Linnea Sinclair’s AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS is a science fiction romance (with some fantasy elements) about two appealing characters, Rahieran Captain Gillaine (“Gillie”) Davré and Khalaran Admiral Rynan (“Mack” or “Make it Right”) Makarian. Gillie is a highly accomplished woman in her mid-thirties, who was originally sent to the Khalaran Empire by the Raheira as a technical advisor three hundred years prior to the start of this novel. However, a wormhole opened during a deep space battle with the Fav’lhir, a nasty bunch of psychics who believe “might makes right” and takes for granted anyone without psychic ability; races like the Khalarans are called “Impure,” thus are cattle for the slaughter. These nasty aliens attacked the Khalarans, but the Khalarans had no defense besides Gillie due to her own strong psychic abilities; that, and her crystal ship, destroyed many of the Fav’lhir, but she ended up getting thrown three hundred years into the future due to the battle.
To Gillie’s horror, when she wakes up in the sickbay of space station Cirrus One, her sentient nanoessence Simon — think “advanced computer AI” and you’re not far wrong, except Simon is not necessarily incorporeal and enjoys cracking wise at Gillie’s expense — tells her that during the intervening three hundred years, the Khalarans have made her a Goddess. This is because the Khalarans didn’t understand what happened during that space battle; how could they? And because they thought Gillie had defended them to the death, they’ve called what happened “(her) Day of Sacred Sacrifice.”
This, of course, is a major breach of protocol at absolute best. Yet the Rahiera have done nothing in the intervening three hundred years to correct this error. This means Gillie must either let this mistake stand, or possibly find a way to correct it herself. (And yes, she figures all of this out as she’s waking up in sickbay, which I found a particularly nice touch.)
Then, as she continues to wake up, she meets Admiral Makarian, a dark-haired, dark-eyed man in his early forties. Mack has all sorts of command ability, as he’s risen to become the youngest Fleet Admiral in the Khalaran Empire’s history. And along with his command ability, Mack has charisma, drive, focus, and smarts — all of which he needs, as he’s been relegated to Cirrus One because of his reputation of being able to turn sows’ ears into silk purses (thus his “Make it Right” nickname). Cirrus One is your basic backwater space station at the start of this book, but Mack knows that he somehow must get the station up to spec sooner rather than later. And, of course, he doesn’t think much of Gillie when he meets her either, aside from noticing that she’s blonde, like Lady Kiasidira, and has unusual eyes (green with flecks of lavender). But there are many blonde women in the universe, which is why despite some passing resemblance to Lady Kiasidira, it goes unremarked.
Gillie, of course, doesn’t admit she’s Lady Kiasidira when she talks with Admiral Mack. Instead, she calls herself a freighter captain; since Simon runs her ship (in many ways, he is the ship), he’s able to project an extremely realistic illusion. After she throws Mack off the track, she starts figuring out whether or not Simon can be repaired (as Simon is a Raptor-class crystal ship, if Simon hadn’t quickly cloaked the ship in an illusion, the game would’ve been up right away; also, even though the Khalarans have obviously progressed, technologically, in the intervening three hundred years, there is absolutely no way they could fix a crystal ship). This, along with the feelings Mack can’t help but engender in her (as she admires competence, and has much in common with him), keeps her busy for the first one-third of this novel.
The next complication is Magefather Rigo, who believes himself to be the Lady Kiasidira’s Divine Consort (all in capital letters, even). Of course, the fact that Kiasidira is a title — it means, more or less, High Priestess — has gone completely by the boards in three hundred years. And three hundred years ago, there certainly were no Magefathers, either.
Because of some rather strange things Rigo does, Gillie starts to wonder why Rigo is even on Cirrus One. She’s right to wonder, as it turns out Rigo may well be allied with the Fav’lhir (who, of course, are still around). And while Mack believes her when she says something’s wrong, because she can’t admit who and what she is, she doesn’t have enough evidence to prove that Rigo is up to no good.
See, Cirrus One is a crisis point; because it’s not fully up to spec, and the Fav’lhir know it, they want to take advantage. The Fav’lhir don’t believe in diplomacy, especially when it comes to the “Impure” Khalarans, who mostly lack psychic ability — and even if they did, the Fav’lhir are still mad about what happened three hundred years ago, so they’d not pursue it anyway.
This is when the usual complications of a military science fiction nature start to creep in. As we all know, the Fav’lhir must be driven off, yet there are political considerations with regards to the various Khalaran Empire higher-ups that need to be taken into consideration. That the higher-ups have completely forgotten just how nasty the Fav’lhir can be, partly because they believe that Gillie killed their “mageline” — that is, all their psychics — three hundred years ago, definitely doesn’t help the situation. And under all this strain, Gillie and Mack are still getting to know each other, which isn’t at all as small of a plot point as it might seem as their mutual knowledge of each other might end up being the very thing that saves the Khalaran Empire from oblivion.
During all that happens, Gillie realizes that she’s eventually going to have to come clean regarding who and what she is. But will this wreck their relationship? (Especially considering how often Mack, himself, prays to Lady Kiasidira?) What will happen to the Khalarans, who don’t seem to understand exactly how nasty the Fav’lhir still are, and keep giving Mack the wrong orders? And finally, what will Simon the nanoessence think of it all? (Especially as he has all the best lines in the book?)
This is a fast, fun, and deeply romantic read about two highly intelligent, spirited, and capable people that gets everything right. There’s humor, high drama, romance, pathos, military intrigue and suspense, and more romance, so yes, the plot has a lot to it. But it’s so skillfully written that most readers won’t notice how densely-packed this plot is until the last page has been turned; it’s also such a great read that many people will do exactly what I did the first time I read AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS and immediately turn back to page one to read it all over again.
Really, if you want an excellent read of military science fiction with romance and some fantasy elements, you should look no further than Linnea Sinclair’s AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS. So if you haven’t read it already, what’s stopping you? (Especially as it’s available in paperback.)
— reviewed by Barb