Review – Fighting Kat (The Triton Experiment #2) by P.J. Schnyder

**BP NOTE: Review originally written by E and published in the second issue of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly found here.**

Fighting Kat cover image

Publisher: Carina Press
Publish Date: 13 Jan 14
How I got this book: ARC from Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

Intergalactic mercenary Kat Darah has been ordered to keep her shape-shifting ability a secret from everyone but those closest to her, for her own safety. She’s learned how to control the feral rage…for the most part. But when Lieutenant Rygard’s military unit goes missing, she’ll use every skill she has to find her man.

Lt. Christopher Rygard has witnessed his girl shift, and he still wants her. After Kat rescues him from alien clutches, he’d like nothing more than to wrap her in his arms again, but his first duty is to his men. And half of them have been shipped off-planet to be sold as slaves.

Kat and Rygard will need to form a new team to go deep undercover, posing as gladiators and learning to fight together in order to survive. In the arena, it’s all about who is the strongest predator…

This blurb came from the author’s website.

I remember seeing the release of the first book in this series, Hunting Kat but for some obviously foolish reason I failed to pick it up. When the list of this quarter’s releases came out and I saw Fighting Kat, I made sure to examine the blurb. I thought it looked very fascinating so I requested it. When I finished reading, the first thing I did was tweet the author to find out if she was going to write more in this series. Thankfully she is planning on more full-length novels. The second thing I did was go out and buy the first installment. As I proved, it is possible to read and enjoy Fighting Kat without reading Hunting Kat but I recommend you start at the beginning because you will understand the role of a few supporting individuals and how Kat’s relationship with Lt Rygard started. This review will include some spoilers from Hunting Kat.

Kat was the subject of forced genetic manipulation via a virus. She was transformed from a military cadet to a jaguar shape-shifter who found some sense of home and stability as a mercenary. Her fellow mercenaries had an idea of what she could do but also made a concerted effort to encourage her human side. It was during one of those efforts she met Rygard. Those events are detailed in Hunting Kat. I found Kat a lot of fun to read. Her character was extremely complex which made me think she risked so much more than what most of the other characters realized when she volunteered to take part in a rescue mission. She was fiercely protective of those she cared about or who she felt were part of her captain’s territory but at the same time she was also extremely private. Just like she only let a few individuals see her softer shy side, she didn’t like exposing her cat with its associated instincts unless necessary.

I knew I was in for a treat when the opening scene showed her acting territorial over the medical bay that doubled as her room. The recipient of that show was her full human mercenary and ship’s Captain, Dev, who knew exactly how to calm her down and reinforce his position as her alpha. His calm steadiness and protective nature had become a staple in Kat’s life and she needed that stability as events unfolded.

Rygard was more of an enigma to me because I had not read the first installment. His character growth wasn’t the focus of this story so he appeared less complicated than Kat. However, he had some unexpected depths that appeared as he saw more than a glimpse of Kat in her shifted form fighting for survival. As a result, I didn’t find the story characterization uneven.

Rygard and his team of men were running reconnaissance on a planet suspected of serving as waypoint for slavers. The planet seemed to have forest type creatures but no human presence other than some encampments suspected to support the slavers. Rygard’s unit hired Kat’s Captain to bring additional military reinforcements to expand the original mission. Included in the military reinforcements were an enhanced K9 team, Tracer and Max, and a prisoner, Bharguest, who wasn’t exactly as he seemed. As Kat’s ship approached the planet they received a message and some surveillance footage detailing the attack, overrun, and capture of Rygard and his team. By the time Kat is able to discover where Rygard was being held, half of his team was already shipped off planet.

I had a basic idea of the main players by this point in the story but it was during their attempt to rescue the remainder of Rygard’s men their essence really came through. In the arena and waiting cages the team of five, Kat, Rygard, Tracer, Max, and Bharguest, had to learn to fight together, not kill each other between fights, and survive Bharguest’s mind games with their inner-selves intact. I loved the tension between the five of them and how it showed who they really were or could be. I also understood Kat’s very real fears about letting her cat loose and Rygard’s reaction but she had to take risks for them to survive.

I found Fighting Kat a complex story. The relationships Kat previously had with her shipmates and the new ones she developed as the story progressed all had an impact on who she was. I thought Rygard’s belief in Kat and his ability to see all of her as attractive person was another element in Kat’s drive to retain her humanity. I also liked how she had to learn some harsh lessons from Bharquest without adopting his mindset. His input was crucial but it wasn’t altruistic. The trust Tracer and Max had in Kat as well as their honed teamwork taught Kat some valuable lessons.

Fighting Kat was a very entertaining read filled with fascinating characters. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next installment because developments at the end of Fighting Kat have left me curious. I am also curious about the other characters and who will return as well as Kat’s future developments. Schnyder provided space travel, romance, danger, shapeshifting, secrets, a varied cast of characters, and adventure. I am glad I picked this up and I can’t want to see what else is coming.

I give Fighting Kat a B+

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