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Star Spire

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An intergalactic crew of thieves take on a job with ramifications far greater than they can imagine.

Synopsis

They hatched a plan to steal from the universe's deadliest assassins, but when the crew of the Vandal discovers a fresh threat aboard their very ship they realize they might just be in over their heads.

Fresh off a job in a neighboring system, Markus Frost and his crew are given less than a week to contrive a way to steal an illegal piece of technology – the Starfire Conduit – before it's sold to the Ghenza Collective. They're pulling out all the stops for this one, but when their pilot and resident hacker makes a gambit with some experimental technology that immediately backfires, the crew is forced to rethink everything if they are going to survive. With danger at every turn and their very lives at stake, the crew is going to need to get creative if they hope to make it off the Star Spire alive.

Chronicles of Nethra is a unique fusion of space opera, cyberpunk, and dark fantasy. Get ready for an epic story with characters that will win your heart and leave you wanting more.

E. R. Donaldson's Star Spire is the first book in his Chronicles of Nethra series and it is simply amazing. 


Star Spire tells the story of an intergalactic crew of thieves who take on a dangerous job for a client. Little do they realise that there is much more at play than a simple robbery. They are now inadvertently involved in a skirmish with some of the wealthiest, and most dangerous people in the galaxy. 


There's a lot to love about Star Spire and I won't be able to cover it all here. But, the one thing I loved was how good it was as the first book in a series. Most first books either give away too much too quickly or give away nothing at all in an attempt to tease it all that. Star Spire is perfect because t gives away just enough to intrigue the reader while holding back enough to pique your interest and keep you in anticipation of the next book. 


The storytelling is beautiful, it is not hurried, and it doesn't drag, it simply proceeds at its own leisurely pace. The characters are alive, they are people and not just characters, in fact, their stories stuck with me and they still resonate long after I have finished the story. 


The world-building is excellent. Usually, in stories like this with so many different places, species, planets, and customs it becomes hard to keep track of who is who, and the where is where. Here I seldom get lost, the descriptions of places and people are intricate and so I'm able to keep abreast of where we are in the galaxy. 


The several different species of people also present a bit of a challenge. There are Terrans, Maurs, Orchallens and so on, each group with its own distinct set of features and culture. However, ultimately there is enough time devoted to differentiating the groups without detracting from the story.


There is an information box at the beginning of each chapter that explains briefly one aspect of this fascinating world and it is helpful.


Everyone should give this book a go. Especially Sci-Fi, Space Opera, and Fantasy nerds. 

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I'm a book lover and budding writer. I write short stories across genres ranging from young adult to thrillers. I also publish essays, book reviews and pretty much everything else that crosses my mind on my blog (invisiblespidey.wordpress.com)

Synopsis

They hatched a plan to steal from the universe's deadliest assassins, but when the crew of the Vandal discovers a fresh threat aboard their very ship they realize they might just be in over their heads.

Fresh off a job in a neighboring system, Markus Frost and his crew are given less than a week to contrive a way to steal an illegal piece of technology – the Starfire Conduit – before it's sold to the Ghenza Collective. They're pulling out all the stops for this one, but when their pilot and resident hacker makes a gambit with some experimental technology that immediately backfires, the crew is forced to rethink everything if they are going to survive. With danger at every turn and their very lives at stake, the crew is going to need to get creative if they hope to make it off the Star Spire alive.

Chronicles of Nethra is a unique fusion of space opera, cyberpunk, and dark fantasy. Get ready for an epic story with characters that will win your heart and leave you wanting more.

Prologue

“What did you expect? They’re assassins. You can’t be too surprised when they stab you in the back. It’s kind of in their job description.”

Braccus Kai flexed\ his hands on the tablet in frustration. He was thankful that the newest models were more durable than their predecessors. They’d had to switch suppliers to slow the rate at which he churned through the devices. The medications that were supposed to help with his anger were obviously not working as advertised.

