In a 2019 interview I did with the author for Amazing Stories Magazine blog, I asked her what she felt the appeal of cyborgs was for readers. Her answer: “The appeal of cyborgs for me is the conflict between their machine side and their human side, between logic and emotion, between the head and the heart. I think we all have that conflict. Should we take jobs that feed our families or jobs that feed our souls? Should we listen to our brains or to our guts? Cyborgs are also often military heroes and who doesn’t love someone who is willing to die to protect others? That type of bravery and self-sacrifice is definitely worth writing and reading about.”
The first book I ever read by Ms. Sax was Releasing Rage in 2015 and I remember thinking “Wow, I’m in over my head” because a lot of it was very dark and very sexy but I couldn’t stop reading and all these years later I still remember the plot in great detail. I read so many scifi romance novels, that’s kind of amazing – I only remember the details of the ones which made a huge impression on me. It’s not one of my favorites though, because I just found the cyborg Rage to be too angry for me (he’s well named, no?) and I hated the way the heroine Joan was treated by the other humans, although she was a very strong woman who could and did stand up for herself.
The tenth book in the Sizzling Cyborg series was Seeking Vector and I loved the characters. As the book begins, Vector, the C Model cyborg in command of the warship Freedom, is a rough, tough, deadly fighter hiding a painful personal secret that borders on being a phobia I’d never have expected from a cyborg. Not only that, he’s frustrated by and attracted to, a female human hacker who’s been feeding him valuable intelligence tidbits about the evil Human Alliance (HA) battle plans. Can he trust her? Should he trust her? Is she possibly his fated mate? (You can guess the answer to that one!) They’ve never actually met when the book begins but her voice in his head is pretty intoxicating.
Kasia, the hacker, can break into anything, even cyborg programming. She’s also extremely good at hiding out in the HA battle station without being detected, while she spies on them and tries to help cyborgs being mistreated and tortured. She’s also fascinated by Vector and enjoys their verbal sparring – she wants to meet him just once before she goes on the run again. Here’s what Vector thinks of that idea: “I’ll follow you. I’ll chase you to the ends of the universe. You will never escape me.” Very determined, these cyborgs.
These two are scalding hot together, as with all of Author Sax’s couples, and their encounters are steamy and frequent. ”Every part of her touched by his lips fizzed, bubbling with his nanocytes…he tasted of metal and frustrated male…”
Each learns to trust the other, there’s a lot of action, she gets to do more hacking…Vector learns through his love for Kasia to break a few of the rules running his life and she acquires a bit more discipline over her impulsive approach to everything. Author Sax’s world is dark, as I’ve mentioned before and some of the scenes of well-deserved cyborg pay back against the truly evil HA members get pretty grim, but it’s balanced by how invested the reader becomes in the love story between Vector and Kasia. (Sax doesn’t linger on the grimness but it’s one thread in the background of the worldbuilding.) As usual I finished the book feeling well pleased with the ending and the journey to get there.
And I loved Taking Vengeance, book twelve in the series and the story is like her cyborgs – rough, tough, brutal at times, steamy, sexy and with love bringing a happy ever after ending that fits the hero and heroine. Her cyborgs have discovered over time that each may have a genetically matching human woman out there. Vengeance, an older Model C cyborg, doesn’t believe in this bond, or that mated human women should be allowed on the Homeland planet. Cyborgs were created by the Humanoid Alliance (HA) to fight and die, and were treated by their masters in terrible ways until they finally rebelled and escaped. He wants to protect his fellow cyborgs from any new threat.
But his hardline stance on this issue as a member of the cyborg ruling council jeopardizes the happiness of the existing couples, and the future chances for happiness of others. When he’s informed his own genetic match has been located, he says he’ll find the female and kill her to prove the genetic bond isn’t real. Uh oh.
Astrid the Buoir Beserker is a scarred, ferocious human warrior, whose entire race has been exterminated by cyborgs under the command of the HA. In the past she’s killed hundreds of cyborgs in combat. She lives alone on her world now, finding and properly burying her dead compatriots so their spirits can achieve peace in the afterlife. She also fiercely nurtures her hatred of cyborgs.
A match made in heaven?
Their relationship begins with an exchange of air to air missiles as he approaches her planet and grows more personal from there. Taunting each other as they battle, Vengeance is determined to capture her and she’s equally set on killing him. After she blows up his ship, they tangle hand to hand. Soon enough “Awareness, need and desire energized the air between them. They were enemies, hated each other. His yearning to kiss her was wrong. He had to fight it.” Next thing they’re declaring regular truces to swim, conduct very steamy physical relations, hunt a deadly predator, locate more graves…but each continues to deny that they have a true bond. (His nanocybotics flow into her and speed up her healing during romantic encounters after battle.)
