The Protectorate – A Spectacular Finish to a Strong Start

Earlier this year I re-read Velocity Weapon(VW) to prepare for the final book in the The Protectorate Trilogy by Megan O’Keefe. I have avoided spoilers (except for one in the synopsis, so you can just skip that if you want to avoid it) so that you feel comfortable learning about the series. Needless to say, I am now a big fan of the trilogy and will proselytize it to anyone looking for a good ride. Megan O’Keefe’s The Protectorate Trilogy is a ferociously good time filled with fantastic characters and great worldbuilding that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

Chaos Vector (CV) and Catalyst Gate (CG) take place following some pretty major revelations in the 250 page sprint that O’Keefe performs in Velocity Weapon. If book one was a smaller, more personalized conflict that revolved around a cold war, books two and three amp up the stakes to systemic and civilizational threats. Don’t worry, though, the deteriorating relations between Ada Prime and Icarion are still featured heavily, and play a major role within the characters’ lives. Sanda is off on her own, looking for answers after Bero – the digital being who populated the ship Light of the Berossus – has disappeared. Biran meanwhile dives ever deeper into the Keepers and tries his best to ease the incredibly high tensions between Ada Prime and Icarion before everything explodes in war.

One of the more prominent features of VW was its fast-paced plot, filled with character and major reveals. O’Keefe does an astounding job of continuing that breakneck pace while pressing the gas pedal through the floor to another plane of existence. It’s applaudable enough that O’Keefe keeps the tension building and provides the reader with a great popcorn ride. However, I find it astounding that she was also able to keep delivering the twists and turns coming without anything ever going truly off the rails. It felt as if every chapter had something in store, some new piece of information waiting to be discovered that would change the course of the story. I can’t count how many times I chuckled to myself with a slight tinge of madness as O’Keefe pulled a 180 degree e-brake turn going 100 mph while looking me dead in the eye without flinching and then started driving backwards. On top of all that, each reveal felt interesting and slowly built out more of O’Keefe’s world. I don’t normally read for plot, but these books left me craving the next chapter, sending me into hours long reading holes, desperately needing to find out what happens next.

Even a great plot needs good characters, and O’Keefe steps it up here again. Sanda and Biran were excellent in the first book, but even more interesting in the rest of the series. Sanda spent a lot of time in Velocity Weapon reacting to events as they happened to her. She had grit and determination but it’s easy to chalk it up to a survival instinct shaped by her military career. However, in CV and CG Sanda’s will is front and center. The first book was all set up for this side of her, and it shines through brightly. You can feel the choices she is about to make before making them, yet they still feel impactful. This was definitely fueled by O’Keefe’s ability to let you know how beaten down Sanda was while scraping the bottom of her energy reserves without Sanda herself knowing it. Reading Sanda’s side of the story was like watching the wires on a suspension bridge start to snap with an entire morning’s commute still on it. You just never knew when she was going to buckle, making each choice to push herself one more time that much harder to watch. Sanda is easily one of my favorite characters in science fiction now just because of how well she is portrayed, and how heartbreaking her story is.

Biran is still a joy, despite being less heavily featured in the next two books. Where VW had a very consistent back and forth between the perspectives, CV and CG had Biran sport his wilyness every three or four chapters. Luckily, O’Keefe is excellent at managing the pace, so I never felt devoid of Biran, but if you came for even more Biran than before, you may be disappointed. However, what the reader is exposed to is nothing short of thrilling. After having bet everything in the first book, he’s a man who has nothing to lose, and in a position to make things happen. His changes and what he learns through the books is quite the journey and I enjoyed every page of his.

Besides the two main characters, the rest of the series is full of excellent side characters. Tomas Cepko makes his return and is just a pure delight. I mean his life is just absolutely awful, but he’s a great spy-type character that tends to throw a wrench in a lot of gears. Jules Valentine, who I had harped on previously, was an excellent addition to the rest of the series, and her journey is just even more painful. While I never fully related to her thinking and actions, O’Keefe was able to humanize her in many ways that made her constant bad decision making tough to watch. Her chapters no longer felt like a break in the action, and often gave a boost to the plot this time around. Her former companions Arden and Nox are an absolute blast and add a lot of fun and spontaneity to the action. I could go on and on, but it’s all just to say O’Keefe populated the world wonderfully with her characters, all with their own distinct personalities that fit into the story at just the right times.

I don’t really know what else to say other than if you enjoyed Velocity Weapon, you’ll no doubt find the rest of The Protectorate Trilogy more than worth your while. It’s a good time, with some heavy hitting moments character and plot wise. I wish Icarion was a little more fleshed out, but in the end it didn’t bother me that much. While I felt tired of the constant revealing at the end of the first book, it only galvanized me through the rest of the series. I only wish I could say more about these books without giving anything away. I can only say read these books. They’re fun, exciting, dangerous, endearing and at times heartbreaking, but you won’t regret it.

Rating:
Chaos Vector – 9.0/10
Catalyst Gate – 9.0/10
The Protectorate Trilogy 9.0/10
-Alex

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