“You say that like it’s a trait exclusive to the Ghenza,” he growled. “In my experience, trust has no safe harbor in all Terran space.”

Rico’s laugh was more resigned than sardonic. “True enough. You seem to have had a rough run of it as of late, Kai.”

“Indeed—something I might largely credit to your own prestigious family.”

“Oh come now, you’ve made out all right in the end. Don’t let past business cloud your eyes to future possibilities!”

At this moment, Braccus was seriously considering the possibility of putting the tablet through Rico’s skull. “How do I even know this is real?”

“You don’t,” the young man replied. “But it’s yours to keep. Have your own men verify it.”

That he would do. Information this damning was not to be taken lightly, and the requisite response should be measured carefully.

For the sake of this conversation, Braccus decided to entertain the idea that the intel was at least partially correct. “Why would the Ghenza turn around and sell the Conduit to House Valadar?”

Rico shrugged. “Why would Valadar want to buy it in the first place? That’s the question you should be asking. Honestly, you should have been suspicious when the Ghenza first approached you. Their inter-system monitoring stations work fine without investing in cutting-edge power disbursement tech. I’m surprised you didn’t ask that question sooner.”

True, though Braccus knew exactly why he hadn’t. The Ghenza Collective had a way of making sure that your mind was occupied by other things instead of contemplating their end game. He’d enjoyed the partnership the Inheritors had struck with the assassins. He’d also enjoyed some of the fringe benefits proffered by the Collective’s representative.

A calculated move in retrospect. This meant his mind had been more focused on Aria’s body instead of her ambitions. He’d taken her for a simple creature with simple needs. It now seemed that he’d been quite mistaken.

“What do you want for this information?”

“Pardon?”

“Nothing in this universe is free, Rico. What is it that you seek in return?”

Rico smirked. “I think that should be obvious. I want to buy the Conduit instead.”

“And why do you want it?”

“Aside from keeping it away from my father’s most powerful rival? Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll use it to power my yacht.”

Braccus eyed the smug little noble. Despite the fact that the man might have actually brought him something of value, he still wanted to crush that perfect face of his. The political ramifications would be significant, but the greater part of his temperance came from the figure looming to Rico’s right. That silent brute eyed him up like a predator stalking its next meal.

The man was tall for a Terran, more on the level of one of the Maur or Orchallen. It was typical for those other races to tower over their Terran counterparts. Such was the reason the Great Houses and other Terran factions favored them as enforcers or bodyguards. Rico’s guard was bald, with eyes that seemed too small for the rest of his face. Thick lips and a grayish cast to his skin made Braccus think he might have some Orchallen in him after all.

A half-breed, maybe? Or perhaps one of his parents was the halfie. Most half-breeds were sterile, but Braccus wouldn’t place a bet on the accuracy of that information. Plus, with recombinant technology so commonplace, who knew what was possible. Perhaps the brute in his office had been cooked up in a lab somewhere.

Braccus looked back to Rico. It didn’t matter what the smug asshole wanted the Conduit for. It wasn’t worth anything to Braccus other than a payday.

“What’s your offer?”

“I’ll match whatever the Ghenza are paying.”

“You’ll have to do better than that. Even if they are aligning themselves with House Valadar, betraying the Ghenza is not something I do lightly. If I sell the conduit to you, my arrangement with the assassins comes to an end. That means you must bear part of the cost of breaking the deal.”

“Fair enough. Name your price.”

“Forty million.”

“Done.”

“And a formal alliance with House Chronos.”

Rico hesitated. “I don’t necessarily have the authority to…”

“That’s my price, Mr. Chronos. Do what you have to make it work.”

An angry look crossed the young man’s face. Finally, an actual display of backbone. “You overstep, Kai. I’d advise you to remember your place.”

“My place? At last calculation, my place was that of the seller, and yours that of the buyer. It is my right to demand the price I wish. If the proposition is not to your liking, take your corporate stock and governmental influence elsewhere.”

