The mri are one of the more interesting humanoid alien species I've come across in my sci-fi adventures, mostly because of their caste system which favors females, in a way. The warriors, or kel, must keep covered in black cloth, veiling even their faces- and the kel can be male or female. The kel also aren't supposed to think for themselves, only do what they're told, when they're told to do it. This leads to some interesting situations, as the Regul aren't really concerned with what's best for the mri, despite using them rather ruthlessly.
The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'This is the story of three people: Sten Duncan, a soldier of humanity; Niun, last warrior of the mri, humanity's enemies; and Melein, priestess-queen of the final fallen mri stronghold. It is the story of two mighty species fighting for a galaxy, humanity driving out from Earth, and the enigmatic regul struggling to hold their stars with mri mercenaries. It is a story of diplomacy and warfare, of conspiracy and betrayal, and of three flesh-and-blood people who found themselves thrown together in a life-and-death alliance.'
What I loved best about this book is obviously the intensive worldbuilding, because it seems like that and alien politics take up half the book. Not much goes on for the first parts, other than getting to know the characters and the world around them. I must say I'm partial to the addition of the dusei, which are bear-like creatures that kind of remind me of a mountain lion-bear cross. Although I don't feel the artist does them justice on the cover, just imagine that critter but much deadlier-looking. They are natives of Kesrith, but have chosen to allow the mri to keep them as almost spiritually relevant animals.
I didn't feel like some points of the book were necessary, other than to convince you the Regul may actually have some brains to their blob-like bodies. I can't recall if it was just one chapter from the Regul perspective, but if it was just one, it was one chapter too many: everything you already knew through Niun and Sten's point-of-view chapters was reiterated through the Regul's eyes. There were also parts where Niun was completely at sea within his own thoughts, even though as a warrior, he isn't supposed to do such things. When you read this book, you know it is a start to a series due to all that worldbuilding and other introductory periods.
Kesrith may take place many galaxies away from us, but I did find myself lost in its environs and politics. Yes, there were points I wondered when the book would pick up, but when the dramatic crescendo of the story hit me, I was completely swept away. If you enjoy books set in a galaxy, preferably one far, far away, I would recommend Kesrith for your next read.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent science fiction novel that builds slowly.
Content: Ages 16+ for violence and the heartbreak of coming of age.
Page Count: 252 pages