Review: “Martyr”, by Anela Deen

I haven’t read an entire book in two days since devouring Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (along with several gallons of lemon tea) during a bout of bronchitis last year. This time story, not sickness, kept me glued to my Kindle while my coffee went cold at my elbow. Can you blame me? I’d been eagerly awaiting the final installment of Anela Deen’s Insurrection science fiction series, for over a year! Fortunately, the finale didn’t disappoint.


Martyr puts us behind the eyes of Yaren, the cool confidant of rebel leader Everett. Although Yaren inhabits a human body, her consciousness is something quite different (I can’t say how without spoiling the story) and her new biological vehicle puzzles her. Exploring her unaccustomed physical fragility and the strange societal norms of her shipmates provides many enjoyable moments, although I think close-focus narration would have made it more gripping. Maybe this is clever literary trickery on Deen’s part, making readers feel slightly detached from the heroine to reflect how that heroine feels about herself, or maybe it’s just my own authorial hangover from getting too deep into the head of a painfully introverted protagonist in Syzygy. In any case, Yaren intrigued me. I would have read a full-length novel about her alternately near-superhuman and endearingly uncomfortable experiences.

Yaren’s true nature is only half of her secret, however. She’s hiding something from her companions…and perhaps from herself. Intense internal conflicts keep the pages flying until her final dilemma plays out in a breathless storm of love and lasers. Yep, there’s plenty of battle action here to get your adrenaline pumping. Deen describes fights in an engaging way, but she really shines in the small intimate moments between characters. She has a knack for knowing what readers want and gratifying those expectations. (Except for that one part: come on, Anela, you can’t censor Yaren’s discovery of her new form!) Deft interpersonal dynamics make the story’s periodic lapses into exposition a little awkward by comparison, but explanatory dialogue is a minor distraction from the otherwise delightful verbal sparring. (If Han and Leia’s bickering in The Empire Strikes Back makes you grin, you’ll love the chemistry in this book.)

Overall, Martyr provides a satisfying conclusion to a solid little sci-fi series. Deen delivers all our favorite elements of space opera–starship battles, alien invasions, a crew of plucky rebels—in a fast-paced thrill ride with a heart. Fans of Firefly, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and other classic science fiction series will enjoy Insurrection. This one certainly did!

Martyr is available now. You can also check out my reviews of other installments in the Insurrection series: Subversive, Operative, Inquisitor, and Assassin. These novelle pack tons of entertainment for 99c each. Highly recommended!


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