Catalyst Gate by Megan E O Keefe (The Protectorate #2)

There’s a lot of things that makes this series great, but what stands out most is its balancing act. I usually prefer a character-first story, with the plot and world-building backing that up. Megan O’Keefe has hit the sweet spot with Catalyst Gate – and the entire Protectorate trilogy, really – by delivering equal amounts of awesome characters, ‘holy-shit!’ plot reveals, and ‘whooooaaa, coooolll’ events that ultimately brings this space opera into blockbuster territory.

Commander Sanda Greeve, her sundry crew of universal misfits and her AI friend Bero are back on board The Light with the sole purpose of bringing down Rainier, the alien tech/human hybrid bent on humanity’s destruction. Sanda’s brother Biran, now vaulted into a powerful leadership position within the High Protectorate, is trying to root out Rainier’s evil from within the populace, while tracing these events back to the source. Tomas the former spy is struggling to find direction with his new-found, unshackled identity, but is still driven by emotions from which he cannot escape. And Jules Valentine – well, Jules being Jules, single-minded as ever – “easy to lose everything you love, when you’ve only ever loved one thing” – continues to be the universal wild card, a bent cog in the machine that could save or destroy everything. Usually both. Always both.

There’s a lot going on. And there’s a lot of ends to tie up. Plot-wise, the end of the story is incredibly exciting, with some hugely satisfying developments in its final acts. There’s a bomb-drop that’s been slowly percolating since book one that finally rears its head, and it is awesome. The major characters finish their arcs in compelling fashion, and the universe is much different than how it started. However, I was hoping to see some more A to B development from the supporting cast. Although we spent time with some great supporting characters, like those on The Light and one or two in the Protectorate – they weren’t given much room to grow. It might be asking too much from a book with so much space dedicated to several POVs, but I found myself wondering if Nox, Arden, and even Bero changed much from the beginning to the end of their arcs.

Catalyst Gate ends a trilogy that I gave high marks to across the board. I really loved this story. O’Keefe’s writing moves at a blistering pace. There’s a protagonist with disability, several LGBTQ+ relationships, and traumatic challenges to overcome. Wild ideas, cool tech, wonderful representation, and suspenseful as hell -- an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a grand adventure in the stars.

9/10 Wild ideas, cool tech, wonderful representation, and suspenseful as hell

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