Uncharted (A Chase Stinsen Adventure)

– by Robyn Nyx

 

I was thrilled to find out that there would be a lesbian-themed, Lara Croft-style adventure courtesy of Robyn Nyx when an announcement was made. Being a fan of Nyx’s writing and storytelling, I was really looking forward to reading it. Thus, when I received an ARC of “Uncharted,” I was thrilled with anticipation! Let’s just say, Nyx didn’t disappoint! In fact, the two MCs, Chase and Rayne, embodied the characterisation of Lara Croft/Tomb Raider (Rayne) and Indiana Jones (Chase), two of the famous fictional archaeological characters whom I’ve always loved! Not to mention, the archaeological digs/adventures, too! Can’t get any better than that, can it?

This story was about the ultimate archaeological find aka treasure hunt, in this case! Just like many other archaeo-adventure I’ve come across, i.e. Indiana Jones movies, Lara Croft movies, Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, Treasure Island, King Solomon’s Mines movies,  National Treasure movies, The Goonies, The Mummy, Prince of Persia, amongst others. Most often than not, there’s always a treasure map, rumoured to be authentic and the enticement is always gold! No exception here in “Uncharted.” A treasure hunt of something that no one had ever discovered before, something that would change the world. One word: Mayan.

But first, Nyx took us on a journey to Chase and Rayne’s archaeological adventures in various places. I absolutely loved the opening of the book where I was immediately thrown into one of Chase’s digs. Wow, just wait until you read about her Syria adventure, specifically the ancient Semitic city of Palmyra! Anyway, if you’d read anything about Palmyra during the Syrian conflict, you’d know that the city held many ancient artefacts, rich in archaeological finds because of its fascinating history. Prolly the most fascinating part of its history, at least for me, was Queen Zenobia, who rebelled against the Roman Empire in the 3rd century and established the Palmyrene Empire in Syria, who then expanded her realm to include most of the Roman East including the culmination of Egypt before being defeated by the Roman emperor, Aurelian. OMG, I could go on and on with this subject matter because… History! Ancient female rulers!! Divine Feminine! Female power! Blimey! Somebody sedate me…!!! Ok, I’ll stop now… but before I shut my gob, let me just mention that Chase’s death-wish of an archaeological “search and recover” mission was Zenobia’s….!!! Dum-dum-dum!!!!

Note to the author: Bloody well done, Ms. Nyx, for injecting this piece of elusive history featuring a female ruler into this archaeological adventure story as the backdrop against the heinously patriarchal, religious extremist cult that effectively decimated the ancient city of Palmyra to ruins during the Syrian civil war a few years back. I was beyond elated whilst reading all about it in this segment of the book! 

All the action sequences, the nail-biting intensity of the danger – yeh, remember ISIS/Daesh and their barbaric and murderous brutality? Well, that was one cloud of uncertainty and deadly risk/danger that Chase was painstakingly trying to avoid whilst attempting to “rescue” an artefact! Every moment was meticulously described so the end result was an effectively intense piece of action sequence that kept me at the edge of my seat because can you imagine if Daesh caught Chase red-handed? A woman, a Western infidel, trying to spirit away an ancient find that they’d otherwise have decimated and destroyed had they discovered it first? Daesh whose nasty reputation preceded them, especially when it came to women, particularly, Western women? I shudder to think! If you’ve watched the news or read anything about Daesh, that psyche in you already gives Chase’s acute predicament a sense of anxiety and fear. In this case, that knowledge only served to intensify Nyx’s depiction of this bloody tense sequence to another level of action thrill and intrigue! Read it and see if you agree… *Disclaimer: Only my POV. Knowing about Daesh’s sick reputation when it came to women gave me a new level of intense feels when I read this sequence. 

Anyway, back to Chase and Rayne…

What made it even more exciting was that there was this competition going on between Chase and Rayne! Yup, I was thrilled to discover that both of them used to be mates until their paths diverged, with Chase being more about securing and safeguarding the historical worth, significance, implications of the artefacts she was tasked to discover. Being an academic, Chase was meticulous in record-keeping of her findings and discoveries. Hence, my comparison of her to Indie Jones. Whereas, Rayne was more like Lara Croft, a tomb raider (or as Chase affectionately called her a glorified “grave digger”!), as she was more about raiding ancient tombs and securing artefacts to sell to the highest bidder, with little to no regard for the historical significance of them. This obviously just upped the ante between these two in terms of who got the priced treasure and/or historical artefact first and their behaviour towards each other as their mentality about their tasks was oh-so dichotomous! Nevermind the fact that they used to be good mates before something happened (you’ll know when you read it!).

The biggest draw to this story for me was the fact that the ultimate treasure hunt was all about the Ancient Mayans and all that related to their now-extinct civilisation, culture, language. Their history along with the symbols, secrets, myths, rituals, have always intrigued me. The most intriguing one being the so-called Ancient Mayan apocalypse, which many thought it was all a hoax but was it? But I digress…. Anyway, Nyx had effectively created this fictionalised legendary Golden Trinity that was believed to be THE treasure amongst all treasures on earth! Hence, it was never found. At least until now…. When I first read the Golden Trinity, I was immediately reminded of the Holy Grail, in terms of its symbolism, significance, history, nevermind its elusiveness. Additionally, Nyx introduced a region that isn’t really featured much in lesfic or genfic, for that matter. Nevertheless, a great region to use for an archaeo-adventure story, imo. Plus, because the Golden Trinity had everything to do with the Ancient Mayan civilisation, which encompassed the regions which are now Mexico and Central America, whose mysterious collapse had stoked many a conspiracy, legend, and myth surrounding one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the ancient world. Incidentally, a subject that I’ve always been intrigued by and fascinated with! So, lucky me!

