REVIEW SUMMARY: The second novel in the Legion of the Damned prequel series brings readers back to the adventures of socialite-turned-solider, Cat Carletto, as her alter ego Andromeda McKee seeks vengeance on the ruler who murdered her family while trying to survive both the assassins set on her death and the hostile forces intent on the Legion’s destruction.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Her success as a Legionairre has earned Andromeda McKee the Imperial Order of Merit. In order to receive it she must leave the battlefield and return to Earth, which is possibly the most dangerous place she could ever find herself. An unanticipated opportunity for vengeance, a surprise reunion, and an assignment against overwhelming odds will teach the woman formally known as Lady Catherine Carletto several things about herself, some of which she may not like.
PROS: Builds upon the solid foundation laid down in Andromeda’s Fall; significant character development; intense battle sequences; satisfies the craving for strong military science fiction while building anticipation for the next book in the series.
CONS: Resistance story line is touched on far too briefly; the reaction of one character to a specific choice by the protagonist seems unnaturally absolute and was not supported by enough background information.
BOTTOM LINE: Author William C. Dietz has created a new jumping on point for readers unfamiliar with the long-running Legion of the Damned series that features a multifaceted character who matures over the course of this second novel. The first two novels in this series were released in 2013, giving readers an opportunity to get well and truly immersed in this world and in the journey of Andromeda McKee.
Whence it is to be noted that a prince occupying a new state should see to it that he commit all his acts of cruelty at once so as not to be obliged to return to them every day, and thus, by abstaining from repeating them, he will be able to make men feel secure…~Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince)
Andromeda’s Choice begins in the aftermath of the occurrences documented in Andromeda’s Fall. Andromeda McKee is now a battle-hardened Legionnaire struggling with a multitude of problems, including an unsanctioned relationship with another member of the military, the need to avoid identification by the assassins who are tracking her along with others listed as enemies of the Earth’s leadership, and the growing desire to enact vengeance against Princess Ophelia Ordanus. As long as McKee is away from Earth, however, that last issue is one she need not concern herself with. It is an immutable law of the universe that the thing you least expect will come upon you at the most inopportune time, which is what happens when Andromeda McKee is awarded the Imperial Order of Merit. The only thing she has to do as part of this rare honor is to return to Earth, and of course go deep into the lair of the one woman who is her sworn enemy.
It becomes obvious as one reads through Andromeda’s Choice that William C. Dietz is building something here. Early on in the novel he introduces story elements that were not present in the first novel, elements that hint at more and more layers to come. This strengthens what is already a highly enjoyable story. Though the majority of the novel keeps the reader’s focus squarely on Andromeda McKee, the occasional break in viewpoint allows for glimpses of happenings back on Earth, events that are slowly being woven into the fabric of McKee’s story.
Lady Catherine Carletto understandably starts out as a character unlikely to survive for long and while necessity forces her to adopt the persona of Andromeda McKee and join the fabled “we ask no questions” Legion, it takes time for her to learn the skills necessary to stay ahead of the many bullets that appear to have her name on them. A good portion of this education occurs in Andromeda’s Fall, but McKee has not suddenly “arrived” in Andromeda’s Choice. She is a skillful solider with even more to learn and Dietz very wisely puts her in situations, some unexpected both to the character and the reader, which hone her and shape her and force her to make choices, some of which may come back to haunt her.
I was impressed with many aspects of the novel, not the least of which the ways in which McKee’s choices cause her to examine herself in the mirror of Princess Ophelia’s actions. Dietz does not provide the reader or Andromeda McKee any easy answers and in so doing accomplishes some very solid character building that makes this second outing even better than the first. Situations arise which are uncomfortable to face and Dietz does not shy away from addressing those through his protagonist.
Andromeda’s Choice is filled with intrigue, danger, and page-turning battle sequences and it was not surprising to find that once I started reading I did not want to break away from the story. I reviewed Andromeda’s Fall in January 2013 here on SF Signal, shortly after its initial release. It was my first experience with the work of William C. Dietz and I enjoyed it very much. What I did not expect was how much my affection for the story would grow as the year progressed. When it was announced that a sequel would be forthcoming in December 2013, Andromeda’s Choice became the novel I was most anticipating and I purchased it on release day and began reading it immediately. I think it a testament to his skill at telling an engaging story that the author was able to generate that kind of devotion.
Both novels are available here in the United States from Ace Books with great covers by artist Chris McGrath and Andromeda’s Fall has a January 3rd, 2014 release date in the U.K. by Titan Books. Look for an author interview with William C. Dietz coming soon to SF Signal.