Top positive review
The Staff of Sorrows
Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2016
This book, number 4 in the series, pulls together much of what we'd guessed at in the previous three, and adds some new twists in the plot . Since we've been in Alisa's head all along, we know pretty much everything important about her, and have also come to learn her character. In her essence, she is ethical and empathetic, and capable of extraordinary courage. She is also a normal girl, in many ways. She allows herself to be tempted by people and circumstances, and often gives in to this. She is an inveterate eavesdropper, and though conflicted about this, seems to have no desire to stop. She gets caught at it, and is embarrassed, but just decides to be more careful next time.
She also considers thievery, as we've seen in the other books, but doesn't follow through primarily because she wants to keep Leonidas' good opinion of her, if that might be possible. She can be manipulative, but isn't very good at it. She can't help but let it out when she feels snarkiness welling up inside of her, but thinks she is charming because of it. Despite all these character defects, she IS charming, and it's easy to see why the various men are drawn to her.
Leonidas, on the other hand, is, contrary to the reputation most cyborgs have, upstanding, capable of friendship, and probably love, ethical, brave, protective, very smart, and introspective. Alisa, and gradually, the others in the group, have come to realize these things about him, and to value him, and his opinions. We learn, in this book, one of his great secrets, which, because of all the foreshadowing done, is not much of a secret when he finally reveals it to Alisa.
The two also finally get together, as much as they can. While this is happening, she is being pursued by Abelardus, who manages to throw several curves at her, and causes discord between she and Leo. Because of the secret we learn about Alisa, (which was also a secret to her), we know why he is doing this. This results in some fairly enjoyable scenes between the two of them. Enjoyable to the reader, at any rate.
We learn what the orb is that Alejandro has carried with him throughout the various voyages, and get to finally see it in action. The circumstances around this are, actually, surprising, and open up a whole avenue of further plotlines. It's hard to describe these scenes without including lots and lots of spoilers, so I'm not going to. Just be assured that it's really, really worth reading.
None of the other crew members or passengers get much time, and we don't really learn much more about them. It's the plot that is primarily furthered in this installment. We've gotten beyond all the searching for the relic, which is now found, and because of Alisa's cleverness, is in the possession of this group, instead of all the other powerful people who have been looking for it. The book ends here, and we can only surmise that as soon as the Alliance discovers that they have been tricked, they will come storming after them.
There has been no action on the search for Jelena this time, but Leo has agreed to stay with Alisa and work for her while she searches for her daughter.
There IS plenty of action and excitement in this book, (it's a Buroker novel, after all), but nothing like the previous ones. The value in this one is in the background information we gain, and in movement of the plot. The next book is going to be fantastic. It will include the search for Jelena, a search for Torian, (the Emperor's missing son), possibly the kidnapping of Dr. Tiang, (the researcher newly introduced into the story, who is knowledgeable about cyborg workings), and the conspiracy which is beginning to form between Abelardus and Alejandro to either force, or convince Alisa to use her newly found power to aid them in their ultimate mission.
This series is my newest guilty pleasure. I tear through the books when I get my hands on them. Buroker has some stock characters that she writes over and over, and Alisa is one of them. That being said, I never get tired of it. I love the way the author writes her women. She is also generous with her men, and gives them interior lives that are as rich as the women. Even among the peripheral characters, you'll never find a cardboard figure. Everyone is fully fleshed and interesting in their own right.
The whole series is a 5 Star series. If you happen upon this review, and don't already know this author, take this opportunity to discover your next favorite book. You will go on to collect the whole catalogue, because, well, you just will.