The Blockade by Jean Johnson

4.5/5 stars

The final book in the First Salik War trilogy starts off immediately where the second book leaves off, so The Blockade by Jean Johnson should not be read as a stand-alone novel.  The First Salik War trilogy is a prequel to the author’s excellent Theirs Not to Reason Why 5-book series, and the three books are terrific entries in the space opera/First Contact science fiction genre.

The Terrans have finally been pushed too far by the V’Dan skin-color-based prejudice, and have closed their new embassy on the V’Dan home planet after V’Dan Princess Regent Vi’alla takes over in the wake of a Salik attack on the palace.  After being challenged by Imperial Prince Li’eth, one of our story’s two main characters, she orders his kidnapping by Elite palace guards loyal to her.

In the meantime, Jackie McKenzie, the Terran ambassador and Li’eth’s psychic (or “Gestalt”) partner, has to deal with the political fallout of the Terrans’ decision to close the embassy.  The mental and psychic harm of being separated from Li’eth eventually leads to a case of spontaneous teleportation (alluded to in the previous books) squarely in the middle of the Salik war zone.

There are a couple of off notes, such as an almost unnecessary plot point concerning Tier Advocates, which seemed like it would have far greater repercussions that it actually does, as well as an odd scene which revolves around a discussion of zombie movies and the Bechdel test, during which I was distracted with an internal debate over whether world government and military officials in the far future would really use this as a common cultural reference.

However, Ms. Johnson truly excels at exciting and satisfying wish fulfillment.  Jackie is a strong, honorable, smart diplomat who also happens to be tremendously psychically gifted.  Both she and Li’eth have the chance to use all the skills they are known to have in defending the worlds being threatened by the Salik.  The fighting ranges from underwater battles to psychic and space warfare.  Ms. Johnson includes some entertaining diplomatic encounters in which Jackie brooks no nonsense and neatly deals with the different alien species she and Li’eth encounter in their joint diplomatic and military ventures.

The Blockade is an excellent conclusion to the First Salik War trilogy, and I look forward to future adventures in this author’s well-fleshed-out world.

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