronting one of the worst acts she ever committed, in a career that, until relatively recently, wasn't overly concerned with right and wrong. She's changed, but is that going to be good enough?

Eva and her friends are going to find out.

This is a really enjoyable book, with good characters, some interesting aliens, action that moves along, and people who turn out to be both better and worse than they seem at first glance. And, of course, the psychic cats, including Mala, the opinionated calico (but I repeat myself.)

It's not perfect. There are places where I stopped, and wondered why an editor didn't suggest changing that. But I really enjoyed it, and look forward to more.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, and am reviewing it voluntarily.
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For the past six months, Captain Eva Innocente and her crew on La Sirena Negra, have worked hard to continue thwarting the evil crime syndicate The Fridge. When Eva’s sister comes to her with an opportunity to earn a lot of money by finding a missing scientist, Eva sees it as a perfect opportunity for a big payday for good honest work. Even when she’s not ultimately sure about the end goal.

Their search will take Eva and crew across the galaxy embroiling them in bot fights, never-ending fan conventions, and put them smack dab in the middle of planetary unrest on a planet that has ties to Eva’s past. A past she’s never reckoned with and one in which she’s ashamed. Does she sit on the sidelines this time around, or does she continue to fight for what’s right?

Prime Deceptions continues what Valerie Valdes started in the first book, but kind of ups the ante when it comes to introspection of why we fight the battles we fight, why we choose to get involved where we do. Eva wants to continue to stick it to the Fridge, but at what cost? Having trust issues with her sister, who also works under a cloak of secrecy, means that she’s not sure their mission is on the complete up and up. This time around Eva, and by extension her crew, have to decide which side they’re going to fight on knowing that, depending on perspective, they may not be everyone’s savior. There are always two sides to every story and two sides to history. Learning of Eva’s past and seeing her past brought into the present really highlights this idea.

This time around, though, Eva is not as isolated as she was in the first book. By committing to bringing the rest of the crew in on decisions she also opens herself up to the people around her and builds upon those relationships which is something I was hoping for after reading the first book and which Valerie Valdes really delivers on here. The found family dynamic is strengthened especially when we see it compared to the relationship between Eva and her sister and even Eva and her mother.

The standouts of course are Eva’s Co-Captain/oldest friend Pink who has known Eva for so many years she’s immune to all her tricks. Pink is a steadfast, grounding force in Eva’s life and we would all be so lucky to have friends like her. Also, of course Vakar and Eva are probably one of my most favorite fictional relationships right now. I liked the sweet moments when she’s interpreting his scent and his overly-literal exposition.

I loved the direction that this book took towards the end. We get a little more of a glimpse of the Proarkhe technology—the mysterious species behind the gate travel systems—that has now become my new thing I want explored in the next book. Overall, with Prime Deceptions Valerie Valdes gives readers another fast-paced, exciting read with a Captain who is learning what it means to lead.
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A lot of science fiction novels are fairly serious.  This series, which I would be thrilled to read more of, is not.  It’s just a good time and an fast paced action adventure with a scrappy spaceship crew getting in over their heads.  There are silly bits like the Pokémon references but they all work well with the tone of the story.  It’s not humorous fiction but there are funny bits in with the action to keep things moving along.  I liked book one in this series but book two is definitely stronger and I really look forward to book three now!
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My thanks to NetGalley for making an eARC copy of this book available to me.

I wanted to like this more than I did.  It had lots of interesting (i.e. not your typical hetero) relationships.  It had family drama.  It had friends/coworkers disagreeing about what to do, but making things work despite it.  It had lots and lots of different and strangely named alien species.  However...

The author still continues to use a large number of Spanish words and phrases where it's unclear within the context of the surrounding English text just what those words mean.  The only way to figure it out is to interrupt your reading, go to a translation website to try to figure out the words, then attempt to figure out which of the translations best fits the situation in which it is used.  I've seen plenty of other authors use similar language structures, but put enough other context surrounding them that you don't need to find a translator to help you.

There's also one young crew member who keeps making some fairly major mistakes, but nobody attempts to explain to that person that it was a problem or how they could do things differently in the future.

I understand why this author has a  good following and why others would enjoy her works.  They just don't work well enough for me to continue reading her books any longer.
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In this sequel to last year's Chilling Effect, Captain Eva Innocente and her crew of the smuggling spaceship La Sirena Negra are on the run from The Fridge, an intergalactic mafia, when they pick up an assignment to track down a scientist that escaped from The Fridge a year earlier. It seems one of the galactic organizations fighting The Fridge is in need of the scientist's expertise, and when Eva and her crew agree to the assignment, they're sent on an intergalactic caper that takes them through larger-than-life bot fights, through tourist-trap worlds, and into a tangled web of psychic Pokemon-type creatures. It's a fun, action-filled tale, full of psychic cats and fantastic humor, especially at the expense of a particular mansplaining and infinitely punchable scientist. I loved it, and I can't wait to see what Valdes comes up with next.
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This was wasn’t a much fun the second go around for me as he original. I got about 1/4 of the way through and just struggled to care after that. I like author, but overall this one wasn’t for me.
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The La Sirena Negra crew are back again!

I have been eagerly awaiting Prime Deceptions ever since reading Chilling Effect last year. Let me just say, it was worth the wait!

Prime Deception’s biggest advantage was being able to jump right into the action again, but this time, without having the exposition of who everyone is. Where Chilling Effect was the bringing together of this ragtag family, Prime Deception is the exploration of what it means to be family. 

Prime Deceptions goes into more detail on things mentioned in Chilling Effect, such as more on Eva’s blood family dynamics (as opposed to her real family on the La Sirena Negra), Then there’s Garilia.

There’s also more about the Proarkhe, aka the mysterious aliens who created the Gates and other tech. Once again, they have an overarching presence that teases us with more information. Who are these ancient creatures?

This book was an absolute joy to read. I loved all the nerdy references sprinkled in the book. A fandom planet, creatures that seem to be Pokémon-ish, and bot fighting, are just a few of the fun details that made this book so much fun.

Don’t take the amount of fun as a lack of stakes, however! The La Sirena Negra team are working once more for the Forge, to find a missing scientist. It’ll push the group to their limits, and between old foes and haunting memories, Eva will be tested most of all. 

I’m always a sucker for stories about broken people that come together to make a family, and the crew of La Sirena Negra are a prime example of what I love about this dynamic. Sometimes your family isn’t who you’re related to. Sometimes, your family is the weird but wonderful cast of characters you meet along the way. And then sometimes, you have cats. 

(Speaking of cats, if you loved Mala in Chilling Effect, you’re in for a treat in Prime Deceptions)

The world building of Prime Deceptions is wild and imaginative, just as it was with Chilling Effect. My other favorite part was just how alien the aliens were. No Star Trek-type forehead ridges here! I assume there will be a book three, and I can’t wait to see what sort of things Valerie Valdes has in store for us in the future.

I can’t wait for everyone to be able to read this book. Since Prime Deceptions is a sequel to Chilling Effect, I’d suggest reading Chilling Effect first. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read Prime Deceptions early as a eARC in exchange for an honest review!
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