“We’re going to wash away today’s madness. And while we do so, I’ll tell you about a little girl’s dream of escaping fate.”
Thank you very much to Regine Abel for providing a copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review.
Regine Abel’s Escaping Fate is an alluring and tantalising sci-fi that all Romance lovers should read. Set against the backdrop of alien planets, impending war and phenomenal world-building, Escaping Fate is both a character- and plot-driven romance that kept me reading until the early hours of the morning.
Born and raised on a slaver’s ship, Amalia plans to escape before she’s forced to participate in her master’s psi breeding program. She finds refuge on a foreign planet where she meets the cousins Lhor and Khel. Together, they fight against those hunting her down, while attempting to rescue the other victims of her master’s blood and sex slave ring.
Between her master’s dogged pursuit, deadly rivalries, assassins and corrupted nobles, can the cousins keep Amalia safe or will their respective feelings for her tear them apart?
This MFM novel is a constant toe-curling, action-packed thriller, and the first book in the Veredian Chronicles series. It is standalone with no cliffhanger.
It has been a very long time since I last read a hetero romance novel, and I have never before read a MFM. I had no idea what to expect going into this novel, and to say I was impressed by Escaping Fate would be an understatement. Regine Abel has created something truly spectacular here – a real tour de force. By far the strongest element in the novel Abel’s impeccable world-building: alien worlds, distinct cultures and species, venereal ceremonies, forms of government, corrupt politics … the list just goes on. Never before have I read a SFF where the world felt so real. What I loved most about the worlds Abel has created is that Xelix Prime, the planet Amalia finds herself on, is deeply respectful of women. It’s still a patriarchal society but women are venerated, and despite the inclusion of sexual slavery, the novel is very pro-woman and pro-choice. Abel makes it very clear who the bad guys are: the slavers, the rapists, the people who stood idly by while women were kidnapped and forced to breed.
“He treated me like a delicate flower that needed sheltering from the first gust of wind. That wasn’t ok. I needed to learn to stand on my own and weather the storm.”
The plot felt like one wild ride after another – it didn’t let up for a second. After Amalia escapes from her slaver, she is directed by her grandmother to attend a Fastening, a sort of mock-marriage ceremony the people’s of the planet Xelix Prime experience. There, Amalia discovers the unfair caste system of society: the Primes, the Norms, and the Tainted. The latter group are infected with a non-transmissible disease that manifests itself in black lines across one’s body, and also infects the organs and reproductive functions while decreasing life expectancy from 135 to 40. Society has all but abandoned the Tainted and treat them little better than slaves. But the Taint can also be reversed, even healed, through intercourse, which delays the spread of the disease. Amalia attends the Fastening to find herself a mate and surprises everyone by choosing one of the Tainted: Khel, the last surviving member of the noble Praghan family and General of the Xelixian Army. Amalia chooses him to protect her from her former slaver, who is hunting her down.
Reading the blurb, I never would have expected Amalia to be such a badass. I fully expected her to be like the stereotypical female romance characters from the fiction I read years ago: submissive, meek, with no discernible personality aside from lusting after the love interest every five minutes, but Amalia is not like that. She’s a strong, willful, dominant young woman who endured a lifetime of slavery, escaped, and is ready to take down the bastards who ruined her life. I have nothing but admiration for her, and am so grateful that Abel wrote her this way. She is also surprisingly funny – many of her interactions with Khel, Lhor and their friends is filled with moments of hilarity. Those scenes really brightened the entire novel. She also has this extraordinary empathy for everyone and won’t rest until the women she watched be sold into slavery are found.
I had a few issues with Khel’s character, mainly at how overprotective of Amalia he seemed to be. The Xelixian people are very protective of women, due to the spread of the Taint, and they have strict societal codes that everyone must abide by. He could come across as quite rigid and traditional, but I liked how Abel specifically contrasted him with his cousin Lhor, the exact opposite to Khel. While Khel has a few issues with anger and protectiveness, he also grows and learns from his mistakes. What Abel did really well in Escaping Fate is keeping character’s personalities consistent, while also open enough for development. What I mean by that is, often in Romances, characters’ personalities can be all over the place as the plot tends to come second to the erotica – thankfully, that is not the case with Abel’s novel. I am highly impressed by each of the characters in Escaping Fate, even the background ones.
“It’s alright, Lhor,” Amalia whispered, sensing my distress. “It’s just you and me.”
Lhor, on the other hand, was an absolute delight. During the Fastening, Amalia is torn between Lhor and Khel, but eventually chooses Khel because of his strength, but the tension between Lhor and Amalia is undeniable. As Abel describes in her short story Losing Amalia, Lhor and Amalia’s souls knew each other, but Amalia chooses his cousin instead. Lhor suffers silently in jealousy and shame: jealousy, because Amalia is basically his soulmate, and shame because Khel is his Geminate. The Geminates are one of the most interesting aspects of Abel’s worldbuilding – it is a person whose soul is split into two separate bodies, allowing them to feel one another’s emotions. Usually, Gems come in the form of twins, but Lhor and Khel are special cases as they are cousins. If the Gems are separated for a long period of time, the younger, weaker Gem becomes sick and only the presence of the elder Gem can heal them. Because Lhor is the younger Gem, he has often felt inadequate his entire life, as though he were leaching off of Khel. The scenes were Lhor self-deprecates tore at my heart and I just wanted to give him a hug. He is a sweetheart of a character, and my favourite from the novel.
Abel really toyed with my emotions throughout Escaping Fate. I didn’t expect to care this much about the characters, but I did. Abel’s impeccable prose and pacing certainly had something to do with this. At times, I was so blown away by her writing it almost didn’t register I was reading at all and I breezed through the novel in a matter of days. Anytime I found myself with a spare moment, I was drawn back to Escaping Fate.
“Like Nana said, I needed to learn to spread my wings, and I was discovering myself in the process.”
I look forward to the next novel in the series. As Escaping Fate is a standalone, I assume the next novel will focus on other characters, but perhaps the same world and similar plot as Abel has left a few storylines open. I especially am looking forward to how learning more about the Tainted and how attitudes towards them will develop.
Escaping Fate was an epic sci-fi, simmering with passionate romance. Abel has truly outdone herself and I highly recommend this novel to any fan of romances. It’s a must-read.