47North, 2020, 318 pages
There is a personal price to pay for having aligned with the wrong side in a reckless war. For Aden Jansen it's the need to adopt a new identity while keeping his past hidden. Now he's integrated himself aboard the Zephyr, a merchant ship smuggling critical goods through dangerous space. But danger is imminent on planet Gretia, as well. Under occupation, torn between postwar reformers and loyalists, it's a polestar for civil unrest.
Meanwhile an occupation forces officer is pulled right back into the fray when the battle alarm is raised, an ambitious heiress is entangled in a subversive political conspiracy, and an Allied captain is about to meet the enemy head-on.
As Aden discovers, the insurgents on Gretia - and in space - are connected, organized, and ready to break into full-scale rebellion. History is threatening to repeat itself. It's time that Aden rediscovers who he is, whom he can trust, and what he must fight for now.
While we're still waiting for Kloos to wrap up his Frontlines series (seven books and counting), he's now on book two in the Palladium Wars series.
In the first book, we were introduced to the setting and the four main characters. In a solar system with six inhabited planets, one world, Gretia, recently tried to conquer all their neighbors and lost. Now under occupation, Gretia is simmering with resentment while some rebel against the onerous reparations and restrictions imposed on them, and others try to repair their reputations and prove they can become good solar citizens again. Marko Kloos is German, and it's rather obvious that Gretia is modeled after post-war Germany. The Gretians aren't a direct Nazi analogy. The Gretians launched a war of conquest but they didn't try to commit any genocides, and they weren't a brutal police state; in fact, they're a pretty nice, polite society, aside from trying to conquer their neighbors because they decided it would be profitable.
The multiple viewpoint characters from the first book continue here. Aden is a former Gretian "Blackguard" (sort of like the SS, and supposedly they did do SS-like things during the war) who's trying to bury his past and live under another identity. He has joined the crew of a free trader that sometimes engages in a little smuggling, and in this book, they find out that they are carrying some cargo that's going to get them in a lot more trouble than they bargained for.
Aden's sister Solveig is another viewpoint character. Solveig and Aden's father was the head of a major Gretian corporation before the war. After the war, he is forbidden to have any say in the running of the company, so of course, he put his daughter in charge as his puppet. Solveig's chapters in this book are mostly about her trying to cut her strings.
Dunstan, the captain of an aging Alliance warship, returns here for the requisite space battle quota of a MiLSF novel. His ship, the Minotaur, is on its last legs and of course has to fight a climactic battle with a superior vessel.
Finally, there is Idina, an Alliance military officer assigned to the occupation forces on Gretia. Her homeworld was invaded by Gretia so she spent the first book trying to work through her prejudices while assigned to a Gretian police partner. The partnership continues in this book, as the two of them try to navigate various encounters with Gretian "resisters."
As with the first book, there isn't enough time to fully develop any of the four characters, but since it's the second book with the same characters, each one is beginning to get more fleshed out. Dunstan is the least interesting, since he's just a generic Space Battle Captain. Idina doesn't have much personality yet either (she's the grizzled vet from a militaristic culture — it's mentioned that her people are dark-skinned, and they carry monomolecular-edged ceramic blades, so basically Space Ghurkas). Solveig and Aden are the most interesting, since they're both from the "bad guy" culture and struggling with both cultural and family drama.
The plot is drawing us towards a conspiracy by unknown (as yet) forces to reignite the war, so the second book ends with a big event to keep us hanging on for the next book.
I am enjoying this series. Marko Kloos's writing is always solid if unexceptional. But don't milk it forever like you did Frontlines, Kloos.
Also by Marko Kloos: My reviews of Terms of Enlistment, Lines of Departure, Angles of Attack, Chains of Command, Fields of Fire, Points of Impact, Orders of Battle, and Aftershocks.
My complete list of book reviews.