An Accidental Goddess is the far-future sequel to (the out of print) Wintertide. The plot is that Gillaine Davré wakes up after a battle to find herself 342 years in the future. But worse, it seems that the people living on this space station have (unwelcome to her) made her into a goddess, turning a list of her quips and sayings into guiding principles. Among her faulty followers is Admiral Makarian, a man who is tasked with keeping an outer-rim station safe… while contending with minimal resources, spies working against him, mysterious attacks, and a beautiful, increasingly-distracting surmised smuggler.
This is the first book I’ve read as part of a romance book group. I was pleasantly surprised by how robust the action and sci-fi elements were; this is definitely a book that intends to merge the two genres, as opposed to borrowing a convention or two for flavor. That being said, it would have been nice if there were one or two more intimate scenes between Gillaine and Mack (though this could be because I approached it from the romance frame of mind).
Sinclair’s world is generally well thought out and rings true, though no one would call it original. Coming into this story having read none of her other works or the prequel, it took me some time to orient myself to the situation. While I am extremely grateful that I wasn’t coddled as a reader (does anyone else hate those snippets that are obviously stuck in just to catch readers up?), there were a couple of tidbits it probably took too long for me to piece together. Namely, why was Gillaine so worried about hiding her identity? Obviously she didn’t want to be outed as a false goddess, but she also goes to great pains to mask her race. (It turns out it is because Raheirans are a more advanced race than the Khalars she is surrounded by, and their races haven’t been in contact with each other for 342 years.)
The main issues stem either from lack or clarity or not enough development.
There are two major WTF moments. (And no, there really is no other way to say that.)
The first is when Mack proposes. It comes so out of left field that I snorted. Literally. Out loud. Never a good reaction. But, it turns out, this is an easy fix. Right after the proposal, Mack (as surprised as Gillaine and the reader), retraces his thinking. This passage not only re-establishes credibility, but is emblematic of Mack’s thinking, thus leading the reader to greater understanding and sympathy. All it would take to smooth out this hiccup would be to switch the passages; the thoughts, then the action.
The second WTF moment occurs when Gillaine, all of a sudden, with no warning, realizes that Mack is a sorcerer… and then manages to unlock his power… while simultaneously navigating a Very Large Ship through rift space… which, I’m told, is Very Hard To Do. The fix for this takes a bit more work, though is still manageable.* More build-up is a must. Two or three passages foreshadowing this development would do the trick. Then, during the scene itself, a few more lines or even a paragraph just contextualizing what is happening would help a lot. With these modifications, the plot point would feel less like an author trying to force a happy ending (and, in the process, detracting from the climax as a whole), and more like an integrated, natural… maybe even inevitable occurrence.
My final issue takes a different vein. What the heck is up with Simon? Not the character himself–his voice is great. In fact, his banter with Gillaine and his interactions with the other characters are always on point, entertaining, and snappy. (Don’t tell anyone, but I ship him and Gillaine. Ha!) No, I’m talking about his backstory. Or backstories. Because it felt like there were two. In one, Simon was this Raheiran sorcerer-turned-teacher who, in order to safeguard their culture’s knowledge of magic, exchanges his corporeal body for a more adaptable, AI-like existence. In the other, Raheirans were developing this new technology–namely the Sentient Integrated MObile Nanoessence. So his name as abbreviation indicates both newness and genericness… which is in direct contrast to his multiple-millennia existence. Do you see what I mean? What have I missed?
So, as a recap, The Accidental Goddess is worth the read if you are looking for an engaging story that is a mix of all things good from the romance and sci-fi genres, with consistent beats of humor. The pacing is solid, the characters were fleshed out, and the world is fun to explore.
*It is entirely possible that this development was hinted at and that I, having not read the prequel, was blind to foreshadowing. However, considering that the prequel is out of print, I think it’s fair to critique An Accidental Goddess as a stand-alone novel. That is how most readers will encounter it, not to mention the story lines seeming pretty autonomous.