Love paranormal gothic romance? How about paranormal gothic romance in space! In my quest to read and review everything Leanna Renee Hieber has ever written, I recently picked up her first published series, The Dark Nest Chronicles. The Chronicles consist of three novellas, the first of which won the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Romance. A couple years ago, the three novellas were compiled into a single volume and released together. That’s the version I got, and I read them all in one fell swoop.
The first novella, Dark Nest, is told from the perspective of Chief Counsel Ariadne Corinth. Ariadne is part of a community of psychically evolved humans that have been sent into space by the Homeworld on two separate “nests.” Ariadne’s ship, the Light Nest, values calm and order—both of which are shattered when Ariadne hears that her lover, Kristov, has been murdered aboard the Dark Nest. She travels to her sister ship to find out what really happened, and discovers a world of plots and conspiracies that go deeper than she could have ever imagined. Fearful of the growing psychic population, the Homeworld has decided to eradicate the threat by turning the two Nests against each other. Ariadne and her fellow nestlings must quickly learn how to use the full extent of their powers if there’s to be any hope of saving their ship from destruction. The second novella, Dark Nest: Reckoning, follows the dual perspectives of the Dark Nest captain, Temesia Elysse, and her estranged lover, Reyn Taryn, a teacher back on the Homeworld. After the catastrophic events of Dark Nest, the members of the psychic community in space decide to send a rescue mission back for the few of their kin that survived the vicious attack on their school. Kristov and Ariadne decide to use the opportunity to also deliver a swift revenge on the Homeworld. The last story, Song of Saire, is a short piece on Brodin and Saire, the patriarch and matriarch of the psychic community. It starts amidst the action of Reckoning, showing the events of the previous book from a new perspective, along with numerous flashbacks that tell the story of Brodin and Saire’s love. The series ends on a hopeful note as each of the couples begin a new life together on a brand new planet.
At first, I was kind of hesitant to read a book from so early in my favorite author’s career—and in a completely different genre from what she usually writes! What if I didn’t like it? How would it stand up to her later books? But while it’s true that Leanna’s writing is still developing in this series and is a bit unrefined, what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in heart. The Dark Nest Chronicles still has all of the aspects that I love most about Leanna’s stories. Though in many ways it resembles classic space operas like Star Wars and Star Trek, the close relationships between her characters also give it the feel of an intimate drama. Romance abounds as four different couples struggle with distance and betrayal but ultimately find power and strength in their bonds. The series doesn’t deal as directly with ghosts and the dead as her other works usually do, but there is still a strong element of the supernatural. In this instance, this mainly takes the form of psychic powers. The characters begin as strong empaths, able to sense each other’s emotions, but as they shed the limitations put on them by the Homeworld, they develop powers of telepathy, telekinesis, and other unusual abilities. Leanna even manages to fit in the Victorian neo-Gothic aesthetic that I love about her historical fantasy. In these books, the Dark Nest space ship is built like a giant Gothic cathedral, complete with vaulted arches and detailed statuary. If anything could convince me to go to space, it would be a ship like that!
Have you read The Dark Nest Chronicles? If so, let me know what you think in the comments! If you don’t yet have the book, you can buy it from an independent bookstore and support The Gothic Library at the same time by clicking the affiliate link below: