Where Peace Is Lost
by Valerie Valdes
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Pub Date 29 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 24 Oct 2023
Avon and Harper Voyager, Harper Voyager
A brand-new space fantasy novel from master world-builder Valerie Valdes! A refugee with a secret, a dangerous foe, and a road trip that could either save a planet or start a war.
Where peace is lost, may we find it.
Five years ago, Kelana Gardavros lost everything in the war against the Pale empire. Now Kel Garda is just another refugee living on the edge of an isolated star system. No one knows she was once a member of an Order whose military arm was disbanded and scattered across the galaxy. And no one knows that if her enemies found her, they might destroy the entire world to get rid of her.
Where peace is broken, may we mend it.
Kel’s past intrudes in the form of a long-dormant Pale war machine, suddenly reactivated. If the massive automaton isn’t stopped, at best it will carve a swath of devastation that displaces thousands of people. At worst, it will kill every sentient creature on the planet.
Where we go, may peace follow.
When two strangers offer to deactivate the machine for a price, Kel and a young friend agree to serve as their guides. The journey through swamps infested with predators and bandits is bad enough, but can they survive more nefarious dangers along the way? And will Kel’s fear of revealing her secrets doom the very people she’s trying to protect?
Where we fall, may peace rise.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 20 members
Romantic space opera isn’t a thing the way romantic fantasy is, to my unending frustration, but Valdes has nonetheless managed to execute the genre to perfection. A compelling blend of classic space opera and romance, Where Peace is Lost throws together an unlikely cast under less-than-ideal circumstances in a world that slowly reveals its depth and richness.
Kel has been living a mostly-solitary life, in hiding from her storied past, when a rogue war machine threatens her backwater planet’s safety. Out of the blue, two interstellar freelancers, glib, charismatic Savvy and stoic, mysterious Dare, promise they have a way to deal with the problem for a shockingly reasonable fee. Kel’s only real friend, Lunna, volunteers them both to accompany them as local guides, and Kel reluctantly agrees, even though she knows it may compromise her carefully guarded cover.
Their journey together involves overcoming many obstacles, but the primary draw is watching the four of them get to know each other and allowing us to get to know the universe Valdes has painted for us. The worldbuilding unfolds naturally, but at a much slower pace than the plot, which I found delightful. Kel has been out of the loop for years, and the initial mistrust between Kel and the offworlders prevents either of them from sharing everything they know at once. I thought this was done very skillfully, allowing the reader to get a solid foothold on the planet before being thrust into the complex galactic politics that shape everything that happens on the ground.
I grew really fond of all four of these characters very quickly! Taciturn Kel has more depth than her retired supersoldier archetype lets on at the onset, and Lunna’s cheerful naivety gives way to surprising strength of character when they’re tested. Dare’s dark secrets never veer too far into the melodramatic, and his struggles with communicating over the constant background hum of his trauma were really compelling. Savvy was the weakest of the four, ultimately, and a couple of her about-faces didn’t track well for me, but I still really appreciated her unique blend of pragmatism and flippancy.
The romance in Where Peace is Lost isn’t the driving force of the narrative, but I really enjoyed it! Dare and Kel are both playing the part of the tortured soul with a dangerous secret, and most of the tension comes from their respective struggles to communicate and their completely rational reasons not to trust each other. It was sweet and jagged in turns, remarkably slow and quiet, and just a lovely romance overall.
My only real complaint, which is more of a quibble, really, is that I felt like the end had a bit of a deus ex machina feel to it— we know that Dare and Kel have extraordinary abilities, but I would have liked the particulars of the finale to be a little more telegraphed.
I loved it, I can’t wait for more! This is my first Valdes novel and I’m absolutely going to read her earlier stuff.
Would I recommend Where Peace is Lost?
YES, especially if…
…you love space operas like the Sirantha Jax or Honor Harrington series
…you care more about the political than the technological underpinnings of your sci-fi
…you don’t like new terms and factions being introduced without definitions right away
…you’re looking for something that feels like a standalone (it’s not unpleasantly cliffhanger-y, but it left me wanting MORE)
…when you want sci-fi romance, you want aliens, fated mates, and explosive emotions
Thank you to Harper Collins and Netgalley for the eARC, provided in exchange for this review
I requested this one for two main reasons: It's Valerie Valdes and I loved the Chilling Effect trilogy AND I am a sucker for all books starting female Kels. I was absolutely 100% not only NOT disappointed but totally head over heels in love with the book. While it's not as overtly funny as Chilling Effect and sequels, it has a great quiet humor and Kel is fantastic. Plus, the family she finds along the way are all my favorites for different reasons. Valerie is also a master world builder. The fact she has built two whole UNIVERSES already that feel authentic and lived in and honestly pretty terrible to live in most of the time is mind-boggling to me but very impressive. I loved all the little details. I believe this has been pitched as a standalone but I would absolutely read more of this found family if given the opportunity.