Crossing the Line
I'm a big fan of Karen Traviss' writing. If it hadn't been for the novels she wrote for the Star Wars Expanded Universe, I may never have heard of her. But once it was announced that Traviss would no longer be writing Star Wars novels, I decided that I didn't want to miss out on works by such an excellent writer. I was directed to City of Pearl, the novel that put Karen Traviss on the science fiction map. I truly enjoyed the first novel of the Wess'har Wars series, I decided to check out the second, Crossing the Line.
When we last left our hero, former Environmental Enforcement Officer Shan Frankland, she had decided to stay on Bezer'ej. While attempting to save the planet from a hostile alien invasion, Shan had been mortally wounded. In an effort to save her, the Wess'har warrior and protector of Bezer'ej, Aras, infected her with his blood. Aras' blood is tainted with c'naatat, an organism that protects its host in any way, shape or form it can by making adaptations that ultimately prevent the host from dying. Realizing that she couldn't return to Earth and the greedy humans who would want to use c'naatat to their own self-serving purposes, Shan decides to remain with Aras at his post.
Unfortunately, word has leaked out about this organism Shan has been infected with and Earth has tasked its military to retrieve it while also making contact with the alien force that attempted to invade Bezer'ej. While the powers that be on Earth make alliances with the Isenj, an alien force that has grown so overpopulated that it has drained the resources of its own planet, the military make plans to capture Shan. Leading the charge is Commander Lindsay Neville, a woman with a personal vendetta against Shan Frankland for what took place on Bezer'ej just before the Marines were extracted.
The Wess'har realize that they must do something to protect the inhabitants of Bezer'ej and the secrets of the planet. The moment they being to implement their plan, the military makes a strike of their own. Will Shan and Aras be able to prevent the military from getting their hands on c'naatat, or will everything that Aras and his people have fought for be destroyed in a force of military might?
Crossing the Line is an amazing sequel to City of Pearl. I was absorbed from the very start, wondering just what c'naatat has done to change Shan, a character I have grown to relate with and enjoy reading about. Her relationship with Aras, the only other known living individual infected with c'naatat, evolves in quite an interesting way. I also enjoyed learning about the Wess'har and the Isenj and their politics as well as their secrets, the parallels between them and humans as well as the differences.
The evolution of the characters we met in City of Pearl is quite intriguing. We learn much more about Shan's past and have to decide whether we can still agree with her methods. Things we have come to expect from certain characters are completely twisted around as events and circumstances change their behavior in ways that shock us. City of Pearl fleshed the characters out for us, Crossing the Line allows them to grow and expand in ways that either make them more important to us or have us infuriated and wanting to reach through the pages to slap them silly.
After reading only two books in the Wess'har Wars saga, I am completely hooked. I can't wait to read the next novel, in which we learn something about the history of the Wess'har species who live in The World Before.