Dark Edge of Honor (Doctrine Wars) by Alexandr Voinov and Rhi Etzweiler
This is an enemies-to-lovers story in the truest sense of the trope. Two soldiers, fighting for opposite sides, falling for each other despite their beginning being based on betrayal and deceit.
Dark Edge of Honor is awesome, but I’m also super conflicted about it. It’s such a typical guy’s book with all these elements that I should – and usually do – find mind-numbingly boring. And yet I didn’t. Granted, the two lovers both being men did help of course.
Synopsis: Sergei is a young Coalition officer who’s been sent to assisst in the invasion of the planet of Cirokko. Honorful and conscientious, he follows The Doctrine in everything – apart from him hiding a forbidden flaw. His defect. Mike is an undercover Alliance agent supporting the native resistance. As Mike is following Sergei and his superior, he discovers Sergei’s secret and is tasked to seduce him. But he didn’t expect to fall for his target. And when Sergei is put in charge of a military campaign going into enemy territory, Mike comes along even though he knows they’re heading into a trap.
This story is complex, captivating and excruciatingly slow-paced in equal measure. It has so much going for it but unfortunately there are also parts of the story that’s harder to swallow. No pun intended.
But first to the good stuff. The story has a fascinating Sci-Fi back-drop. Two major forces, the Coalition and the Alliance, representing the figurative East and West, but with the conflict transplanted into space. There’s so much potential in that world-building, and there are all these aspects of the universe and the two clashing principles, I was so eager to learn more I was practically salivating. The plot twists in this story were terrific. There were so many changes in direction of the story I didn’t ever get bored, only more engaged. And finally, of course, there are the two main characters. Both Mike and Sergei were of the onion variety. Many layers to peel back, and they kept growing on me the further into the story I got. I liked them both and I loved them together.
However, there were also quite a few things I had trouble with.
For one, in the beginning it was really hard to get into the story. There were just too much information presented too fast. There were so many new terms, names and places mentioned that there was no way of getting a grasp of them. Like the authors were trying to do an insta world-building because they just wanted to get on with the rest of the story. So it was confusing at first.
And later it was the other way around, I was frustrated at the lack of detail and superficial descriptions of the underlying conflict. This story could simply have been so much more than it was. I mean, there were these big-ass, sentient, flying lizards for fucks sake! Of course I’d want more details about them!
Dark Edge of Honor is entirely character-driven, despite there being a whole lot of action. The understated love affair between Sergei and Mike is what drives the story forward, while the many plot-twists keep working against them ever having a happily ever after. But despite that focus, surprisingly little of the story entailed Mike and Sergei actually being able to act on their feelings. It’s a bit of a contradiction that, a love story where the love interests are mostly kept apart.
In the end though, despite my objections, this is still a brilliant and intricate story that is well worth reading.