Book Review: Hold Fast Through the Fire (NeoG #2) by K.B. Wagers

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: July 27th, 2021
Pages: 416, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

The Near-Earth Orbital Guard (Neo-G)—inspired by the real-life mission of the Coast Guard—patrols and protects the solar system. Now the crew of Zuma’s Ghost must contend with personnel changes and a powerful cabal hellbent on dominating the trade lanes in this fast-paced, action-packed follow-up to A Pale Light in the Black.

Zuma’s Ghost has won the Boarding Games for the second straight year. The crew—led by the unparalleled ability of Jenks in the cage, the brilliant pairing of Ma and Max in the pilot seats, the technical savvy of Sapphi, and the sword skills of Tamago and Rosa—has all come together to form an unstoppable team. Until it all comes apart.

Their commander and Master Chief are both retiring. Which means Jenks is getting promoted, a new commander is joining them, and a fresh-faced spacer is arriving to shake up their perfect dynamics. And while not being able to threepeat is on their minds, the more important thing is how they’re going to fulfill their mission in the black.

After a plea deal transforms a twenty-year ore-mining sentence into NeoG service, Spacer Chae Ho-ki earns a spot on the team. But there’s more to Chae that the crew doesn’t know, and they must hide a secret that could endanger everyone they love—as well as their new teammates—if it got out. At the same time, a seemingly untouchable coalition is attempting to take over trade with the Trappist colonies and start a war with the NeoG. When the crew of Zuma’s Ghost gets involved, they end up as targets of this ruthless enemy.

With new members aboard, will the team grow stronger this time around? Will they be able to win the games? And, more important, will they be able to surmount threats from both without and within?

In K. B. Wagers’ Hold Fast Through the Fire, the NeoG kick ass, take names, and hug each other a lot. The story focuses more on the interpersonal relationships and the battle games between the various military groups. A task force has been assembled to take down the people behind the problem of supplies not getting to the habitats in the outer solar system. Max, Jenks, and the rest of the team on Zuma’s Ghost are part of the force. 

I usually try to avoid spoilers, per NetGalley rules, but one or two may pop up during this review.

I’m conflicted. The leaders of the task force are all male. They all decide to keep the mission secret from their teams, which are mostly comprised of females. The reasoning behind this is to keep the potential leaks to a minimum. The leaders all recognize that their teams will be extremely mad when they find out they’ve been kept in the dark. They also don’t consider that their team members have unique skills and could have valuable insights if they were only “read in” to the mission. So, when things predictably go pear-shaped with some near-fatalities, and the teams figure out what’s going on, there’s some well-justified anger. Now, most of the blame has to go to Stephan, as it’s his order that gags the other leaders. The most aggravating part is when Max and Jenks pointed out ways they could have helped in specific situations, the guys all say, “yeah, we didn’t think of that.” 

When there are terrorist attacks on various military facilities, Stephan and another task force leader fake their deaths. This seems to serve no purpose other than to send Jenks into a tailspin. Max and Jenks also forgive Luis, Tivo, Nika and Stephan far too easily, in my opinion.

So, I’m conflicted. The physical affection between the teammates felt a lot more like the camaraderie in Wagers’ Hail Bristol series. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but I expect this series to be more military than the other. I also can’t think of a time where she let her male characters make the female characters feel like crap so much. Somehow, I still liked the story. I think credit for that goes to Jenks and Doge. Doge the robot dog was amazing in this book, and I hope his character progression continues, as well as that of Jenks.

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