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Worst Possible Birthday: Being sold into slavery by none other than your lover.
Tover Duke’s rare ability to move anything instantly across light-years of space makes him a powerful, valuable asset to the Harmony Corporation, and a rock star among the people of the colonies. His life is luxurious. Safe. Routine.
He has his pick of casual hookups passing through Dadelus-Kaku Station. His one brush with danger of any kind—the only bright spot in his otherwise boring life—is Cruz Arcadio, a dark-haired, hard-bodied engineer whose physical prowess hints he’s something much more.
When a terrorist abducts Tover, hurling him into a world of torture, exploitation and betrayal, it’s with shattering disbelief that he realizes his kidnapper is none other than Cruz. As Tover struggles to find the courage to escape his bondage, he begins to understand the only way to free his body, his mind—and his heart—is to trust the one man who showed him that everything about his once-perfect life was a lie.
Product Warnings: This story contains descriptions of extreme violence and assault. It also contains graphic sexual depictions. It also has a lot of birds. And pirate movies from the future. And romance.
I will be honest with you – I approached this book with a LOT of trepidations. See, sci-fi is a genre that resides in the lowest of the low in my reading genre totem pole. I just can’t connect with the idea (I can watch sci-fi but not exactly enjoy reading it). All those weird names with nothing but consonants, living in other planets, ALIEN … yeah, my brain just shuts down.
But … Astrid Amara is one of my favorite authors. I first read her work almost five years ago when I started reading MM genre almost exclusively. Let’s just say that I had that in my plus corner going in, but still, it was reading something out of my comfort zone. I was dragging my feet, not wanting to do it but needed to. In fact, I told my friend that I would keep the light/fluffy contemporary romance to-read books as my “reward” after finishing this one, as I predicted that it would be a difficult read.
When I opened the first chapter, the whole explanation about navigator’s job, technology with strange terms like TEUS and orbifolds, weird places like Dadelus-Kaku Station, Kepler 7-b, Thereon Galaxy, or Aremdar Nebula, were able to give me cold sweats. But, then, something happened on the way to heaven … because slowly the narrative reeled me in. It only took the ending of the first chapter to make me irrevocably hooked.
Song of the Navigator is a wonderful piece of storytelling with heartbreaking but rewarding journey of a character that undergone life-changing experience of being betrayed by someone he loves the most. In the beginning, Tover Duke is basically a rock-star, worshipped by people in DK Station. He is one of the elite group of forty-two people in the whole universe who are capable of manipulating space in improvisational movement, to move goods and people into unexplored regions of the galaxy and beyond.
Tover is cherished, he lives in a penthouse, with private elevators, and has his own greenhouse for one of his passions – the birds. Until that day of his thirtieth birthday when his occasional lover, Cruz Arcadio, kidnaps him, and later trades Tover to slave pirates, which brings Tover to forced labor. He is physically tortured if he refuses to do what the pirates tell him. In an instant, Tover’s life turns into hell.
Written solely from Tover’s perspective, I must say that I loved Tover from that moment on. There is an inner strength and tenacity that Tover shows during his ordeal and later on when he recuperates. Tover learns that the life he enjoys before is not as perfect as it seems. He learns to stop being ignorant. Because when Tover is healing, living alongside the so-called terrorists, which involved Cruz and his family, he understands that there are always two-sides of every story.
I loved Tover’s character-growth happened gradually. He doesn’t immediately accept Cruz’s reason out of love. It doesn’t magically happened in one night…
“You can’t convince me that my life has been something it isn’t. I was the best at something, and I did my job with pride until you came along.” His voice broke. “I won’t let you make me believe it was worthless.”
However, Cruz challenges Tover to change his way of thinking, his way of seeing the world. At the same time, Cruz also makes Tover see that he is worth more than just what he can do.
“…Yes, you are valuable. You are worth billions. They have made you into a commodity that everyone wants a piece of.”
“You’re no different,” Tover said.
“You’re right. I want you too. But not for what you can do. I want you because of who you are.”
For me, this book is simply amazing. Yes, it has some difficult scenes related to the brutal treatment from the pirates in the beginning, but it also feels hopeful, moving, romantic, and fulfilling. I loved the characters (this novel has two notable female characters too, which I highly appreciated), I loved the setting (each location feels different yet vibrant, and acts more like supporting characters themselves), I loved the writing (beautifully engaging, as I know Astrid Amara’s would be) … and most of all, I loved the story. When I finished, I was enfolded in that pleasant feeling of satisfaction, that I refused to immediately start reading another story because I wanted to bask in the feeling for a while.
One thing for sure, Song of the Navigator is my best read of the month, and one of my favorites of the year. It also has done something quite the impossible: it makes me start thinking of perusing more MM sci-fi novels to read. That is an achievement no other books have done before. For that, it deserves my perfect 5-stars.
Readers’ Advisory: For those of you who are worried with the warning tag of extreme violence and assault and graphic sexual depictions, rest assured that this story does NOT contain any rape or non-consent sex scenes what-so-ever. The violent and assaults are all physical beatings but even those don’t last as long as one might expect. The graphic sexual depictions are between Tover and Cruz and they are definitely consensual.