Sunday, 4 September 2022

Hidden Solace (Lost Solace #3) by Karl Drinkwater

She survived hell. Now her real problems begin.

Opal Imbiana is many things to many people. Hero. Traitor. Soldier. Deserter. Criminal. Explorer.


She finally achieved her life's goal: to rescue her little sister from the utterly alien Null zone.

But the world she returns to has changed. Her friends are gone, and her enemies are more powerful than ever.

In the bleakest situations, it takes an exceptional mind to keep hope alive.

Ideal for fans of sentient AI ships, as found in Brandon Sanderson's Skyward books or Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell.

Hidden Solace is the third volume in Karl Drinkwater's Lost Solace series and a book whose publication I have been eagerly awaiting! Opal had rescued her sister, Clarissa, in the previous novel, Chasing Solace, but as Hidden Solace starts they are still not together. Instead Opal is in solitary confinement in some kind of cylindrical prison cell, held captive by the distinctly creepy Aseides and his all-knowing golden AI, Dulcetta.

It's a long time before we, as readers, find out just where Opal is being held, but as we gradually get glimpses of various rooms and corridors, I could build up a picture of the environment. Discovering it alongside Opal gave me insights into how she managed to cope with her predicament. Her sense of place and direction is light years ahead of mine though! I loved how very different Aseides lair appears to be to the Gigatoir in Chasing Solace. The contrasts highlight the differences. The cat and mouse game between Opal and Aseides is also brilliantly portrayed. Each is determined to discover the other's weaknesses without giving away too much of themselves, yet I could often interpret as much of their personalities from what they hid as from what they displayed. 

This all makes for a tense, atmospheric novel with Aseides' base made all the more claustrophobic by there being so few characters interacting within it. Opal really does feel alone in this place which tests her resourcefulness almost beyond its limit. I missed her indefatigable spirit in the later chapters when Hidden Solace's focus changed. I already knew that Hidden Solace would be the third of five novels and it does have a sense of being pivotal to the series' journey. Without, I hope, giving too much away, there are several moments where the narrative could have gone either of two ways, each feeling genuine and authentic, so there is little that is predictable about this book. It makes for a compelling read and I sincerely hope its sequel won't be too long in coming!

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