Her story began in the national bestsellers A Soldier’s Duty and An Officer’s Duty. Now Ia is captain and commander at the helm of Hellfire, where she is finally free to chart the course for the fulfillment of her destiny… As captain, Ia must now assemble a crew that can rise to the ultimate challenge of saving the galaxy. The hardest part will be getting them to believe her, to trust in her prophecies. If they don’t, her own crew will end up being the biggest obstacle in her race against time. The Salik are breaking through the Blockade, plunging the known galaxy into war. Ia cannot stop it this time, nor does she want to. This is the terrible price she has seen all along—that some must pay with their lives so that others might live. Now only time itself can prove whether each member of her crew is merely a soldier or truly one of Ia’s Damned.
Hellfire by Jean Johnson is the latest volume in the Theirs Is Not to Reason Why series. Now, before going any further, it’s worth noting that this is the middle book in the series. What that means is that there are a few issues that usually go along with a middle book in a series, and this one is no exception.
Ia, the protagonist, is now the captain of a Space Force ship named Hellfire. The mission she and its crew have been tasked with is nothing short of saving the entire galaxy. With a ship designed to be powerful enough to take on the Salik, enemy of Earth, there’s only one downside: Hellfire is so powerful that it can only be handled by a precognitive. Anybody else would find themselves killed in the process.
Of course, Ia, as a precognitive is invaluable in this struggle, and now that her abilities to see the future are common knowledge, there is less tension on that front, and Johnson shifts that over to the war they’re fighting. Ia doesn’t always have it easy convincing higher ranked Space Force officers that she’s right about what she sees, but time and again she’s proved right, and it would seem that sooner or later they would give her carte blanche to get stuff done without wasting time. As it is, the book deals primarily with the various battles, as well as focusing on the technology of the ship, the crew’s routines, all reminding one a bit of Battlestar Galactica in some respects. But, the same is true aboard this ship as any other, and that is that without some change in scenery, it can get monotonous.
The same can be said about a character that is always right. At some point, readers are going to want to throw up their hands because if Ia is never wrong, then she should be in charge already and the delay only makes the military look like complete idiots who aren’t able to manage their resources properly. Furthermore, Ia has so many abilities at this point that she can do almost anything, and for there to be an obstacle that would believably challenge her becomes more unbelievable. Not only that, but she essentially has everything she wants: adoring crew, supportive romantic partner, and a ship of her own. The stakes needed to be raised much higher than they were for the story to really take off.
Ia has some satisfying moments upon her return to Sanctuary, her homeworld, and deals handily with some religious zealots, as well as her military triumphs, but this book was very much a middle ground between the beginning of a story and its conclusion, and hopefully the next book will pick up the action as well as give Ia more challenges both personally and professionally.