Series note: Saints Astray is the sequel to Santa Olivia, but I picked it up on a whim and enjoyed it without having read the first one.
The world was a very, very big place.
That was Loup’s first impression as the sun rose over northern Mexico. By the time it had cleared the horizon and begun to cast strong light over the landscape, they’d been driving for an hour. Still, the road stretched before them, empty and endless.
And except for Pilar, fast asleep with her head on Loup’s shoulder, everything and everyone in the world Loup had ever loved was behind her, behind the vast concrete wall that sealed off the U.S. border and sealed in a town once known as Santa Olivia, known in Loup’s lifetime only as Outpost — Outpost 12.
The thought made an empty space in Loup’s heart. In the light of day, the thrill of their daring escape through the excavated smugglers’ tunnel had worn off. If she were capable of feeling fear, she was fairly sure she’d be feeling it now.
In the not too distant future, following a flu pandemic that ravaged the planet, humanity is gradually putting itself back together. War between the U.S. and Mexico has led to strengthening of the border defences, and the virtual abandonment of towns within a demilitarized zone between the two countries.
Growing up against this backdrop, Loup is one of a small band of genetically engineered humans with preternatural speed, impressive agility, and an inability to feel fear. Her father was deployed as a weapon by the U.S. government, who consider Loup and her kind as items of property; Loup herself has grown up an orphan in the U.S. government-controlled compound of Outpost. Saints Astray picks up the story just after Loup and Pilar have made their escape, and follows them into their new life beyond the fence.
It doesn’t take long for Loup’s special abilities to be noted, and she’s offered a lucrative contract as a private bodyguard. Making the most of the power that she gets from being one-of-a-kind, she negotiates for Pilar to also have an opportunity to train and work alongside her. Meanwhile, neither of the fugitives can forget their friends back home, and they’re constantly watching the news and wondering what they can do to help.
As well as learning to be bodyguards and revolutionaries, Loup and Pilar have a lot to learn about being two humans in love. Loup can’t feel fear, but Pilar certainly can, and there’s a strong thread of growth for both women as Pilar becomes more confident in herself and Loup learns to better understand and compensate for the feelings she doesn’t have.
There aren’t enough ass-kicking lesbian action heroines, and this book gives us two more. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of Loup’s superhuman abilities with Pilar’s hard-won, entirely human strength.