I loved the way these two total enemies began to respect each other and moved from there to falling in love. Each had to abandon strongly held beliefs about the other, and forgive past atrocities. Vengeance makes the mistakes you’d expect from a hard headed Model C but Astrid is a pretty cool customer and figures out how to bring him along to the truth of what they share. She definitely holds her own.
I had other favorites in the cyborg series but I want to spend some time on another series written by Ms. Sax that I also enjoyed greatly, which is entitled The Refuge. Several of those books are among my favorites, beginning with the first one Dark Thoughts. The book is set in the same universe as her sizzling cyborgs, but as the title implies, much darker in tone, with some horror-like elements. I was fascinated by the hero, Kralj, a scarred monster who rules over the Refuge, home to countless evil beings. The heroine, Dita, is an assassin and when these two meet, sparks fly. I felt that the author really leveled up from previous novels in her treatment of the main characters in this book – so complex, both of them; fascinating to watch each one change in response to their feelings for the other – there’s definitely romance and an HEA ending, although bear in mind Kralj likes to eat his kills and Dita bonds with him over their mutual enjoyment of tracking down bad guys and eliminating them.
Next came Dark Flight. In this city of genetically enhanced warriors whose ruthless creators combined human traits with those of various other fierce galactic races, nano tech keeps them healthy and pretty much immortal. These men escaped their Human Alliance creators and now live safely under the rule of Kralj This outing follows Orol, the winged and tormented second-in-command. I was quite drawn to him from the beginning. “In the air he felt complete, whole and powerful. He was free. No other being could touch him.”
Orol is sent to retrieve two sisters who’d been on their way to the Refuge for sanctuary and bringing top secret information about a Human Alliance invention. The sisters’ ship crashes in the desert, and the situation becomes very complicated. Rhea, the heroine and elder sister, turns out to be someone who doesn’t trust easily, certainly doesn’t believe that Orol has been sent to help her, shoots better than he does, enhanced warrior or not and is so badly wounded she may die. The sister is nowhere to be found. Fairly immediately Orol realizes Rhea is his fated mate. “She wouldn’t be a simple female to care for, to protect. He’d have to pay attention, see past her silence, her lies, her feigned nonchalance.”
I read the book in one sitting, because I thoroughly enjoyed the duel of wits between Orol and Rhea, and their mutual battle against the forces involved in the peril sister Paloma has fallen into. No spoilers! Author Sax has spun another fascinating tale – she writes some things much darker than I normally read (certain aspects of combat to the death for example) but because I find her characters pull me into the story in such compelling fashion, I go with it. The darkness fits the world building and the story. She also skillfully weaves a lot of steamy and sexy scenes throughout the entire book, about which of course I’m not complaining.
There are some very tender happy scenes toward the end, where I was definitely in “aww” mode and all in all Dark Flight was a terrific read.
The third was Dark Strength and the story belongs to Balvan, the Refuge’s massive gatekeeper, and Elyce, a human refugee who’s been held captive and tortured by a particularly sadistic HA commander before escaping to the sanctuary. The two discover they are fated mates and it’s really a beautiful love story taking place in the midst of skull crushing and other violence. The Refuge is not a civilized place, trust me.
But Elyce knows instinctively Balvan can and will keep her safe.
He “…wanted her to love him, to see past his size, his bald head, green skin, menacing features.” Balvan, who routinely rescues abused puffkers – tiny purring fluffballs – from people who think tormenting them is a fun idea, has a soft corner in his big warrior heart. Even in her abused and terrified state, Elyce instinctively responds to that. “Balvan was the exception to everything…”
He just falls deeper and deeper in love. “No one had ever called any part of him beautiful, no one excerpt her.”
Ms. Sax writes dark books, lots of blood and guts and violence, as well as steamy sex, and the Refuge series is no exception. Action and plot twists and turns. What really draws me in, however, are the characters she creates to live in her galaxy – their motivations and back stories, and most of all their journeys toward the HEA ending they deserve. I was thoroughly happy with the tale of Balvan and Elyce and read it in one sitting.
Dark Fire was book 4 in her Refuge series. As the book begins, Dare, a silver-scaled Dracheon warrior, is faced with unique challenges, beginning with the fact he’s having a hard time controlling his inner dragon. He longs to meet his mate, who he instinctively knows is on the planet somewhere…but then there’s the small problem that his inner beast might kill her while they make love the first time. “His female had a better chance of remaining alive if they didn’t meet.”