Rico balled his fists. His jaw tensed like he might grind his teeth. “I could just take the Conduit, you know.”

“You would have to find it first. Don’t think for a second it’s here with me now.” Braccus paused, staring Rico down and letting that bit of truth sink in. He leaned back in his chair, taking a sip from the tumbler on his desk. “By the way, threats will get you nowhere with me. Even if you were to have your lapdog over there strangle me, you’d never make it out alive. So, let’s avoid any mention of unpleasantness, shall we?”

Rico was fuming now. “Why you…”

Braccus slammed a fist on the nearby desk. “You sir, are in my house!” Lowering his voice, he growled, “I don’t care how much money and influence your father has placed in your pocket. A full bank account and a handful of parliamentarians do not a great leader make. It is best you learn that now, while your ailing father is still alive to make amends for your indiscretions.”

Rico hesitated again, a pause that lengthened into an awkwardly tense silence. As Braccus had imagined, invoking the man’s father had provided the necessary sobering influence.

Gods help them all when Don Chronos finally succumbed to his illness, for they all knew the man had not paid proper attention to his succession plan.

Rico drew a deep breath. “Forgive me. Your point is well taken. It does not change the fact that I will have to confer with my family before extending our protection.”

Braccus smiled, though he doubted it reached his eyes. “Most certainly. You have one week, Dorian standard, to close the deal. I am appointed to pass off the object in question to the Ghenza at that time. Absent a better offer, I will be forced to go through with that transaction.”

Expression teetering between skepticism and consternation, Rico asked, “You would truly transfer such a powerful asset to an enemy faction?”

“My enemies abound Mr. Chronos.” Braccus waved his hand dismissively. “As you pointed out, my faction has had a run of ill-luck lately. Though House Valadar represents a dangerous adversary, my list of allies runs thin. If I am to begin betraying those few that I have, I will need to line up replacements.”

Just entertaining Rico’s proposition was enough to put Braccus on the receiving end of an assassin’s blade. He was putting a lot of faith in the room’s scramblers to prevent Rico from recording this conversation. He could always claim a recording was a forgery, but it would still do much to weaken his ties with the Ghenza.

Rico’s brow knit with concentration. “Are you sure there isn’t something that I can arrange more immediately? A transfer of company stock, perhaps. Shares in Vega Major are surging quite nicely at present.”

“I’m not worried about finances alone, Rico. My offer stands. Rich men are overthrown every day. I need something that grants me position—something to cement my place in this system. If you are unable to secure a formal protection agreement, then my position remains one of vulnerability.”

The sag in Rico’s shoulders put the truth to Kai’s words. Truthfully, the compensation Braccus demanded was so valuable as to actually turn this little betrayal on its head. A protection arrangement from House Chronos would provide the Inheritors a leg up on all other minor players in the system. The House was arguably the only major player left in the Ravian System with House Barkay gone.

The Ghenza were formidable in their partnership, but they worked in the shadows. House Chronos was currently the dominant player in the system and would soon be a contender for the title of the most powerful House in the sector. No one would cross Braccus with the threat of Chronos’s wrath hanging overhead. To secure such a contract, Braccus would have written an indenturement contract for his own mother—gods rest her soul.

“Very well,” Rico sighed. “Give me a few days to secure consensus. I will either reach out to you at the time to confirm payment or arrange a counteroffer.”

Braccus made a mental note to double his guard until he heard back from the young noble. If the Don was not amenable to Kai’s terms, then the counteroffer would likely take the form of a bullet sent from a nearby rooftop.

“Agreed,” Braccus extended his hand. “A pleasure doing business with you, Rico. May this only be the first accord of a long and fruitful partnership.”


About the author

E.R. Donaldson is a life-long reader of science fiction and fantasy. As a pharmacist and hobbyist computer programmer working in the corporate world, he has a special appreciation for cyberpunk themes and aesthetics. He lives in Lansing, Michigan, with his wife and sons. view profile

Published on December 04, 2020

100000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Space Opera

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