Book Review: Pandora by Marguerite Labbe

Riff and Zed are both living out their life sentences on a prison ship. When Riff and his crew find a mysterious passenger in a hiber unit on their latest salvage mission and bring him onto their ship, chaos erupts and leads to mass violence and murder. Captain Vidal is determined not to let anyone leave, so, with few survivors left, Riff, Zed, and a few others team up against him to survive, find a way off the ship to safety, and maybe even start a relationship that neither Riff nor Zed expected.

Book Review: Pandora by Marguerite Labbe | reading, books, book reviews, science fiction, space opera, lgbt, m/m
Title: Pandora
Pages: 219
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*

Though I enjoyed this book and have nothing but good things to say about it, I want to start off by saying I kind of had the wrong idea about it from the blurb. I was expecting, and wanted, more horror and chaos and intensity. Instead things started off nice and creepy with a salvage mission on an eerily empty ship, a mysterious new passenger, and the horror that Riff woke up to, but then it became more about trying to find a way off the ship, the romance between Riff and Zed, and the inner struggles of the characters. So this was not a fast-paced, action-packed book but rather a slow-paced, character-focused one.

But, luckily, I just so happen to like character-focused books and romance and don’t at all mind a slow pace when the characters are interesting enough to make it work—and these characters were.

Riff was such an intriguing character, maybe even more so when viewed through Zed’s POV. He was super intelligent and confident and caring and a great leader, but he was also tormented and carried a lot of guilt and was sexually submissive (which probably seems weird to mention here, but it was a really big part of him). Zed was also a great character. He too had intelligence and compassion, but he was also exactly what Zed needed. Their relationship seemed like a really healthy, caring one, despite the kind of odd circumstances in which it came about.

Now let’s talk about the sex scene because, see, I’m not a fan of most types of BDSM in books (the exception generally being scenes involving vampires/biting/blood). I can tolerate scenes with other types of BDSM, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually found them sexy… until I read this book. Hot damn. One thing I really liked about it was that the characters’ enjoyment of it wasn’t all related to tragic backstories. I feel like most people’s reasons for whatever sexual kinks they have is probably simply because they like it, not because of a tragic backstory or a psychological disorder or some deep, meaningful thing, yet I see that so often in books. But in this book, yeah, part of the reason Riff liked pain was because it distracted him from his regrets and guilt, but he also just liked pain and had even before the regrets. And he liked being able to let someone else take control for a while. Those were believable reasons. Same for Zed being dominant—he was new to it, but, once he tried it, he just liked it and it turned him on seeing how much Riff enjoyed it. And being able to experience the scene through both POVs, plus having Zed’s psychic/empathic ability give further insight into what Riff was feeling, really helped me to understand why they both enjoyed it so much. It also helped that it wasn’t too extreme, it was safe, the two men communicated, and Zed clearly cared about Riff and made sure to keep things healthy on an emotional level as well. Plus it was just a well-written, sexy scene. I didn’t mean to write such a long paragraph about one single sex scene, but I’m telling you, this scene has been revolutionary to my opinion, and if all BDSM scenes were written like this, I would actually be a fan!

As for the plot, it was there, the characters had a goal, weird things happened, bad things happened, there was a bit of gore and violence, there were a lot of dead bodies, but, as I said, this book was character-focused, so there wasn’t a ton of action or horror or science—just enough of each to keep things moving forward. I’m even kind of tempted to classify the book as sci-fi romance.

So this book didn’t turn out to be what I was expecting from the blurb, but the characters were intriguing and likeable, the sex was hot, the exploration of BDSM was interesting, the romance was sweet and healthy, and overall the book was a great read! And even though it’s my understanding that this was a standalone, I’d happily read more about Riff and Zed if the author ever decided to write about them again!


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  1. Greg

    I think I would expect a faster pace and more, well, chaos from that blurb too! But character focused is good and sounds like it works here. I like the sound of the beginning, that set up with the lone survivor dude and then all the craziness apparently springing from that? I like a little creepiness in my space adventures. 🙂

    I do wish more authors would explore the psychic/ empathic link more when doing their romance or sex scenes, jsut because it makes sense that if they had those abilities it would definitely increase the intimacy or whatever. Like having that psychic bond. And “a lot of dead bodies” lol. This one does sound fun.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, so it’s not just me! But it worked out alright in the end. I did love the character focus!

      I love empathic abilities in MCs because I love emotion in books, and if an MC is an empath, we get to know not just their feelings but everyone’s feelings! But yeah, sometimes authors don’t really use that to their advantage, so I was glad this author did. And there were a lot of dead bodies since almost everyone on the ship was dead lol.

  2. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    SOunds like an interesting read although don’t you hate when you find out the blurb of a book gives you the wrong ideas of what to expect. Sure, it can often be a pleasant surprise but I do wish people checked the blurb to make sure you got the right idea from the start. I guess this is why some people don’t really bother reading the back of the book.

    Anyway, this sounds like an interesting book although I would have preferred the creepier suspenseful book you got the impression of rather than a character focused one. It does sound like the book was very well done, especially if you only have good things to say.

  3. Olivia Roach

    It sounds like this one took an interesting turn for you! It wasn’t quite what you expected – and not what I would have expected from the synopsis or the cover, but it sounds like you didn’t mind too much and it turned out to be good. It’s pretty interesting that the BDSM was different than the usual tortured past type, and that you were actually able to enjoy reading about it this time!