Book Review: Blood Reunion (The Hybrid Helix) by JCM Berne

Blood Reunion

Blood Reunion by JCM Berne, Turn Three of The Hybrid Helix, character-driven action-rich superhero space fantasy with hope and the best protagonist ever.Series: The Hybrid Helix, #3

Author: JCM Berne

Genre: Space Fantasy

Book Description:

People are dying, their corpses left savaged and drained of blood. The obvious culprit: vampires. But vampires shouldn’t be able to sneak around Wistful undetected or shadowstep freely inside her body. Soon the station herself becomes oddly uncooperative, leaving Rohan and Wei Li bewildered and all her inhabitants in danger.

Finding and defeating the killer will require a deep dive into the ancient history of Wistful and of the il’Drach people. Into the connections between the Ursans, the wormholes, and the races that preceded them. Into the dark past of a tormented space station that yearns only for death.

Rohan will be forced to fight, and maybe even to kill. He’ll have to face those who bear grudges from his past, the Empire he once served, and his own reluctance to again become the warrior he sometimes needs to be.


This is actually the 2nd book in The Hybrid Helix that I read, since I’m wary of anything set on Earth and so wasn’t willing to take the chance on Return of the Griffin until I read Blood Reunion. And a good part of why I read Return of the Griffin was because I really like Rohan, and I had the feeling I’d understand some things about him better if I read Return.

As usual, this is a book about relationships, with a lot of focus on relationships, even though there are a lot of action and combat scenes. It’s a book about character development and people. And it’s a book that I liked a lot about. When I first read it, I found Rohan’s ability to keep his Power and Anger suppressed for long periods of time under extreme duress to be … well, extraordinary and unrelatable, but that was one thing that made a lot more sense after reading Return of the Griffin. One of the people I really liked in this story is Rohan’s baby ship friend, Void’s Shadow. He’s trying to teach her to be independent minded, and he’s encouraging her to speak up for herself and share her ideas, and you know, make her own decisions, something il’Drach ships aren’t really designed to do, because that doesn’t really make the best war ship, right? You maybe want a bit more of that in a Scout Ship (which Void’s Shadow is), I don’t know, but really not that much, probably.

Void’s Shadow has so much personality, and she’s so determined to be a really good ship. So there was an interaction that’s really relatable to the struggles of relationships and human interactions, where Rohan wants her to do something that she thinks is suicidal and useless. And she’s explaining this, and Rohan is arguing, and suddenly she says, “Is that a command?”

Her voice shrank. “Is that an order?”


“You’re my Captain. I keep saying so. Are you giving me an order? Because you’ve never done that before.”

“What? I don’t know.”

“I’ll follow orders. I know my place. If you give me an order, I’ll do my best to get to the wormhole.” Her voice kept shrinking, in volume and in force.

“No, I don’t . . . I don’t give you orders. That’s not who I am.”

“I think that you are. Should I play back the last few things you said? It sounded like an order.”

“No. Don’t do that.”

“I’m a good ship. I’ll follow orders. Just tell me when to come back, and I’ll do what you tell me to do.”

“That’s not . . . not what I meant.”

“Are you sure?”

Rohan rubbed between his eyes. He sat back in his chair and let out a long breath. His chest was tight; his throat hurt.

“I just . . . don’t you want to help?”

“I want to help. I don’t think dying will help anybody. But I’m a good ship, I’ll follow orders. You’ve just been telling me that I don’t have to do everything you say, that I can think for myself. I didn’t understand. That in the end, you’ll still give me an order. It’s okay. I just didn’t understand. I’ll be good.”

Rohan inhaled deeply. “No. No, no, no. You understood before, Void’s Shadow. You’re a good ship. I forgot. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“There’s no order. I . . . I was careless. I misspoke. I said things wrong.”

Rohan’s desperate need to redeem himself, his determination not to kill, his desire to give everything a chance – there’s so much of this that makes so much sense, and feels so human. And there are several things I love soo much about this book that I will do my best to describe without going into spoilers.

