Looking for a quick bit of adrenaline, a spot of intrigue and the drama of an international sports event? Look no further than the second entry in K.B. Wagers’ NeoG series, Hold Fast Through the Fire.
This second book in the author’s military science fiction series picks up roughly a year after the events of A Pale Light in the Black. The crew of Zuma’s Ghost have achieved a repeat victory at the intermilitary Boarding Games, which was quite an achievement given that the Near-Earth Orbital Guard (NeoG) are looked down upon by other branches of the armed forces. Zuma’s Ghost is facing a change of staff, and everyone is uneasy about what that means for the future of the ship. The prelims for the next year’s Games are fast approaching, and the Ghost has been put on a new task force to investigate potential smuggling issues from off-world settlements.
Nika, still off balance from the loss of his hand, is apprehensive about his new command on Zuma’s Ghost, despite the fact that it was the ship where he cut his teeth as a budding lieutenant. His budding romance with Maxine Carmichael is on the rocks, and to make things worse, he has accepted a secret assignment that will put both Max’s and the crew’s trust to the test. Chae, Zuma’s Ghost’s new pilot, has issues of their own. Forced into the NeoG as part of a plea bargain, they are torn between their growing loyalty to their new crew and the need to keep their fathers safe from intergalactic intrigue. Meanwhile, Max is certain something is desperately wrong with Nika, Chae and their new assignment, but no one will back her up. With Nika effectively gaslighting her to throw her off the scent of his new top-secret mission, Max will have to hew closely to her own instincts if she is going to get the team through the prelims in one piece—let alone their official assignment.
Unlike A Pale Light in the Black, Hold Fast Through the Fire’s central mystery begins unrolling nearly at page one, giving the book a more sinister feel than its predecessor and pulling readers into a labyrinthine plot that surprises and delights. This does take away slightly from the Games aspect of the series, but readers who enjoyed A Pale Light in the Black’s focus on the competition won’t be disappointed. When training for the Games does make its appearance, it still packs the same adrenaline-filled punch of A Pale Light in the Black. Despite the increase in intrigue, Wagers devotes ample attention to the relationships among the crew of Zuma’s Ghost. From the exploration of Jenks’ and Max’s close friendship to Chae’s struggles to fit in with the group to Nika’s battle to accept himself after his accident, Hold Fast Through the Fire is as much about found family and interpersonal relationships as it is about mysteries or the Boarding Games.
This brilliant and entertaining installment in the NeoG universe is a great choice for readers looking for military drama, evocative writing and espionage.