Title: Surrogate: Hunted
Author: Jeanne G’Fellers
LGBTQ+ Category: bisexual+, polyamorous, cis
Publisher: Supposed Crimes, LLC
Sequel to the epic, world-spanning Surrogate.
Alien Scum. Royal Concubine. Destroyer of Traditions. Alyward Etain Ixtii detests the hate-wielding labels others place on her, but there is one label she wholeheartedly embraces—Mom. With her husband, Leigheas, their five children, and her goddaughter relying on her, Etain manages a careful balance between her family, her diplomatic career, and her problematic, opinionated breeding instinct dubbed She-Beast. But balance can’t help when Etain and her Human goddaughter, seventeen-year-old Brigit Feney, must run for their lives.
Brigit and Etain have been abducted and transported via stolen wormhole technology to the planet Clkya, where the primary government, Clkya Sa, sees them as meat-production livestock. When the militaristic Znyrs religious cult offers protection from the Cycalk meat markets, Etain accepts Defender Stra Ttla and her wife Yalntry Sar’s assistance and eventual affections, ensuring Brigit’s survival while denying herself thoughts of family and She-Beast her greatest desire—fellow captive, multi-lingual entomologist and Earth pagan, Mateo Sato.
However, Etain’s dreams and She-Beast’s cravings will be destroyed if Clkya Sa has its way. The blood-thirsty government wants its livestock returned and the Znyrs eliminated so they’re colluding with Etain’s old enemy, Usurer Serria, to accomplish their goals.
The hunt is on and survival is the only option.
Review by Dan
FIRST THINGS first, this is a sequel to a book I haven’t read. It does alright as a standalone, but things can get confusing at times. I would recommend reading these books in order if you’re interested in them.
Hunted takes place in a futuristic, technologically advanced, outer space world that sometimes left me a little confused but given that I didn’t read the first book in the series, this is probably more my fault than the book’s. The author gives us a monstrously large universe where Earth is barely an afterthought. Filled with a variety of diverse alien species, not all of them humanoid, Hunted certainly showcases the author’s imagination and creativity.
It is also much more character driven than plot driven. The cast alone features dozens of people that became hard to keep track of. This isn’t to say that there isn’t a plot, there’s a lot of things going on in this book, but it follows a pattern – high-stakes problem, resolution, higher-stakes problem, another resolution, and so on. Every problem that the main character faces is, by the end, neatly wrapped up in a warm, peaceful HEA (or, what seems like one until the reader encounters a short afterward that sets up the conflict of the next book).
For a book this character driven, eternally concerned with the thoughts and feelings of Etain, the protagonist, this book has surprisingly little character development. The secondary characters have brief character arcs where they learn to accept Etain’s biology and social norms, but most of these problems are resolved within a chapter or two. Etain, however, begins the book as a warm, loving woman with a full, beautiful family for which she will fight tooth and nail and ends the book as a warm, loving woman with an even fuller, beautiful family for which she has fought tooth and nail. Etain undergoes some changes, including what seems to be her version of menopause, but it does little to impact the essence of who she is.
She endures truly dark and twisted ordeals, both physical and emotional, during her kidnapping and subsequent stay on an alien world, but shows very few signs of trauma, within or without. The plot all wraps up a little too cleanly for my taste and I wanted things to turn out a little grimier. Maybe that’s my penchant for angst and drama, something born out of my own admittedly bleak outlook on human nature, but something about the sweetness of the ending felt cloying. That could easily be the author’s intention, though; this “happy end” could be subverted in the following book or it could be a tribute to the enduring goodness of people.
All that aside, this book is pleasantly diverse. It features a broad cast of characters who span the sexual identity spectrum and makes a point of showing a healthy, loving polyamorous relationship. It had some trans representation, though only in tertiary characters, and includes some (kind of preachy-feeling) moments that explain both trans identities and polyamory. It also breaks the mold with the traditional sci-fi protagonists, featuring women and people of color. In terms of representation, this is vastly important and the book warrants reading on this alone.
Dan Ackerman is a writer and educator who has lived in Connecticut for their entire life. They received their BSED from CCSU in 2013 and wrote their Master’s thesis on representations of women in same-sex relationships in contemporary Spanish literature and cinema. Currently, Dan is studying for a second MA in ABA and works in a center school for students with variety of intellectual, developmental, or multiple disabilities. In their spare time, Dan continues to read and write, supplemented with a healthy amount of movie marathons and gaming.