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Theirs Not to Reason Why by Jean Johnson

Complete series with 5 novels.
Genres: science fiction, space opera
Prequel spinoff: First Salik War


The Prophet of a Thousand Years, Bloody Mary, Ia. All names for the most powerful precog who will save the galaxy in 300 years through her prophecies. Ia enlists in the Terran United Planets military marine corps under the guise of being just another soldier with two goals: become the best soldier she can be and don’t get caught. Ia will give everything she can to saving the galaxy.

Reading Order:

1. A Soldier’s Duty
2. An Officer’s Duty
3. Hellfire
4. Hardship
5. Damnation


Full disclosure: this may be my favourite series. This is the fourth time I am reading through this series and the wonder, amazement, despair, and love hasn’t at all diminished within me. My words alone cannot convey just what I feel for this series, because I am inadequate at using them. I’ve started making this the first series I read of the year though, due to how much I love it, because I want to start the year right.

I love Ia. Gods, she is just a kid when this series starts. Ia’s sense of duty makes her appear older than she is. She is absolutely determined to see that things turn out the right way in the end. She is incredibly empathetic, which is part of the reason why she is just so driven. Ia is also horrifically overpowered. Yet, I love the way she uses them. Ia is the only one to have anything even resembling the ability to tell the future, though there are other clairvoyants. Ia is different in that she sees every possibility, not just the most likely. And she has to keep this very, very secret until the time is right to reveal who she is. We’re introduced to Ia when she has figured out some of her powers, but not all. She learns to read the probabilities and it makes for an amazing duality of knowing just enough to get her into trouble.

Theirs Not to Reason Why takes its time to get to the ultimate place it is going. The first two books have a lot of training time. The first half of the first book is basic training alone. I thought it would be the most boring time, when in reality I  loved almost everything to do with it. It was a long period of the book where not a lot happens except training, but it was so good to read and it sets up the rest so well.

Ia herself is what makes even the most boring parts of the series. Everything to do with Ia, I want to know more about. I love how Ia starts off just as green behind the ears as everyone else, despite everything she knows and everything she has seen in the time streams. I love how she grows over the course of her training, how she comes into herself more and more. She becomes more confident. Ia knows everything at the start, while at the same time knowing nothing. Even the prophet of a thousand years can be blindsided by a low probability chance! It isn’t always an easy process for Ia, she struggles. She cannot do everything on her own. She messes up occasionally. She has to win over her crew and her commanders, she has to win over the other alien races. She has to make a name for herself, and not just Bloody Mary. She has to become the Prophet of a Thousand Years that she is claiming to be. Ia is the best, and only ever deserves good things.

Theirs Not to Reason why isn’t just about Ia and her duty, though. It is a very rich galaxy. There are multiple races, all distinct from each other but bound together through common decency. Then there are the Saliks, who want nothing more than to be allowed to eat every sentient being they can. I love how everything is set up. I like the dynamics all the groups play with each other. I like how things were set up the way they were set up even before Ia’s time. Set up to be there so she could succeed in her duty even before she was born. There are also the Feyori, whe are themselves a race of psychic beings. They Meddle, that is what they do. And they Meddle with Ia, too. There is just so much more I want to learn about this galaxy.

I love how we as readers don’t know much of anything that is going on. We’re in the dark much more so than Ia is. We learn things as they become important, but Ia herself has known things for years prior to the events playing out on the screen. And this is really the only way to tell this story. Ia says as much herself. I love all the foreshadowing for what is to come. If you keep track very, very closely, you can take all the hints that are dropped throughout the series, and find out that they all play out. The first time I read this, I couldn’t stop for anything at all because I just had to know. Now, I know what is going to happen, and I still don’t want to stop reading because I know what is going to happen. I feel like Ia does, with her precognition. I know what is going to happen and I just need it all to click into place. And I also shy away from certain events I dread that are coming. This isn’t an easy ride, even for a prophet.

So much gets accomplished throughout the series. What starts off slow, in the lowest place Ia can start at becomes this horrifically stressful, authority-filled duty. The lead-up to the end is absolutely perfect. And I don’t just mean the series. Each book builds up to a crescendo with the end of the series being the most powerful. The end of this series kills me, every time. It takes me days to recover each time I read the series. I love it.

I’ve finished reading the series. Now I just need to finish crying, get over my depression, and move on. It happens every time. I’ll see you again next year, Ia!

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