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REVIEW: Peacemaker – E.M. Hamill

Peacemaker - E.M. Hamill

Genre: Sci Fi, Space Opera

Reviewer: Devon

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About The Book

Third-gender operative Dalí Tamareia thought their life as an ambassador ended when they joined a galactic intelligence agency. When they’re yanked out of the field and tapped to negotiate the surrender of deadly bio-engineered warriors who crashed into hostile territory, Dalí is thrust headfirst back into the tumultuous world of galactic diplomacy.

Dalí has faced Shontavians before, but not like these. The stranded mercenaries are highly intelligent and have an agenda of their own. Dalí can’t afford to be distracted from the negotiations by their own demons or the presence of a charming diplomat with a mysterious past.

As a brewing civil war threatens to derail the entire mission, Dalí must use all their skills to bring this dangerous situation to a peaceful end—but the Shontavians may not be the biggest monsters at the table. Someone is determined to see Dalí and their team dead before they discover the brutal truth hidden in the wreckage.

The Review

At the start of Peacemaker, ambassador-turned-secret-agent Dalí Tamareia is deep undercover on a mission for Penumbra (a galactic intelligence agency) when they are called in to participate in an urgent (and dangerous) task: negotiating peace between the last of the Shontavians (genetically engineered fighters) and the Ursetu (the human-like race that created the Shontavians). Will Dalí succeed in sparing the Shontavians from extermination without tearing apart the Remoliad counsel (a sort of galactic United Nations) or enraging the Ursetu royalty?

In my review of Dalí, the first book in E. M. Hamill’s Dalí Tamareia series, I mentioned that the best single word descriptor for this series is simply awesome. That assertion holds for book two as it does a stellar job of telling the next segment in Dalí’s journey as a peacemaker/secret agent as well as bringing them closer to discovering the truth behind the explosion that killed their family.

As a novel, Peacemaker has a fairly self-contained central story, so it could certainly be understood without having read the first book of the series; however, there are definitely plot threads that build from the first book as well as a lot of shared characters, so I feel like a reader might miss some important details/character motivations if they skipped over the first book. Besides which, the first book is, as I’ve mentioned, awesome, so why not start there and just keep reading?

One of the main draws of this book for me was its focus on the Shontavians. The Shontavians are, essentially, genetically engineered killing machines (Yikes!) that enjoy eating their enemies/prey/victims (Double yikes!) while said enemies/prey/victims are still alive and screaming (Triple yikes!).

And yet…. Dalí encountered two Shontavians in the previous book, and although they lived up to their terrifying reputation, they were far from mindless killing machines. In fact, the book seemed to suggest that, in better circumstances, the Shontavians could actually be capable of connecting with and maybe even living peacefully among others.

I was hoping to see this confirmed later in the series, and Peacemaker definitely delivered. We get to learn the traumatizing ways that the Shontavians are trained and meet a new batch of them that actually crave a peaceful existence so much they’re willing to die in battle for it. Suffice it to say, the Shontavians in this novel are still pretty terrifying, but I also really, really want them to end up safe and happy and able to gaze up at the stars whenever they please.

Of course, another aspect of this book that I appreciated was Dalí’s nonbinary identity. As I mentioned in my review of Dalí, well-written nonbinary protagonists can be hard to come by, though of course they have been becoming a tad less rare in recent years. I may be mistaken, but I believe there are only two prominent (fully) human characters in this book and both (Dalí and their mom, Ambassador Marina Urquhart) are third-gender.

Of the alien species Dalí encounters, there are also quite a few that have different gender designations than humans, such as the Cthash, a reptilian species with three genders (male, female, and a third gender called ix). While the first book spent a lot of time on the discrimination third-gender humans, especially third-gender changelings like Dalí, face from regressive movements in Sol Fed’s (a collection of United Colonies in our solar system) government, the plot of Peacemaker is more focused on Dalí’s specific goals as well as the broader issues within the Remoliad.

I think this was a good choice because reading about some of the incidents in the first book (such as the slurs hurled at Dalí or the fact that actual members of Sol Fed’s government were wrapped up in selling third-gender changelings into slavery) were difficult to read about. In this book, Dalí’s gender identity is still an important aspect of who they are as a character; however, it’s a lot less relevant to the events of this particular plot. Instead, the focus is on how Dalí uses their peacemaking skills to negotiate peace on the turmoiled planet of Ursetu and ultimately save an entire species from extinction.

Overall, the writing of this book is excellent. I was able to get totally caught up in the story right from the first chapter, and the pacing really picks up once Dalí embarks on their mission to Ursetu, making it hard to put the book down.

Although there are some sexual moments as well as a smattering of romantic/sexual tension, there isn’t much (if any) actual romance in this book. However, due to the exciting nature of the plot, it isn’t sorely missed. Besides which, there does seem to be a (potential) relationship slowly brewing between Dalí and Commander Sumner (the half-human commander of Dalí’s covert team), which would be nice because I really like Dalí and I want them to have a healthy, happy relationship at some point in the series!

I will most definitely be reading the next book when it comes out for this reason and because I really want to see Dalí finally figure out exactly what/who caused the explosion that killed their family and bring the culprits to justice!

The Reviewer

Devon Widmer is a grumpy scientist by day, a scribbling daydreamer by night, and a sleep-deprived parent full-time. She recently graduated with a PhD in Chemistry, a degree which she plans to put to good use reading and writing a multitude of science fiction (and fantasy) stories. Devon’s talents include drinking copious amounts of coffee, forgetting where she set her glasses, and laughing at her own jokes. Also, although she often describes herself as grumpy, she promises she’s actually quite nice!