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The Last Watch (The Divide Series, 1)

by J. S. Dewes

Series: The Divide Series (1)

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1139194,402 (4.12)2

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
The Last Watch is one of those books that caught me completely by surprise, but in a good way. After that opening scene, I really didn't know what to expect, but I guess I was in the mood for a space opera as I really enjoyed this book and the characters. While the initial part of the book felt a bit slow, it certainly picked up the pace and kept me entertained, and guessing, for the remainder of the book.

Cavalon and Rake are the main characters in the book, and couldn't be more polar opposites. Cavalon's attitude certainly set up the tone of the book as he was rebellious and cynical right from the beginning so you knew something was definitely up. And, I have to admit, the first line of the book certainly sets up Cavalon's story arc perfectly as you will see when you read it. Rake is as different from Cavalon as a human could possible be, but the two of them worked well together and their personalities meshed well together. The author uses these two characters to help develop the world-building, and it's often done through dialogue and interactions with others which can be a bit difficult at times. Rake is the leader of this motley crew and does not tolerate disobedience, disrespect, or rebellious actions that can compromise the others on the ship. At the same time, she also demonstrates compassion and a high level of intelligence. She has an ability to read people and figure out what they need; however, she is not very good at seeing to her own needs and is often over-worked and tired.

The secondary characters were a lot of fun as well, and I particularly enjoyed Griffith and Mesa, a savant. To be honest, most of the characters were very well developed, and I think the author put a lot of thought into her characters and how she wanted them portrayed.

I enjoyed the plot, and there were plenty of twists and turns. In this one, you've got an old ship out in nowhere, and I mean nowhere, with old technology that is falling apart, and a bunch of soldiers, called Sentinels, who have somehow screwed up in their jobs, fighting against something called The Divide. You know very little about the world at the beginning and slowly develop an understanding of the politics as the story develops, but I will admit, I still don't have a clear picture as to what is happening. I am okay with that however as I feel I am learning with Cavalon and Rake as they piece together their two stories to try and figure out what is going on. Rake is a bit of an idealist and I enjoyed watching her come to terms with what was happening as her illusions about her world started to crumble and she realizes she is going to have to rely on herself and those around her to solve what is happening. I can't state it any better than that without giving away spoilers, but I found it fascinating. One of the things I also found fascinating about this book was the use of something called imprints; they are tattoo-like characters that can change and protect the wearer, and they are different for everyone.

The Last Watch definitely has a lot to recommend it; a group of ex-soldier criminals with the main character sticking out like a sore thumb, the end of the universe, politics, aliens, genetic modification, time disruptions, and so on. It can be confusing as the world-building is explained through the characters and the story line so a lot of it is not yet clear, like the mention of previous wars and how the ex-soldiers actually ended up on the ship. I definitely enjoyed the book, and recommend it to anyone interested in space opera. I will be diving into book 2, The Exiled Fleet, shortly. ( )
  StephanieBN | Oct 3, 2021 |
This is one of those novels that sucked me in with the blurb, and never let me go, to the extent that I can't wait for the sequel to come out next month. The premise itself is fantastic, and Dewes crafted both the plot and characters masterfully, offering just the right tweaks to space opera tropes and expectations. The book drew up every imagination I could have hoped it would, and even when I was heartbroken or terrified for what was coming, I still wanted more at every page.

Undeniably, the characters are what kept me turning pages long past my eyes tiring out each night, and the way the friendships (both new and established) bled off the page is something I haven't seen accomplished nearly so well in most fast-moving science fiction. It was that prioritization of the human element, alongside a fascinating and fast-moving plot, that so impressed me, and even now that I sit down to attempt a review, the truth is that I'm mostly preoccupied by the moments which most struck me, and by the fact that I've got to wait another month for the next installment in the series.

