United Sentients, led by Wardhaven, takes action to find the cause for the Iteeche ships that are disappearing, a topic introduced in Undaunted. Kris, as commander of a patrol squadron, is ordered to lead an exploration into very deep space. Various other states, prominently including the Greenfeld Empire, decide they need to go along. Kris finds herself in the lead of a rather large fleet of exploration, though not in command. The political machinations make her life complicated. The main action starts when the fleet actually finds a race of aliens who devastate and plunder other civilizations. Any attempt at contact is met by immediate aggression. Kris must now save a race that is not even aware of humanity’s existence, and survive in order to report her findings.
This is the first time since Defiant that the series has set our heroes with their backs to the wall in a real win or die situation with immense stakes. Kris must battle the demons of her past to do the right thing, even if her actions will likely lead to condemnation on her return to base. Shepherd skillfully continues developing Kris as a heroine who deserves happiness but whose background and sense of duty prevent it. Unlike many other long series, Shepherd dares to reinvent this one and kill off key characters, keeping the whole thing fresh and exciting.
Note: Shepherd has previously written about our heroine’s great-grandfather Raymond under his real name, Mike Moscoe.