The Last Watch (The Divide, #1)

By J.S. Dewes

Rating: 4 stars

A group of soldiers are stationed at the literal edge of the universe (“the Divide”) watching out for an ancient enemy who nearly wiped out humanity, and did wipe out several other alien species. Now the Viators are thought to be extinct but the Sentinals still keep watch (although I’m not entirely sure how keeping a watch at the edge of the universe is supposed to help them detect enemies). Anyway, the Divide is now starting to contract – ie the universe is starting to shrink – and Adequin Rake, commander of the Argus, one of the Sentinal ships, has to protect her crew from this threat, and the indifference of her chain of command, while dealing with a new recruit with an Attitude and a Past.

There’s a lot of fun ideas here, from the soldiers isolated from their chain of command, to the insolent new recruit, to the commander out of her league. The story is told from the PoV of commander Rake and new recruit Cavalon, who we learn at the very start is actually a member of the royal family, who’s been exiled here for causing mischief at home. I never really bought Rake as this super-competent commander, who inspires loyalty in everyone around her (including, very quickly, Cavalon). She’s, no doubt, an ultra-competent solider, a member of the elite Titans, but she doesn’t really seem to be very good at being in charge of people. I’m enough of a hippie that I hate the whole idea of chain of command (even line management!) and even I can tell that. She sort of falls apart when her love interest is in danger and has trouble dealing with the reality of the situation.

The characters seem to settle down as the book goes on, although it seems a little tidy that Cavalon just happens to be a multi-degreed polymath who is able to help with all the technobabble that is required later on (although, not gonna lie, some of it is pretty damned awesome, and definitely triggers the old “sensawonda” that science fiction, at its best, does so well).

In terms of world building, the military of this society is based on the Roman army, and it’s possible that the rest of the society is as well (the most powerful man in the government is called Augustus, for goodness sake). I didn’t particularly understand the Viator threat. It was never really explained why this species seemed determined to wipe out all other sentient life in the universe, nor how humanity, which seems technologically vastly inferior to their enemy (much of their own advanced technology is based on that of the Viators) won the war against them.

Hopefully some of this will be explained in future volumes. There was some pretty exciting stuff towards the tail end of the book, and I’m intrigued to see where Dawes takes the story. I’ll definitely be looking out for the next one.

Book details

ISBN: 9781250236340

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