Firstly, the non-consequentialism, something I see so rarely, but that is only growing stronger and clearer in this series (and one of the reasons I love it!!). Rohan doesn’t want to do things that he thinks are bad because he thinks there will be worse consequences if he doesn’t do that. He’s seen where that leads him, he’s seen the kind of monster that can make one, he’s seen the atrocities that kind of thinking can cause. He’s seen problems that can cause, whether it’s on the huge scale with him committing acts of mass destruction, or whether that’s on a much smaller scale. And he’s had it. He’s not doing it. None of it, anymore. Sometimes, perhaps, his determination to prove to himself that he’s over it, and the fact that he sees himself and his dilemma in everything else out there, may go a bit overboard – after all, Rohan doesn’t strike me like he’s really a pacifist, though I would respect him no less if he were. But at the same time, I think he has to go to the point he does, to see the things he does – to know who he is and what he believes, and when he’s killing because he believes it has to be done, not because he’s being someone else’s executioner. There are a lot of things that are hard for him, and the “right choices” in terms of those that will make him a better, kinder person, instead of one that runs over people easily, may not always be the ones that, in retrospect, he would say, “This is what I should have done.” As he tells Wistful,

“I have [made many choices, few of them similar to those of his peers]. And I’ll keep doing it. What I don’t have is that moment where the choice is over and you get a grade or report card and find out if it was the correct one or not. Every day, I have to look and decide fresh if I was on the right path.”

And something he says to someone else, that stands out as one of my favourite quotes.

“I’m not in the business of letting atrocities be committed in the name of some long-term strategic plan. No more ends justifying the means. No more greater-good arguments. I played that game, and I’m tired of it. I’m going to stop bad things when they happen in front of me, and to hell with the larger consequences.”

And secondly, in a lot of fantasy books, there’s mind control, and the mind control is fought or resisted or found ways around by means of mental reservations and word games, which is something I don’t like. A little of it here or there I have no problem with it, but as a trope? A recurrence? Yes. That is one trope I hate. And I have to say – it does happen in this book, and I was bit mad about it for a while. But then I realized … something else happens.

There’s an instance of mind control or attempted mind control on Rohan. And he doesn’t fight it, he doesn’t get out of it, not that way, and he could not. So how does he do it? How does he stay true to who he is and what he believes he should do, and not violate himself?

He embraces who he is, and he simply is himself, with his own solutions to problems, and his own beliefs. He embraces his beliefs, and he acts, from within the mind control, according to his convictions and his vision of the world, instead of someone else’s.

So I realized I like the fact this book did something right (I could be more subjective and say ‘something I like,’ but I have some pretty firm beliefs here, so deal with them) a lot more than I hate the fact it did something I really don’t like so much.

Though one thing I kind of don’t like about this series is that the perspective is a little more distant than I prefer. I like not to have guess – and often be in the dark – about when and whether my main protagonist and point of view is lying or bluffing. If he doesn’t know, I’m fine not knowing. But I would like to know when he knows, and to the degree that he knows!

Either way … when I first read Wistful Ascending and loved it so much, I was concerned I would be disappointed in the rest of the series, or at least some of it; that some of the books might be stale in comparison. However, these books have surprised and held my interest so far, and if they continue this way, I may find myself loving every one of the promised twenty-five! With each book, I see the promise grow.

I think this is the important stuff. There’s lots of other things I would love to mention and comment on, but I’m pretty busy right now and I wouldn’t want this to turn into a ramble no one but myself can read. I think this works for a “3rd in the series review.”

JCM Berne’s Website

Review for Book One (Wistful Ascending)

Review for Book Two (Return of the Griffin)

One thought on “Book Review: Blood Reunion (The Hybrid Helix) by JCM Berne

  1. Pingback: February Updates and Promotions/Sales – Enthralled By Love

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