BloodLust (Book 1)
This story that blends science-fiction and fantasy elements to create a world with unique characteristics immediately sucked me in. Though it’s advertised as a fantasy epic, all the “fantastical” tropes can be traced back to a very science-fiction origin, in which humans do what they do best: Sweep in and take over a new world for their benefit. This base conflict results in some fun world-building elements, such as lack of metal and a tiered society of humans and iliri.
The racial allegory between the human and iliri is not subtle, even though Hadley flips the trope by making humans the ones with darker skin. Luckily, nothing is so clear-cut because these races are capable of interbreeding. Though Sal, the main character, is a purebred iliri, the men of her military unit are all mixed-race to different levels, resulting in some excellent character interactions based on what it means that Sal is specifically a female purebred iliri.
Each character and their relationships with Sal and each other, are well-developed. All of them have individual gifts and quirks based on either their heritage or personality. No generic beefcake military dudes here, which is important because the military lifestyle and regional conflicts are an integral part of the conflict and plot. Those developments and action scenes are as entertaining to read as the sex scenes and relationships that develop from them.
This book features some point-of-view shifts that might distract some readers, but I felt that it generally worked based on the psychic link established between the characters. This complete story is the first in a sprawling epic, and I can’t wait to see what comes next – for these characters and this world.
Instinctual (Book 2)
Now that Hadley has lured you into this series with the reverse harem premise of this epic science fiction/fantasy saga, there is not much sexiness in this individual book. Sorry romance readers: This story is for those of us who adore sweeping political adventures, both across empires and closer to home (in this case, within and between military units). Sal learns more about herself as an iliri, which does extend to her relationships with multiple men. But these relationships are used more as characterization plot points than as the focus of the story itself.
I already knew going in that this is a long series, so I’m okay with taking the long view regarding Sal and her relationships with the other characters. Through another character’s abilities, Hadley has hinted that the ending pay-off will be both epic and huge. I’ve already read enough of their work to trust in this author’s ability to deliver.
If you enjoyed the first book in this series, Instinctual is worth a shot. But like I said above, this series has already moved past the more cliché side of the reverse harem trope. Instead, it is a feature of the iliri themselves, and I look forward to following both Sal’s character arc and the growth of this fascinating half fantasy/half science fiction world.
I am taking a break from continuing this series, but I will definitely consider finishing it at some point in the future.