Book Review: Dark Space Series by Lisa Henry

This post includes reviews of the books in the Dark Space series:

  • Dark Space (#1)
  • Darker Space (#2)
  • Starlight (#3)

Dark Space (Dark Space #1)

Me, before reading this book: I’m sure this will be a fun science fiction romance with some alien tech shenanigans!
Me, at about 90% through this book: Don’t mind me, I’m just sobbing my eyes out over these two precious men and their tragic circumstances.

Seriously, the spouse and I laughed at the back-cover description. Not in a mean way, but in the way science fiction fans tend to assume that they’ve already seen it all. And I have seen parts of this before. Military SF set in a vaguely dystopic future existing under the threat of imminent destruction isn’t new. However, Henry uses SF tropes to create a genuine connection between two unique characters, leading them on a journey that packs an enormous emotional punch.

On the speculative side, Henry employs a phenomenal bit of subtle worldbuilding through the partial perspective of a grunt with little formal education. Brady only has his life experience to draw from, which means that he understands the basics of why he’s a conscript manning the height of human technology, which is both familiar as any contemporary military base and worth little in the face of the alien threat. A quirk of fate or chance puts him face to face with said alien threat as he ends up physically and mentally connected to Cam, a former prisoner of war who bears a message from the Faceless.

I often feel limited in romance novels that feature only a single narrative perspective. Brady’s mental connection to Cam alleviates some of that frustration while also allowing Cam to keep the secrets that propel the drama of this story inexorably forward. Brady might have enough self-awareness to understand that the connection he experiences with Cam might be manufactured, but that does nothing to diminish its impact on the reader.

Despite the emotionally brutal final act, this story ends on a solid happily for now. I look forward to reading the next installment of this trilogy, even as terrified as I am about how the Faceless might continue to affect Brady and Cam’s lives. This book is an amazing blend of two genres done right, and I encourage both science fiction and romance fans to give this story a chance. Just be forewarned about the book hangover you’ll experience afterward, which is totally worth it.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


Darker Space (Dark Space #2)

jlgribble.com | book cover of Darker Space (Dark Space #2) by Lisa Henry

As much as I knew I would love returning to this world and these characters, I put off reading this book because of how hard I cried at the end of the first installment in this trilogy.

Jokes on me! This time, the tears hit within the first third of the story.

Once again, however, the tears and emotional gut punches throughout this narrative are entirely worth it. Henry doesn’t waste time returning us to the heart of this plot, but Brady and Cam aren’t the only ones the Faceless have their sights set on this time. The mental connection that initially forged the unlikely relationship between an enlisted man and the former POW officer is even more of a double-edged sword this time around.

On the internal character arc side, Brady’s obviously got some issues. Even before the first book, he had issues; living happily ever after with Cam and his sister doesn’t magically fix everything when he’s still a grunt for the military and subject to their oversight and whims. After all, can it be POST-traumatic stress disorder if it’s all still very real?

The conflict reverses a bit here, which leans more into the science-fiction trope of how humans are generally the real villains. Brady makes a promise to himself in this story. He doesn’t fulfill it so much as he goes so far into his terror that he comes out the other side. Not unscathed, but in such a way that he can better understand the reality of his situation, including what Cam experienced during his first foray with the Faceless.

Once again, this book does not end on a cliffhanger, but it immediately sets up the final installment of this trilogy. I’ll have to gear myself up for the ride again, but I have a feeling it will be absolutely worth it.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


Starlight (Dark Space #3)

jlgribble.com | book cover of Starlight (Dark Space #1) by Lisa Henry

Did I cry while reading this book? Only a little bit. However, this does not mean that the story did not repeatedly stab me in the feels (in the best way possible). Henry brilliantly interweaves the external conflict of Brady, Cam, and other humans interacting with the Faceless in their natural environment and the internal conflicts and characters arcs of Brady dealing with the other humans (specifically, Cam’s ex) and, most importantly, dealing with himself. The romance thread of this trilogy conclusion has more to do with Brady learning to love himself as someone worthy of Cam’s affection and dedication. Along the way, Henry again shows epic speculative fiction chops with multiple plot twists that play with SF tropes in the best way.

Another relationship that evolves throughout the drama and action of this story is the one between Cam and the only named Faceless, Kai-Ren. Cam underwent some pretty horrific experiences before the events of this trilogy, which he has tried to rationalize away. Here, with Brady’s steadfast support in return, he can reframe his memories and acknowledge his trauma. Very little about this story is about humans versus aliens (except in one perfectly notable exception), so I believe Henry did the best with Cam’s resolution as possible within the frame of the narrative.

Speaking of conflict, we have to talk about the ex. Brady knows why he doesn’t like Chris. Chris knows why he doesn’t like Brady. But instead of constant mutual antagonism, I thoroughly appreciated how their dynamic shifted during the story to something deeper. Brady’s connection to a surprise newcomer to this ragtag crew of humans has a lot to do with that, and I would be absolutely thrilled if Henry ever chose to write a follow-up tale featuring Chris and Thomas.

I thought this trilogy would be silly. Instead, I experienced an epic story arc that showcases the best of the story possibilities available in both the romance and science-fiction genres. I highly recommend these books to any readers interested either.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Published by J.L. Gribble

Author, Editor, Worldbuilder

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