Discordia – Disappointing Descrescendo

The Nova Vita Protocol series is one I’ve come to enjoy. Kristyn Merbeth’s debut, Fortuna, was a rollicking emotional rollercoaster. Memoria was a stronger follow-up that put the family’s issues on full display as the Kaisers try desperately to right the wrongs of their weapons dealing mother. The finale had some big shoes to fill for me, and unfortunately, Discordia is a slightly disappointing bookend to the series.

The system is still reeling from the events of Memoria. The Kaisers are finally on their own again, out from under the thumbs of the politicians and generals of the various planetary governments. Having stopped the invasion of Nibiru by the remnants of Titan, the Kaisers are on just about everyone’s hit list. Even though they are seen as heroes, the information they know is just too dangerous for the regular public. Forced to the margins of society with their eyes over their shoulders, the Kaisers are once again dragged into stopping another war. This time with the knowledge of the aliens slumbering weapons, they just might stop the system from annihilating itself. That is if they can only get someone to listen to them.

One thing that I will always adore about this series is the dynamic between Scorpio and Corvus. Merbeth keeps their storytelling style differentiated throughout, giving the sections a vibrancy through her character’s eyes. Their word choice and varying anxieties about how to handle situations both personal and system wide are endearing. However, I felt Scorpia was a little more contrived in this outing. She felt like she needed to fall into a few traps to get the plot moving. It wasn’t as if she fully regressed, but there were moments that felt like Scorpia from Fortuna popped in for a moment to get the ball rolling. Corvus on the other hand felt just right, spending his time learning to remember his needs as a human being instead of a soldier. The added crew mate Daniil put this aspect of Corvus into sharp focus, serving as a catalyst and really making his progress feel tangible and uncomfortable.

The story in Discordia is a little weak for me. In its defense, the stakes of the second book hit a really high note and they are hard to follow up, but it still felt thin. The system is on the brink of war between two planets and the Kaisers are once again forced to deal with the repercussions of their mother’s actions. It’s not bad, but it felt more contrived this time around with plot points that sprang up out of nowhere and a few convenient loose ends here and there. I was expecting a more bombastic finish, and while it delivers a satisfactory conclusion it isn’t very showy, and doesn’t quite dig in the way the previous books had. While the Kaiser’s earned some reprieve from their internal issues as a family, I didn’t feel any tension with them as individuals in the grander plot.

The planets and their cultures are still interesting, but the reader isn’t given a whole lot to work with when it comes to Pax. Deva is given the full treatment, getting to see its flashy face and dirty underbelly. But considering Pax and Deva were itching for war given the events of the previous books, I expected more about the workings of Pax. Instead it feels like the wild west with two large cities that are also at odds with each other. The other books gave stronger backgrounds on the uniqueness of each planet that allowed the tensions to fully simmer and be realized. Pax and Deva just felt like they hadn’t had their full turn yet, and wanted to get in the tussle.

Discordia was still enjoyable, but I mostly stayed for the characters. I adored watching Scorpia and Corvus become the people they are through the books. I’m glad they got the conclusion Merbeth follows them to. I wish the last hurrah was a little more forceful, with the characters using their newfound confidences tempered with their lifelong doubts. I wanted the brink to feel like a total collapse was around the corner and that war was inevitable. Instead, it’s a nice story about how the Kaiser’s finally get to break a little free from the cell their mother constructed for them, and that’s not a bad thing, it’s just not what I was hoping for. As a whole, The Nova Vita Protocol makes me look forward to seeing more of what Merbeth has in store for the future.

Rating: Discordia 6.5/10

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An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.

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