Boy, am I glad I stuck with this series despite the last 4 very mediocre entries as this is certainly the best part since Children of the Storm... despite it featuring not just one Janeway (which is already often too much), but 2.
Voyager continues to explore the D-quadrant and learns that apparently a Janeway is leading one faction in a civil war. How is that possible? Meanwhile, Icheb encounters troubles on his first assignment as B'Elanna's assistant, and Nancy Conlon seems to suffer from PTSD after her being possessed.
Loved him, he felt like a real person, not just a prodigy. And I was definitely like "Oh, little Icheb has a crush" when he met Bryce, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of them. Which brings me to my next point:
* fleshing out the various crews
Of course, the focus lies on the TV-crew, but I love (and that's what has carried me through the last 4 books as well) how the crews of the other ships get introduced bit by bit. This time it was Bryce, but also Dr. Sal and Farkas, we got glimpses into the inner workings on Demeter (aside from O'Donnell and Fife whom I still both love to bits) with lots of potential for future characterization of the chief engineer and his issues. And on Voyager itself there's Sharak, another part which made the last trilogy bearable, and Cambridge who I feel still needs some substance. But then again, he has to redeem himself with me for his ridiculous angsting over his relationship with Seven lately. Then there's
* Nancy Conlon
I understood some of her motivations, especially trying to make the computer systems more impervious to outside influence. She has a lot to work through after all. But I thought that plot thread went off the rails at the end. I don't quite see the need to sequester her off on the Galen. Granted, she's borderline suicidal (much as B'Elanna was back in season 5) and she's suffering from a degenerative disease. But isolating her? Can't the medical tests be run on Voyager where she has friends (and Cambridge as a counselor)? And why not let her work (of course under supervision and psychological treatment)? Right now her immune system is down, okay, but the various doctors didn't judge her as susceptible to infections yet for that to be a reason for isolation. And if it's a syndrome that Xolani gave her... well, isn't there some kind of copy of her from before in the transporter buffers that could be used as a template for her genetic material? I guess the transporters have been used for more outrageous deus-ex-machina solutions before.
I'm glad, though, that a not easily curable disease popped up in Star Trek for once. I'm just wary where this is going. And I'm not even talking about the baby, because the way I see it, Conlon didn't really reject the idea of a baby, but is in such a fatalistic mood that she can't reconcile any inkling of hope with her situation. The doctors, though, tread quite a fine line, more or less forcing her to have the baby for the sake of its stem cells (but even it she decides to abort they'd still be able to use the embryonic stem cells). First of all, it's Conlon's decision to undergo a certain treatment and her (and Kim's) decision to have a baby. I fear in this we are getting quite close again to the Troi-dilemma of Gods of Night.
* Paris, B'Elanna, Seven
I'm glad they took a bit of a back seat in this - quite frankly I'm a bit tired of the Paris-family issues.
I was looking forward to seeing him since Eternal Tide. I haven't read any Titan novels since Over a torrent sea (which I barely remember save for the aquatic lifeforms), so I don't know anything about his arc there. But I think with this novel the open ends with Voyager have been solved.
I absolutely liked his connection with denzit Janeway... somehow it felt more true to their original relationship than anything Voyager managed to show from season 3 or 4 upwards. Both have been changed by atrocious events, both are damaged but the core of their relationship is still there. And I can totally relate to that - and even to the trust issues that are mentionned in the end. Granted, his hiding the fact that there's a child involved wasn't really a rational decision, but then again, Tuvok wasn't in a rational place, esp concerning a child, right then (and considering all the manipulation of his spirit he went through in the series and beyond, where practically every other week his Vulcan shields were damanged, his not being the "perfect Vulcan" anymore does make sense). The way I see it, he wanted to spare denzit Janeway the pain of needlessly losing her child, the pain of seeing her world come crashing down even more than it already has, the same pain he is going through. Which helped him to finally address his own issues and sort of start relating to his friends and extended family again instead of pushing everyone away.
BTW, is there a reason why Tuvok who is a lt. commander is called Lieutenant? That was kind of pet peeve in the series and pops up here as well.
* the main plot
I have to admit that at some points I couldn't quite follow all the twists and turns of who did what when - reminded me a bit of the multiverse/Omega/Q-technobabble of Enternal Tide, to be honest. So let me see if I got this straight: The Year of Hell happens, Voyager issues buoys which are time-shielded. The whole year gets reset when Voyager destroys Annorax's ship - but the buoys still exist because they're shielded. The Krenim find the buoys, get interested in Janeway and decide to investigate her further. They create the anomaly in Shattered by sending a chroniton torpedo on the past Voyager and pluck past Janeway through the anomaly (intending for it to be "our" Janeway). So actually since that moment there have been 2 Janeways in "our" universe?
The technobabble aside, as said above, no matter how she came into being, I liked denzit Janeway. She absolutely felt like a plausible continuation of pre-season 1 Janeway, she's utterly human and lost, in short relatable which our Janeway hasn't been since, well, about season 4 when Tuvok and Chakotay were shoved aside (see Scorpion, see Equinox etc) in favour of Seven and Janeway lost her vulnerability a bit. And honestly, I share those trust issues which are a recurring theme since she never bothered to actually explain her decisions and motivations in the later seasons and onwards. Of course, as captain she doesn't have to, but if she wants her officers to trust her than she has to - because trust is earned. What I absolutely didn't like was the way our Janeway was kind of deified. I guess after Eternal Tide she can walk on water, everyone is in awe of her and "what she's been through". Well everyone suffered on Voyager and it's high time that Janeway somehow becomes human again instead of that super-human being who came back from the dead. Beyer seems awfully fond of Janeway - which isn't necessarily a bad thing, of course -, but I'm really waiting for some flaws in her character to appear and be addressed. Because right now she's a kind of shining beacon of virtuousness who can do no wrong. And I'm sick of that.
All the twists and turns definitely kept me on my toes. Dayne goes from being denzit Janeway's saviour to her tormentor, back to being her tormentor and her saviour... I absolutely liked that, and the way he manages to save her and Mollah (well, I guessed who she was when the Janeways went through the portal the first time - but I love the origin of her name *g*) in the end with Q's interference. He definitely redeems himself with these actions in my opinion and suffers for it at the hands of his brother - I hope at some point the Krenim will be revisited and maybe Dayne can be rescued (even if he can't be reconciled with his wife and daughter during denzit Janeway's lifetime, he at least gave her some sort of happy ending).
Just one thing: Chakotay's decision to destroy the minefield around the disputed planet just to save his away team... very questionable in terms of non-interference and ultimately without any benefit to either his team or the outcome.
To make a long review short, a great book, definitely the best Trek-novel in quite some time.