Review: Black on Black (Heyoka Blackeagle Book 1 of 2)

Black on Black - K.D. Wentworth

This book caught my interest from the first page and I had trouble putting it down.  I was up past my bedtime last night because I couldn’t go to sleep until I had finished the book.

The story centers around Heyoka Blackeagle, an alien from the hrinnti species.  He was stolen from his people as a child and raised among humans, so he knows next to nothing about his own people.  He’s a Sergeant, fighting alongside humans against a destructive alien enemy.  During a recent battle, an incident occurred that led him to go back to his home planet to learn more about his origins.  The story begins with him landing on his home planet, trying and failing to recognize anything familiar about it.

The hrinnti species is very animal-like in terms of their appearance and many of their mannerisms – probably closest to a dog if I were looking for something to compare it to.  But not the cuddly, friendly, eager-to-please sort of dog!  The vast majority of the book is spent in the perspective of various hrinnti characters.  They have different motives than humans, a different social structure, different mannerisms and behaviors, and just a different way of seeing themselves and their lives.  I enjoyed reading about an alien culture from the perspective of the aliens.  Fortunately the author was human, so the characters are still pretty easy to understand if you happen to be a human reader.  

I read reviews on various sites after finishing the book, and I was surprised it didn’t have higher ratings -- I’m pretty stingy with five-star ratings but I enjoyed this book that much.  I read a couple reviews in which people expressed disappointment that Mitsu, the human female traveling with Heyoka, didn’t play a larger role in the story.  I can understand those comments to some extent, because I too had the impression at the beginning that she would be a more important character.  But I think maybe that was the point.  She was the alien – the interloper on a world where she didn’t fit in.  This book was about the hrinn, not the humans.  Mitsu did in fact play a major role, however unwittingly, in changing the course of at least one hrinn’s life.

The characters were interesting and many of them were very likeable.  Heyoka was a particularly interesting character because he knew nothing of his own species’ culture, and many of their ways and attitudes seemed foreign and even barbaric to him.  And yet he shared a lot of similarities with them also.  The reader learns about his race along with him.  There are a lot of character names to keep straight, but I had surprisingly little trouble with keeping track of who was who.  In retrospect, I think the author unobtrusively worked in small details to help remind the reader exactly which character they were reading about after a perspective change.  The story itself also seemed really interesting to me.  I was always anxious to see what would happen next.  

This book has a sequel, Stars Over Stars, but it stands completely on its own.  Everything was wrapped up without any major loose ends.  If there’s any one thing I felt was left unexplained, it would be the motives behind what happened on the Hrinnti homeworld when Heyoka was a child.  Since some of the characters still seem to be wondering the same thing, I’m hoping that might be answered in the sequel.