Book Review: Dali (The Dali Tamareia Missions Book 1) by E.M. Hamill

Dali has been on bereavement leave from work, but when other third gender changelings start disappearing, they get recruited by a secret organization to help save the missing people by going undercover on an alien ship. The mission is risky, but Dali has found a reason to live again and is determined to save them.

Book Cover - Dali by E.M. Hamill
Title: Dali
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 268
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads // Amazon


I’ve already read all three books and have similar thoughts about all of them, so this is sort of a book/series review.

This is a story about space adventure and political negotiations, but also healing. And a great story, at that! I loved how believable, serious, detailed, and well thought-out this series was. It was harsh and violent and sometimes messed up, but not in excess, not bleak, and in ways that were realistic. There were shape-shifting bodies and aliens and all that, but the way everyone acted, the emotions, and the way everything worked in the plot and the world, that was what made the story feel so real.

The world-building was detailed and fascinating. Different species and their appearances and cultures and societal structures. Different government and political organizations, both on Earth and beyond.

Dali was so angry and filled with grief and could come across as hard and cold on the outside, but they were a good, caring person on the inside. I mean, maybe they sometimes did things partly for their own more selfish reasons (they seemed to sort of like recklessly putting themselves into dangerous situations), but the things they were doing were still good, and they still put themselves at risk to help others. It was a good sorta flaw, a good balance, to make them not too perfect. And the rest of the characters all felt believable too. No one was too perfect or polished.

The sex and romance elements were interesting. I don’t wanna spoil the fun, so I’ll just say I loved that the romance in this series wasn’t a simple “two people meet, they’re attracted to each other, they fall in love, they live happily ever after.” There was some messiness to it and multiple possibilities for how things could turn out. *SPOILER* It’s really interesting to me when an author puts feelings, connections, sex, chemistry, etc. into a book only to have it not work out. (And I really did feel the chemistry between Dali and Rhix, more so than I do oftentimes between characters who are supposedly in love and stay together forever.) I appreciated it though because it felt believable within the book and because that’s how real life is sometimes, people don’t always end up forever in love with every person they’re attracted to or sleep with. *END SPOILER*

I also love it when characters have empath abilities (which Dali did). I was confused at first how they had those abilities, but it’s sort of explained later in the series that some, though not many, humans have it, because the species hasn’t really cultivated it, or something like that. I think. Whatever, the point is, I liked it! The POV character feeling other people’s emotions just brings more emotion to a book.

There were some things I didn’t understand or love about the gender aspect in the series. In this world, “third gender” is intersex people, and “changelings” are able to physically transform their body to appear and function more like that of a cis male or female body, or they can be in a sort of neutral state. But where do nonbinary people who aren’t intersex fit into this world? There was also a lot of, “men have these body parts and women have these body parts.” I’m not against the shifting body idea, or a character wanting to have certain body parts or be binary in their presentation! And I do understand that characters have their own perspective, and that doesn’t mean every character or the author feels the same. I just would’ve liked a touch more nuance or gender diversity among the humans, since gender was such a big part of the story. (Though I do like to keep in mind, when the author was writing this, perhaps people were not talking about these things as much.)

Anyway, for Dali, gender presentation was very much about sex or whatever was most advantageous. They shifted their body to suit what their sexual partners wanted, and usually the other time they shifted was to get more muscular before a fight. In general though, they preferred their neutral form. And there was, I think, a sort of growth around that, Dali learning they didn’t always have to be who others wanted them to be and having the chance to explore what they wanted. Other changelings in the book seemed to have different preferences, so I was glad to see every changeling had their own feelings about gender.

There was other queer rep too. Dali and multiple other characters were bi or pan, as well as polyamorous. Some alien species had different genders and used different pronouns.

Overall, this was a very cool, realistic-feeling story with interesting galactic world-building, an unpredictable plot, and a main character I felt for!

Trigger/Content Warning: *POTENTIAL SPOILER* Grief. Death of romantic partners (before the series starts). Drug use. Captivity and slave trading. Attempted suicide by side character. Vomiting. Needles. Bigotry against intersex people (the bigotry portrayed as a bad thing). *END SPOILER*

*Rating: 4 Stars // Read Date: 2022 // Format: Ebook via TTS*


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