I would, without hesitation, recommend this to any lover of sci-fi or space operas. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Jul 21, 2021 |
I love a good science fiction novel, and J. S. Dewes’ The Last Watch does not disappoint. It is a fabulous story about a group on the very edge of the universe faced with a surprise enemy. There is a great balance between action, science, humor, and adventure with a hint of romance and fantastic conspiracy the crew must discover. The Last Watch hits all the right notes, and the charismatic cast of characters left me wanting more. ( )
  jmchshannon | Jul 9, 2021 |
First things first, my thanks to Tammy at Books, Bones and Buffy because she was the first of my fellow bloggers to review The Last Watch and literally propel me toward this book and its gripping story: I cannot turn away from a promising space opera novel, and this one met all my expectations, and makes me look forward with eagerness to its sequel which is happily slated to come out in a short time.

Long ago, humanity fought a bloody war with the alien Viators, bent on conquest and/or destruction of the races they encountered on their path: humanity managed to prevail and the Viators retreated back beyond the rim of the universe, a border called the Divide. Fearing that the alien invaders would return one day, humans set up a border patrol, the Sentinels, in a line of ships and buoys monitoring the Divide’s activity. The task, however, was not assigned to rotating crews but rather to the fleet’s misfits, criminals and the unwanted at large, as a way to permanently exile them while still making them useful: practically abandoned at the edge of the universe, far from the Core where life and civilization move forward, the Sentinels keep watch aboard old ships that are literally falling apart, as their requests for spare parts and essential supplies take far too long to be fulfilled, if ever. The overall feeling is that the central government stopped worrying long ago about the Viators’ return and that it also choose to apply the saying “out of sight, out of mind” to the men and women assigned to guard their backyard.

Adequin Rake is the captain of one of the Divide’s capital ships, the Argus, and as the story opens she feels all the boredom and futility of a duty in which even her superiors seem to have lost interest, but soon enough she finds herself faced with a series of problems: starting with the new recruit, Cavalon Mercer, who does not come from the military as the rest of her personnel, and sports a rakish attitude that’s out of place in the ranks; then she must deal with a series of strange phenomena that impact the already struggling systems of the Argus, while to top it all, the Divide seems to be closing in at an alarming rate on the deployed Sentinel ships, an ominous indication that the universe might be contracting… This is only the beginning of the adventure, and if these troubles look more than enough to keep your adrenaline flowing… well, think again, because they will pile up in a harrowing sequence that will task to the very limits Rake’s and her crew’s ability to react.

The Last Watch has been presented as a cross between The Expanse and the theme of the Night Watch in Game of Thrones: while I tend to be wary of these comparisons, I have to admit that there are some connections there, but this novel is its own story and it successfully melds some intriguing scientific notions with interesting and relatable characters and a space opera flavor that keeps things lively throughout the book. I was surprised to learn that this is a debut novel because, apart from a couple of “hiccups” I will mention later, it feels like the work of a seasoned writer, which makes me look forward to the next volume with great impatience.

Characters and plot share equal space in this story, in what I discovered is a very effective combination, and if some details about the political and military structure of the universe, or the events that led to the present, are left a little on the vague side, I can always hope that the next books will widen the horizon: the pace in The Last Watch, after the introduction of background and characters, is relentless and it would have been weighted down by too many details, so I’m quite happy with what I got. Even though this is a space opera novel, the cast of characters remains contained to a handful of people, which makes it very easy to connect with them: the first we meet is Cavalon Mercer, the odd man out since he does not come from the military - on the contrary, he’s the scion of the ruling family, but his continuing acts of rebellion against his grandfather’s ruling strategies finally led him to exile, and he finds himself forcibly enrolled with the Sentinels, and in dire need to hide his true identity, since the Mercer family does not instill much sympathy in the ranks.

