Daniel’s father has gotten himself killed. A thief and a mercenary, Daniel is now determined to find the treasure his father snatched. Being a Zukar is all he knows and wants for his future. Up until his father’s murder, his father’s faltering loyalties to the Zukar hung heavy as a rift between them. But now, with his father's blood on his hands, his time is running out to find his father’s killer, the missing treasure… and to save his world.
He wants to go alone to retrieve his father’s stolen treasure, but he is accompanied by his flight school dropout cousin Faulk, his best friend’s stubborn little sister Jade, and his own younger brother Nickel. Jade is off limits since her brother is his best friend, but unfortunately, Jade’s set on changing his mind. Daniel just can’t decide if she’s worth the beating he’ll get from his friend in order to have her.
They’re on the run from the king’s officials and an unknown killer. The king desires to kill any Zukar child who is unprotected and will stop at nothing to get them. Who’s more dangerous, Daniel doesn’t know. All he knows is someone is bent on killing him and taking the treasure he thinks his father died foolishly to protect.
Through the islands of Merwin to an unknown planet, they seek to find the treasure that changed his father’s life – all for a price that is too high. To claim the treasure, Daniel will have to test everything he knows and everything he is or will ever be in order to earn the right to save their lives and the home of those he loves.
This is the third LM Preston book I've reviewed and I must say that I'm really happy with the results. She is an author that I've come to appreciate and am really enjoying her growth as a writer. When I read her first book, Explorer X-Alpha, while I enjoyed it, I wanted it fleshed out a bit more. I felt there was so much in it, that I wanted it explained and detailed more. When I read her second book, The Pack, I was still wishing the book was set in a fantasy series, though I understood the reasoning of what that would not work. Now I know that the author wasn't paying all that attention to one reviewers opinions but I must say that Bandits seemed to fulfill both of my issues with the first two books.
Don't get me wrong, this is still a sci fi book set on a alien world, but it almost had a fantasy feel for me. I think creating the Zukar as an almost futuristic version of pirates, just a little more deadly, is what did it for me. I have always associated pirates (in literature anyway) as an almost fantasy like element in the same way I would do with dragons. I know that make absolutely no sense, but what does anymore. As a kid I was a sucker for pirates and to explore that world again, with a slightly different twist was a lot of fun.
The other aspect that made this more like a fantasy book compared to something that was strictly sci fi (not that I have a lot of experience with that genre) was the quest aspect of the book. After Daniel and Nickel's father is killed they set off on a fast paced journey to discover the secret of their father's treasure and why someone would be willing to kill for it. In typical fantasy tradition they are joined on the quest by their cousin Faulk, a flight school drop out who wants nothing more than to break away from his parent's control and live his own life, and Jade, the younger sister of Daniel's best friend and a possible future love interest. Their journey takes them off their world of Merwin and into uncharted space to find the origins of the treasure, a treasure that could destroy the planet and all those trapped on it. Once they arrived on the planet that the treasure came from they are all tested to see if they are worthy to control the secret and save Merwin from destruction. The fact that this story happens in outer space, far into the future, and involves space craft and aliens; didn't make it any less of a fantasy novel for me.
The other aspect I felt the author did better in this novel was in how she was able to make the characters and plot three dimensional enough to appeal to an adult audience, without writing above the heads of her target audience. I had some difficulty in relating to the first two books for that reason. While they were fun and engaging to read, I couldn't connect to characters as much as I would have liked, because they seemed to be more like stock characters instead of fully realised individuals. That was not the case in this one, though not perfectly written, they were well rounded characters that anyone should be able to get behind and be engaged by their story.
The same is true for the storyline itself. This book takes the action, which the author has never been bad at, and blends it within the plot in such a way that I didn't feel as if I was reading two different stories. The author blended the two in a better fashion than what took place in the first two books. The story itself wasn't predictable and it kept me on my toes wanting to know what happens next.
I've really enjoyed reading LM Preston's writing grow and mature through each subsequent book. I'm really excited to read what she comes up with next.