“Two men. One dangerous planet. To survive they need to trust each other.”

I was in after that logline and Hanna Dare’s BLACK SKY MORNING (Mind + Machine #3) did not disappoint. Hardcore science fiction fans may find this novel underwhelming—it is a romance first and foremost—but I enjoyed the lighter science fiction backdrop and Xin’s reactions to all things planetary, in particular. Good, steady pacing and solid character development drive the story toward a fitting happy ending.

Government agent Jonathan Gray has a lot on his mind, not least of all intrepid bounty hunter Xin.

I had a good time with Xin. Even out of his element, he was never out of character. Cocky and self-assured, but never annoying, he followed up and followed through on all his teasing. His “arrogance” was fully earned. He was capable and knew his limits.

Jonathan’s limits were less self-discovered, I think, and far more set for him by his role as government agent, a role he’s recently started to resent. He was burned out and disillusioned, in a funk and coasting toward the death of his career.

When the two get stranded and cut off from their support, they quickly learn that a “burden shared is a burden halved.” Faced with hard choices and Xin’s unflappable optimism, Jonathan rediscovers his purpose (and a new reason to live).

Although this is the third book in the Mind + Machine series, BLACK SKY MORNING can be thoroughly enjoyed as a stand-alone. I did not feel like I had read the preceding novels to understand what was going on.  

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