When it comes to ‘ye olden times in space’, things have grown repetitive for frequent readers of science fiction. How many times can one read ‘Horatio Hornblower in SPAAACE’? Most of the subgenre seems to fall into that category.
I never had much stomach for that and I’m one of the few sci-fi readers who has never touched an Honor Harrington novel. I got my fill with the old Mech Warrior books many years ago. It would take something really different to take me back to the subgenre.
The Shikari series by Alma Boykin are very different. Take a bit of space opera, a bit of colonial England, a bit of Jane Austen, and you have these delightful novels.
Auriga ‘Rigi’ Bernardi is the child of company official, a gifted artist, and a smart, curious, brave young woman. The series kicks off when she’s quite young and the tone reflects that. It grows with her through all (so far) four books.
That doesn’t mean this is all pastel softness. Rigi’s stories occur on the alien world full of dangerous wildlife. The natives are a very strange semi-quadruped species called the Staré. They have genetic caste system, communicate partially by scent, and are far more dangerous than they seem. However, they live quite peacefully side-by-side with humans. Rigi and her cousin Tomás uncover a piece of ancient and forgotten history when they explore the dangerous jungle around their home.
Things progress from there. You have archeological adventures, romance, human drama, political drama, and even war. It all feels as if this could be the life of a real person.
The cultural interplay is the real treat for me here. The Staré do not think like humans, though they can certainly be friends with them. Humans have issues understanding the Staré, attempting to impose their assumptions on them more than once. There are old secrets and new desires for power in play, too.
On top of this, there are multiple human cultures, too. Rigi and her family are Neo-Traditionalists, who have a rather pioneer/Victorian sensibility, and are semi-exiled from normal social life. You get little hints of this, but it becomes more obvious later on. I like that. It’s subtle.
The four books of the Shikari series are short, pleasant reads. There’s plenty of room for continuation, but each is its own self-contained story. You can find the Shikari series here on Amazon.