Title : Santuario
Series : Santuario Series, Book 1
Author : G.B. Gordon
Publisher : Riptide (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Alternate Universe, Romance
Length : 258 pages (e-book)
Published : October 6, 2012
Police teniente Alex Rukow has spent his life trapped on Santuario, his people’s isolated home-slash-prison-island. They’ve been living in poverty under the tyrannical regime of their own elite familias for the last two-hundred years, ever since their generation ship landed on the planet and found it already populated by earlier Earth settlers, the Skanians, who banished them to the inhospitable south.
Increasingly shamed by the decisions of their ancestors, the Skanians seek to open their borders. But dissent exists on both sides, and in the midst of this explosive political situation, a dead body appears on the island.
Bengt, a Skanian investigator, is shipped to Santuario to lead the murder investigation—which, he quickly realizes, the local teniente wants nothing to do with. As far as Bengt is concerned, things can’t get worse than the brutal climate, his own memories, and a growing attraction to a partner who will barely say two words to him. But then he and Alex run afoul of the local familias, and the problems with their investigation and their budding relationship seem like nothing compared to just getting out of this whole mess alive.
Santuario is a novel that explores social inequality and political unrest in the guise of a murder mystery. The earth is inhabited by two populations of people. The first inhabitants are called Skanians and reside in Jarovegur. They are described as tall, fair and with the names and description; a person of Scandinavian descent comes to mind. The more recent arrivals are the Santuarians whose generation ship crashes in Jarovegur. They are described as shorter, with a mix of characteristics and their language is Spanish. The Skanian people isolate the Santuarians on an island instead of welcoming them or integrating them into their society. The two groups are wary of each other and have developed vastly different cultures and political systems. The main characters, Police teniente Alex Rukow and ICE investigator Bengt from Skania spend a large part of the book finding out that their preconceived notions of each other, their countries and culture are not always correct.
The book revolves around a series of murders. The teniente charged with the investigation wants no part of it, with the way the political system is described it can only be trouble for him. All murders must be reported to the Skanian government and they send their team to Santuario to investigate. There is immediate distrust and misconceptions about each other.
I enjoyed the mystery but I found the story a bit confusing and hard to follow at times. There is so much packed into the story that I was often left with questions that were not resolved or were answered later in the book and this gave it a stilted feel. The political system in Santuario is corrupt and complex. It is a crucial time for relations between the two countries as the Skanians are deciding whether or not to integrate the Saturarians into their political system and allow them the freedom to move outside of the Santuarian Island. There are people in Santuario who do not want a change the status quo.
The romance between Alex and Bengt moves slowly. The only hint we have that Alex may be gay is in one experience where he wonders why he is not fulfilled by his sexual experiences with women. He has a very strong negative reaction to finding out Bengt is gay and that this is accepted in Skania, which it is not in Santuario. The point where Alex changes his views seems to happen quickly. The romance is subtle without graphic detail. The violence around the murders and interactions with other factions was more graphic and showed the brutality with which the powers in charge dealt with unrest.
The ending felt a bit anticlimactic and was wrapped up in an epilogue that left me with more questions. I really felt like this story had promise. The detailed political structure and cultural differences had such a major role on how the main characters interacted and how this affected situations they were working together on. I would have liked to have seen this explored more as well as more development of the relationship between Alex and Bengt. This novel is listed as Santuario #1, which gives me hope that some of these questions will be resolved in the next book.
Rated 3 stars by Deb