I first heard about Hicks’ books when he randomly tweeted me, telling me to try the first book in his series, In Her Name: Empire, because it was free. I don’t turn down free books if they have merit generally, so I had a look.

I read the blurb and shook my head about blue skinned female warrior aliens… Avatar anyone? I retweeted his tweet, but let the book be. Then I saw another tweet about it. I decided that if he was going to be so insistent and it was free anyway, I could at least try it.

I have to say that despite some initial hiccups at the start of the book, I ended up buying the whole trilogy.

The story revolves around a young boy called Reza, whose parents are killed by aliens (who are blue-skinned and all female) in a long war between humans and the creatures. He’s sent to an orphanage which oddly enough is chosen by the aliens for an experiment. He’s then sent to one of their home worlds and starts to learn their way.

The trilogy follows his journey to cultural understanding as he learns to fight under alien supervision, but the story also follows those he was connected to back in humanity. Their lives cross again much later and the old friendships have to be tweaked to survive.

The series was enjoyable, although I did find the way Reza changed a little unsettling. In retrospective, these changes were what made the book believable.

The culture of the aliens was well thought out and the ending was neither Hollywood nor dark. That in itself is a true achievement if you ask me.

After another tweet offering a free book, I also downloaded the first in Hicks’ prequel trilogy In Her Name: First Contact.

There were a number of things which bothered me about this book. The first was that, in my memory, the level of technology the aliens had supposedly achieved wasn’t echoed in the first books, even when they were on their home world, not hiding their skills from humans. The second was the way that Hicks depicted nationalities — which had now expanded out to occupy different planets. They hadn’t changed culturally, despite the book being so far in the future. This meant that First Contact became a bit “God bless America” at times, and also had the incompetent idiots who didn’t believe that an invasion was coming as a Muslim and Chinese planet. It made me sad that someone would depict our future imbued with the same racial prejudices we have today.

However, that said, Hicks moves the story along at a whipping pace and creates great sympathy for his main characters. Probably his greatest achievement is keeping tension and hope alive in the novel, despite the fact that we know — the book being a prequel — what the end result of all the fighting will be.

I was pleasantly surprised and will give this series a 3.5/5.