MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR is set in the far future world of the Sectors-spanning many worlds with diverse cast of humans and those of human origins. And aliens-mainly the fearsome Mawreg. Though this book MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR and the previous, ESCAPE TO ZULAIRE, do not focus on the Mawreg, per se, it is that link and the sectors that gives the story the space opera feel.

Princess Shalira has been blind for over fifteen years due to an assassination attempt. With the death of her father approaching, she is married off to a tribal chieftain as part of an alliance-and also due to palace intrigue. The soon to be widowed empress wants Shalira dead to secure her own claim to the throne. Shalira’s character is tough, focused, and resourceful. I appreciate that Scott writes heroine’s who take action-they get help from the hero, but never sit around helpless. Shalira acts like a woman who is determined to maintain her dignity at all costs-even a marriage that she doesn’t want.

Mike Varone is a Sector Special Forces officer assigned on a mission, but gets sidetracked when he intervenes and saves Shalira from another assassination attempt. He then agrees to escort her on her way to her marriage to protect her from another assassination attempt.

Most of the book follows Shalira’s escort to her would-be husband; their escape; pursuit by another tribe out for revenge; and all the adventure and palace intrigue that follows. We also discover Shalira’s hidden powers and oracle talents-although we are left wondering if there is not some more ‘scientific’ cause for it all.

Scott blends fantasy and SF speculation effectively, I think, and the SF reads somewhat like a fantasy tale. Magic, oracles, prophecies all give it the rich epic fantasy feel. Another plus is Scott’s ability to blend various world cultures so that her worlds seem like a truly diverse galaxy of the future-not just Western world rehash. There is just enough tech to keep the story going. I particularly found some of the cyber type tech for the Sector’s soldiers interesting-enhanced vision, language download tutors, etc. This seems more real to me than the usual SF trope of cyborg supersoldiers. Plus, it gives the soldiers some vulnerabilities.

Which brings me to characters. The Special Forces soldiers, Mike, is of the Alpha hero breed but has enough nuance to avoid stereotype. I thought his friendship with his  cousin Johnny was one of the best parts of the book. It provided some insight into his character-beyond just love, love, love with Shalira-and served to make him distinct. Shalira also develops her own friendship with Johnny, which is a nice touch. Another character, Saium, Shalira’s devoted guard is well-rounded also. I think the attention to the secondary characters is what gives this novel the space opera type of feel to it.

This is definitely an action driven, space opera SFR.  (The space ship even gets a nickname, cute.) The romance is there, and it’s pretty good. For SFR, there will always be a debate over how much of each SF and R, the reader wants. Some what couple loving’ and nothing but; others like a wider world. I enjoyed the wider world in this one. It is a lot to follow-there are several different clans and interests. There are a few sections that got a little info dump.

Overall, I enjoyed reading it! (And I really liked Johnny.)

I reviewed this book because I read ESCAPE TO ZULAIRE and liked the world involved. You don’t have to read ESCAPE TO ZULAIRE  to follow the story in MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR-though it makes the story all the more richer if you do. And it’s a good read. (Check out the book or it’s inclusion in the Nebula Nights anthology)

This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

RATING: four stars for adventure!

BLUSH: Red, but just.