At the end of my review for Bowling’s first novel of the Jarnian Confederation, “Homecoming,” I said that Roi’s story had a conclusion that nicely wrapped up everything that had happened up to that point in his life, but that I hoped to see more of him as an adult. The author has granted my wish because “Tourist Trap” brings us back into the life of former slave Roi shortly after he turns eighteen. While the author does a good job of providing some backstory, this is a sequel and the personal conflicts and interactions will make more sense if you’ve read the first book in the series.
At this point in his life, Roi has accepted his new heritage and seems to have finally put his past as a slave behind him, allowing him to finally enjoy his place with his newfound family that consists of Lai, Marna, and Derik. The one person Roi still can’t get along with his half-brother, Zhaim, who still views Roi as a slave and an intruder that stole his rightful place in the social hierarchy.
Roi and his friends have travelled to the planet of Falaron for a challenge journey, which is basically like an extreme vacation that includes camping, white-water rafting, dog sledding, and other tests of endurance. Unfortunately for Roi, his vacation is about to become more extreme than planned because Zhaim, who knows he can’t just outright kill his half-brother, decides an outdoor adventure would be the perfect place for Roi to suffer a fatal ‘accident.’
I really enjoyed seeing Roi as a confident young adult, with the shackles of his past no longer affecting him as strongly as before. He’s still polite and thoughtful of others, but the slave mentality that kept him from taking charge before has diminished so he’s able to take on the role of leader when he needs to, but he still must occasionally be forced into the role, usually only accepting the responsibility when lives are in danger. I also liked the fact that we get to see more of Roi’s fear of becoming like Zhaim. He continually studies himself to see if he’s reaching a point where he actually enjoys the power he has over other people, and his resolve will be tested in surprising ways.
Tour guide Penny is a new character that allows the reader to really connect with and see the unique relationship Roi has with his friends. Amber, Flame, and Timi were slaves with Roi in the early years. Now, the three are Roi’s slaves, but Roi has them as slaves only to keep his friends from falling into the hands of abusive owners. Penny is against slavery and initially allows her views to color her opinion of Roi, but she eventually learns to respect the young man who frequently makes sacrifices for the safety of others.
One character from “Homecoming” becomes more of an integral character in “Tourist Trap,” and I was glad to find out more about him. Xazhar is Zhaim’s son, and he is his father’s son in more ways than one because he also shares an animosity with Roi. In the past, Xazhar has been allowed to do whatever he wants because of his heritage but events transpire that make him realize there are hard choices to be made and he must decide if he wants to be his father’s son or his grandfather’s grandson because it’s impossible to be both. I know how weird that statement sounds but it will make sense when you learn more about Xazhar and his family.
“Tourist Trap” is a great read for anyone that wants motivation and feeling to accompany the action in their sci-fi adventure. Alien beings and super powers are an integral part of Roi’s story but what makes this novel really shine is the heart. Nobody is good or evil just because that’s their assigned role. Just like in real life, everyone has their own motivations and desires, and Bowling does a great job of letting the reader see what it would be like to walk in the shoes of Roi, Xazhar, and even madman Zhaim.
I said it before and I’ll say it again because once again Roi’s adventure has a solid ending but I hope to see him again in the future because the end of “Tourist Trap” reveals that more changes are in store and I would love to see how Roi faces these new challenges.