Like in the last so-called genre fiction book I reviewed—mystery / detective novel Red Rover by Lizz Bugg—Heights of Green is part of a lesbian series with colours featured in the title and corresponding colourful covers. Is this a trend, or a coincidence? Unlike Liz Bugg’s book, though, which is the first in the series, Heights of Green is author Lise Mactague’s second effort and number two in this military science fiction / romance combo trilogy named On Deception’s Edge.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading the book that precedes this one—Depths of Blue—despite the fact that it’s a mixture of two genres I don’t normally read. You definitely need to read the first book before the next one, so check out my review of the Depths of Blue and read the book, then come back to this review. There may be some spoilers here!
While the first book took place on Jak’s home planet, enmeshed in civil war between horrifically misogynist and run-of-the-mill sexist societies, in Heights of Green we find ourselves on Torrin’s home planet, which turns out to be a dusty, dry desert, but also a lesbian utopia planet populated only by women. The ancestors of most of the women living on the planet Nadi are inter-galactic feminist pirate warriors. Obviously, this setting is great fun. I am still undecided about whether Torrin’s homeland would be a queer paradise or constant dyke drama hell. Perhaps a combination of both.
Jak, used to keeping all of her feelings close to her chest, pretending to be a man almost 24/7, and living in a homophobic society, is pretty overwhelmed to be on Nadi. She’s also out of her element, healing from a near-fatal injury, and so is dependent on Torrin in a way that she’s not at all comfortable with. Torrin, on the other hand, is so in her element in her lesbian feminist utopia that she’s focusing on her business to the detriment of her relationship. Throw in Jak’s unease as Torrin’s planet-wide reputation as a total player becomes apparent and a certain side character who turns out to be more than they seem (and not in a good way) and there you have the unraveling of the opposites-attract romance that was so exciting in the first book.
Unfortunately it takes quite a while for this action to get going; the relationship troubles and some larger plot points which I won’t spoil don’t really begin until after halfway through. This is certainly not a fault unique to Heights of Green. I can think of lots of trilogies that have trouble keeping up the momentum and action in the middle, aka “filler” book. You’ve got the world-building and introduction of the characters in the first book and the grand finale plot-wise in the last book; what do you do with the second one?
That said, the last quarter of Heights of Green is really exciting, as the reasons behind Torrin being set up on Jak’s planet are revealed to be much more complicated and deeper. Of course Torrin being who she is, she has to take dramatic and drastic action. The novel ends on another cliff-hanger that is really a teaser for the final book, which I can’t wait to read!