Undercity by Catherine Asaro
Major Bhaajan has spent her entire life trying to escape the brutal world of the Undercity—she left when she was sixteen, joined the military and became a PI—until a suspected kidnapping of the beloved and protected prince of her home planet’s ruling family draws her back in. But after the prince is found, Bhaajan finds herself pulled into the world of her childhood once more—as more dangers are lurking for the Undercity at every turn.
I enjoyed the plot, however I felt that there was a lot of heavy-handedness in the handling of many of the situations and some clunky writing that felt very forced (and in the audiobook, the call and response of the Dirt Knights was painful to listen to).
This book has the feel of a traditional urban fantasy that just happens to be dropped into a sci-fi setting. The heroine is tough, former military, a stated loner who escaped her hard past but finds herself brought back into it. She’s special but doesn’t really know why. She has a very strong inner monologue that turns into exposition that can be obvious and slightly mind-numbing at times. There is a mystery to be solved, she is a PI, and that mystery transforms into something that can change her people and herself.
Don’t get me wrong—I love urban fantasy. But some of the cliches and tropes were a bit too heavy and obvious. And practically perfect in every way Bhaajan was kind of a bore. She’s good at everything she does (and was apparently self-sufficient and fully cognizant at three), and despite having been apart from the city of her childhood for twenty-some years can speak fully on her people’s needs without having to consult any of them because nothing has changed in millennia.
Also, I grew weary of the very maleness that was Jack. There’s only so many times you can hear lean, long, masculine smile, smirk, etc. And Bhaajan had a weird obsession with women who were taller than she was (what was up with that?).
However, I did like the spin on gender roles, placing the men in the protected positions with a matriarchal society. It was interesting, as was the role of psions in the society. Although the entire inbreeding aspect was ehhhhhhh (this is an issue I’ve had with some of the other books in the original series).
Overall, it’s a solid read, but not a stellar one.
If you like urban fantasy and want to branch into sci-fi, this might feel familiar and ease the transition.