When we first meet Dare, he has a bed rock core of things he knows with absolute certainty. It was most amusing to watch pretty much every one of his cherished beliefs – who his mate would be, how she’d look, where they’d live and so forth – get demolished as the book progressed. Fortunately Dare adapts fast and the reality turns out better than he could have imagined.
Faylee’s a short, small, thin, ragged, dirty young human woman pretending to be a boy. She makes her living as a thief and loves shiny things, which is handy since Dare’s scales are shiny. “But she had the most beautiful big brown eyes he’d ever seen. He could stare into them forever, the mixture of innocence and world-weariness enchanting him.” I very much liked Faylee and her sense of honor, plus her amazing pickpocket skills.
The sex is, as always from author Sax, frequent, creative and hot. No, I mean literally hot, since Dare is an alien dragon shifter type male. I enjoyed the interesting twists that his nature and endowments provided for the story telling, in the bedroom and in battle.
We get to see favorite Refuge dwellers from the earlier books in the series, which is always fun!
I’d been waiting for and pestering Ms. Sax to tell the story of Gisella, the Refuge’s chief medic. The Refuge is a dark and violent place where the one and only law is not to kill anyone or the ruler, Kralj, will end you quite messily. I’ve been intrigued with Gisella ever since the first time she was mentioned in a Refuge book, in passing, because I figured a woman had to be tough as nails to survive in the Refuge and must have quite the backstory to end up there.
Dark Cure is Gisella’s book, sixth in the series and well worth waiting for. She’s absolutely devoted to being a medic and curing people, and intends to remain at the Refuge forever because Kralj respects her skills and has bought her the very best, top of the line equipment. She has everything she needs to be able to heal, unlike many of her earlier life experiences, where she had to practice more primitive medicine and people died or were left alive but maimed. Nothing and no one can pry her out of the Refuge. She has an unending supply of patients because of the violent nature of life within the city walls and she takes pride in training other medics. But most important to her, she has a fully equipped hospital with literally everything in the known universe at hand to help her patients.
Immovable Gisella meets irresistible force in Oghul, a fierce alien warrior, second-in-command to a warlord of his people, the Chamele. Oghul and his squad are in the Refuge temporarily but he immediately recognizes Gisella as his gerel or life mate. Her toughness is an added attraction for him. “You’re intelligent for a barbarian,” she says. “You’re very savage for a medic,” is his answer. Instant attraction at the bar and they adjourn to her quarters for one of author Sax’s very steamy sex scenes. Oghul is perhaps not the most articulate of guys, although he tries to explain the meaning of gerel and Gisella fails to ask enough questions because in the morning surprise, surprise – bonded mates, to be together forever, who literally have to adjourn to the bedroom at frequent intervals during early gerel-ship.
Watching these two figure out the future when she refuses to leave the Refuge – but realizes over time how much Oghul means to her – and he longs for nothing but to go home to Chamele as planned, where his people have a rich, full family life was engrossing. I have to hand it to the author because for quite a long time while reading this, I didn’t see how a genuinely happy ever after could be achieved. One or the other of the lovers was going to have to give up their dream…but noooo. Events happen, backstory is learned and dealt with and the romantic HEA occurs. A good read, much inventive time is spent in the various bedrooms but there’s a lot of other action and plot development besides. Another successful outing for fans of author Sax.
Here’s the information on her new book, releasing next week:
No one in the universe is more determined than a cyborg warrior tracking his female. Grudge, a C Model cyborg, has been assigned a mission – safeguard a Humanoid Alliance space station for his kind. Honor was once all he had, and he is determined to fulfill his duty. That resolve is tested when a tiny human female enters the space station and sets the prettiest little explosives the warrior has ever seen. She is Grudge’s genetic match, the one being manufactured for him. He wants to touch her, kiss her, claim her in all ways, but first he has to stop her from blasting him into the next galaxy. Taelyn has a self-appointed mission—to destroy every battle robot the Humanoid Alliance has ever manufactured. A huge gray-skinned, blue-eyed cyborg warrior with mismatched arms won’t prevent her from achieving her goal. She’ll escape him, leaving destruction in her wake.
Before she departs, she’ll experience one toe-curling moment of hatred-edged passion with her handsome foe. She’ll show him how skilled with detonations she truly is. He will have his universe rocked. Then she’ll disappear. Her cyborg, however, has no intention of ever letting her go.