From the very start, Cav’s rakish, impertinent attitude is no help in keeping the low profile he needs, and puts him in dangerous social situations, but as the story progresses and his skills come to the fore, often proving instrumental in solving some dire straits, both Captain Rake and the closest crewmates start to warm up to him and accept him as one of their own. Some of Cavalon’s talents require a little suspension of disbelief, because it often looks as if he possesses the right skill at the right moment, making him something of a proverbial Gary Stu: while it’s true that as the heir of the ruling family he might have had a lot of time on his hands, and therefore the opportunity to become acquainted with many aspects of science, it does sound somewhat preposterous that he would be proficient in fields ranging from medicine to engineering. Luckily for him (and for the readers…) Cav counterbalances this wide knowledge with a far-from-heroic attitude and a healthy fear for his wellbeing that manage to make him quite sympathetic.

Captain Rake is indeed able to see beyond Cavalon’s smoke screen and to understand that offering her trust and keeping him engaged she will be able to bring the real person to the surface, and turn him into the man he needs to be for the good of the team. I liked Adequin Rake from the very beginning: here is a woman who distinguished herself in the war against the Viators but for some reason (which we will learn along the way) she was sent to the Divide and is now battling with depression at what she perceives as a futile role. When things start going sideways, however, she shows great determination, courage and moral strength against both the impending doom and the discovery that the central government might have abandoned the Sentinels to their destiny. What’s more, I enjoyed the way she connected with Cavalon as a mentor and guide, leading to what promises to be a rewarding friendship between two very different personalities.

Besides these two main figures there is a number of secondary characters that are wonderfully drawn and given very distinctive qualities that make them much more than simple background extras: from scientist Mesa, a genetically engineered human/Viator hybrid, to gum-chewing Emery, to serious and dependable Jackin, they help fill out this story by giving the reader other people to care about apart from the main characters, and by showing other angles of this universe through their eyes rather than through lengthy exposition.

The Last Watch seems more like an introduction to this universe than the first installment in a promising series, and as such it left me with a lot of questions about the narrative nooks and crannies that were left unexplored, but what this book managed to do was to hold my attention from start to finish and to make me look forward to the next volume, where I hope to find the answers to those questions. That is, besides the continuation of this amazing adventure, of course… ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Jun 25, 2021 |
Dewes, J. S. The Last Watch. The Divide No. 1. Tor, 2021.
The Last Watch is the debut novel by J. S. Dewes, a young cinematographer whose interest in science fiction was sparked by the Mass Effect videogame franchise. It is epic-scale, far-future space opera that Dewes says she hoped to position in the middle of the hard and soft science fiction scale. In the end, the story is more Star Wars than Star Trek. (By the way, pay no attention to the blurb that says it is Game of Thrones meets The Expanse.) The character development, action, and suspense elements are well above average for the genre, but its world-building and delayed exposition make my teeth grind with frustration. The story is set in a space station made from a repurposed dreadnaught, decommissioned after a recent war with a powerful alien race. The station is, quite literally, at the edge of the universe, so far out there is no visible light from any galaxy. Yes, I know you did not think the universe had an edge, but if you stick with the book for 300 hundred pages or so, you may find out how that is possible. The station is there to watch for a renewed alien attack, maybe from across the divide that marks the edge of the universe. The crew is made up of weary veterans with embarrassing secrets, exiled aristocrats, and other misfits. As far in the future as we are, humanity is ruled by an emperor and a one-family aristocracy. The history and economics of the empire is barely sketched in, which is why any comparison with The Game of Thrones or The Expanse does The Last Watch no service. For some reason that is never explained, the human military seems to be a throwback to the Roman Empire—at least they use a lot of Latin names for ranks and divisions. The soldiers that keep watch are Occuli, their commander is an Optio, and the fighting soldiers are Centurions. The emperor, of course, is an Augustus. Dewes, I think, has potential as a storyteller, but I wish she had started with something that did not try to juggle so many elements at once. A sequel is due out in August, and I will probably read it. 3 and a half stars. ( )
  Tom-e | Jun 10, 2021 |
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