Even though Dale loves Keyno, he still struggles with the way the Tah’Narians harvest young males as mates. Dale finds himself hijacked by his own body, courtesy of his extra dose of Tah’Narian DNA. Then there’s the devastating secret his mate, Keyno, has hid all this time. And if all that isn’t enough, outside forces threaten to rip Dale’s hard-won peace apart as well.~M.A. Church
The above is the author’s pitch for The Harvest: Journey’s End, the continuation of Harvest: Taken. And continues it does, not as a stand-alone book, but straight on as the next chapter of Dale and Keyno’s life together. But as a stand alone, it falters and ultimately fails to jell as a book.
Not to be a total killjoy , I am fascinated with Ms. Church’s Tah’narian Universe. The Tah’narians were an inter-sexed species that suffered the loss of their reproductive abilities after devastating biological warfare. Those that survived lost their “female” reproductive ability, leaving them only with their “male” reproductive equipment intact. All of this was explained in Book One, but it you just start with Book Two, you’ll be scratching your head. Still the concept of a once dual sexed species now stripped of one half of its reproductive ability is a fascinating one, rife with potentials for world building and exploration of a culture split apart.
This never happens. And it is disappointing.
I am always impressed with Ms. Church’s ability to write a sex scene. Usually the scenes are hot, and very expressive. But, but, but, the first three chapters are merely interesting as Dale and Keyno thrash about in the throws of Dale’s first estrus cycle sporting his new baby-making equipment courtesy of a double-dosed Tah’narian DNA infusion. Estrus, with its physical demands on both partners, doesn’t seem fun or sexy at all, despite its logical conclusion. When Dale, concerned about Keyno’s extremely depleted stated afterward asks a friend about it, the friend replies, “Estrus is hard on the one during the servicing.”
And the ability to write a sex scene does not automatically convert into a novel. Despite the potential of Ms. Church’s pitch, without going into spoilers, Keyno and Dale race between home and Keyno’s uncle’s palace, attending the personal crisis of various friends’ dramas surrounding the births of their friends’ children. There is one section where Dale, Keyno and their friends go camping on the planet where Keyno was kidnapped by space pirates in the first book. Is it really a spoiler then to say, “Well, what do you think happens there?” The “devastating secret” devolves into a mini-melodrama where everything is good within a day instead of honestly exploring why Keyno continues to hold back information from his mate. The return to Earth for business and a meet-up with Dale’s parents only highlights the ridiculousness of someone kidnapped for mating purposes accepting his fate without rancor or resentment. “Hey, mom, dad, meet my mate Keyno. Yeah, he was the one that had me kidnapped so I could mate with him, but it’s all good now.” Yeah. In short, while there is plenty of wailing and moaning, there are no real high stakes in the relationship of Dale and Keyno, no real jack-up of tension throughout the book, and no resolution of issues because no real issues are presented.
If you want something lighthearted that doesn’t tax the brain, Harvest: Journey’s End is an okay read for a rainy afternoon.