Harmony (Harmony 1) by C. F. Bentley (Daw) Review

Title: Harmony
Series: Harmony 1
Author: C. F. Bentley (Irene Radford)
Genre: Military Science Fiction | Fantasy
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Daw 2008

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The launch of a brand new series that blends the best elements of science fiction and fantasy.

The world of Harmony, along with its close-knit colony planets, long ago isolated itself from the rest of the universe. But in a universe where the human-based Confederate Star System fleet finds itself hard-pressed to stand against ever-increasing attacks by the alien Marillon Empire, the Harmonic Empire cannot be left alone. For if the CSS cannot win an alliance with Harmony, the Marils will surely find a way to invade the planet and seize control of the unique and invaluable metal, which only the Harmonites can produce.

Yet invasion is far from the only threat the people of Harmony face. The gulf between rich and poor, rulers and ruled continues to widen, threatening to destroy the very structure of their society—while the planet itself is becoming increasingly unstable. In this time of crisis, one young woman

Information

The book is dedicated to Father Richard Toll and there is an excerpt from the sequel Enigma at the end of the book.

This is a book about a historical conspiracy and the pressure of change that will rip any static society apart.

The protagonists are Jake, a spy sent by mainstream humanity to obtain the secret of the Badger Metal and Sissy born with the mark of all seven castes, soon to become High Priestess of Harmony.

The Author

C. F. Bentley is a pseudonym Irene Radford uses for her science fiction novels. Harmony is the first novel by her I ever read but I think I will read more. From what it looks like she has written a number of fantasy books. The theme seems to be dragons and Merlin. More information on Irene’s homepage www.ireneradford.com.

World building

The Confederated Star System is at war with the alien Marillon Empire and they both need Badger Metal for their starships. Harmony is the only supplier which is why Jake is sent there to find out the secret on how to make it. Harmony is a seven world pocket empire that was founded by an earth cult. It closed its borders fifty years ago and they have had no outside contact ever since including no export of Badger Metal.

Harmony with its rigid cast society is like an onion of deception where we see layer after layer being stripped off. Marriages between casts are forbidden and when you are born into a cast (carry the cast mark) you are there for life.

The world is consistent, interesting and realistic even if it borders on on the absurd at times. There is a slight resemblance in feel from some Harry Harrison novels even if the world is much more complex here.

Plot

Jake used to be a fighter pilot before he screwed up and was saved by a secret intelligence organization that takes on space opera manners. There is sex very early in the novel but not very descriptive. He is first sent to The Lost Colony of Harmony (they broke of communication with their mother world and formed a new casteless society) to try to obtain an alternative to Badger Metal but it fails so he is sent to Harmony undercover as one of the Military Cast and he eventually end up as Sissy’s bodyguard.

Harmony is going through an unstable period with freaky weather and earthquakes which the cultists see as the planet being upset. Sissy is a mutant, born and raised by Worker parents but with all seven cast markings, usually that would make her an outcast of society to be eventually exterminated in one of their concentration camps/asylum but she hides it with cosmetics. During a catastrophic earthquake she discovers that she can channel its energy and commune with Harmony saving the city from destruction. The High Priest finds her and makes her the new High Priestess against the wishes of the former’s family who have had that title for generations. The High Priest thinks she will be easy to manipulate with her simple upbringing. He couldn’t be more wrong as she starts to put things right.

What follows is political intrigue, assassination attempts, deception but also revelation of the truth about their pasts. It is fast paced with unexpected twists and a lovely love story just like I like it.

Characterization

Jake is well developed with his doubt about the mission and the moral dilemma he faces. He is also appalled by the rigid caste society and the way the high casts manipulate the lower.

Sissy grows from ignorant worker to a formidable leader of her people. She is a strong believer in family and the high castes ways disgust her. You root for her from the beginning as she is so easy to love.

My View

There is a quite a bit of social commentary in this story and the characters, which makes it more than just a good rump. I like Harmony, it mixes military with space opera and romance in a fast flowing easy to read experience. It was also a damn fun book to read. I had to laugh out loud in delight at some of the twists the story took to the amusement of my dear ones. In conclusion Harmony is not great literature but it is a fun read which should please both readers of military science fiction, space opera and romance.