So, was the treasure of the Golden Trinity that promised its hunters and seekers endless gold and riches a real thing, one might ask. Well, obviously, you will know when you get to the bottom of it with Nyx, through Chase and Rayne as our guide to this stupendous expedition of an ultimate treasure hunt! And it’s the dog’s bollocks, believe you me! Priceless! I loved how Nyx crafted the entire treasure hunt because it not only had action thrills, plot twists, conspiracies and betrayals, I also learned quite a lot about different tribes in the indigenous population in South America, the socio-economic, political intricacies that have plagued the region forever. In essence, Nyx had quietly or shall I say, subversively, crafted an otherwise typical fun-and-thrills treasure hunt action/adventure except, with a more solemn, contemplative narrative as the backdrop of the story. Essentially, the hunt for the Golden Trinity treasure was a social commentary about deforestation and its continued deadly environmental assault on the Amazon by the so-called evil white people and their deadly disregard of the livelihood of its indigenous tribes who keep trying to defend, protect and safeguard their ancient cultures, traditions and territory. Something that’s happening indiscriminately today with little to no reporting on its disastrous consequences to the future of the environment and climate of our already-sickly earth. Obviously, this is just my own interpretation, mind!

Needless to say, I loved how Nyx weaved in the implications of the very-relevant social commentary in virtually every step of the way during Chase and Rayne’s journey to finding the much-sought-after treasure deep in the Amazonian jungle. The indigenous people they met along the way, with a touch of the mystical (yeh, think The Three Witches in Macbeth!), only heightened my acute awareness of the extinction threat of not only the Amazonian jungle and its inhabitants but also the indigenous population that depends heavily on the health of the environment. Nyx also drilled in the very real implications of history vs profits (the need to conserve the history of archaeological finds vs profiting from them) when it came to the discovery of historical artefacts, and the continued need for education and awareness of the indigenous cultures for the sake of the past, present and the future history of humankind as a whole. I must say, reading and exploring the story in this book gave me thoughts to ponder. Causality. Chaos Theory. The Butterfly Effect. The impact of deforestation and the inter-play of causality, chaos theory/butterfly effect in their dynamic implications to various systems – the ecosystem, human behaviour in the social environment, human health, social justice, economics, politics, entropy. What an unexpectedly delightful surprise for me because I didn’t think that a Lara Croft/Indie Jones-type archaeo-adventure thriller about a treasure hunt would give me such an introspectively philosophical resonance to the seemingly inevitable struggle between the benevolence and the malevolence of humanity, and how only by increasing conscious awareness amongst humankind can this matrix of control be broken. My POV, obvs!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the romance side of this story. Well, for me, I wasn’t focussing on the romance between Chase and Rayne at all because Nyx had already mesmerised me with all her archaeological discoveries, action thrills, the histories of various subjects, her penetratingly mindful and subversively captivating social commentary, that the romance was only an afterthought for my reading pleasure. That’s not to say that the romance wasn’t intriguing. It was, especially when it was structured in a friends-to-enemies-to-friends-to-lovers type of dynamic, with the two MCs having polar opposite characters, behaviours, worldviews, which always lends to a likely incendiary or fiery relationship, doesn’t it?

That said, I actually wish Chase and Rayne’s conflicting worldviews and mindset, that had caused them their mutual friendship in the first place, had played out a bit more in a more prolonged clash between two brilliant, highly skilled headstrong, alpha personalities. Imagine, both thriving on always wanting to win, being fierce competitors, having polar opposite reasons for their archaeological digs and artefact retrievals, not to mention, having different methodology and techniques! Clash of the Titans, really, right? When they finally had to work together, their competitiveness didn’t dissipate because neither would give up that easily, what with them being alpha characters and all. Now, add in the sexual tension and mutual attraction to their contentious relationship, stretch out that irresistibly sizzling feud (remember Indie and Willie in “Temple of Doom” and their explosive quarrels that dripped in sexual tension that only increased over time?) – all the clashes, the competitiveness, unwillingness to be magnanimous, and you have an explosive, drawn-out enemies-to-lovers romance, eh? Don’t get me wrong, Nyx had that arrangement all sorted. I just wanted more of that to crank up the intensity of their search for the treasure, not to mention, matters of the heart, heh! BUT…that’s just my own personal preference. It doesn’t have any effect on the overall flow of the story, really. Furthermore, the twins, fabulously called Gin and Tonyck (f*ck yeh!) were perfect to be added into the mix – like adding salt to the wound, oil to the fire…! SO FUN! But, as I said, the romance was well-written and fun to read especially the dynamic between a shorter butch and a taller femme! I’ll let you read it to find out who’s who! Heh! If you know Nyx’s writing, count on her giving you wit and dry humour, which is one of the reasons I love her writing style.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and am grateful that Nyx has given us a lesbian Lara Croft and a lesbian Indiana Jones!! YAY!! Not to mention, all the exciting archaeological adventures involving death-defying action thrills, anaconda battle, drug cartels, mercenaries, supernatural occurrences, and booby traps! In other words, Nyx has delivered! So if you’re a fan of action/adventure, Lara Croft, Indiana Jones, treasure hunts, archaeology, with a healthy dose of romance, you’ll love this book! Read it and enjoy all the delights!

**I was given, with much thanks and appreciation, an ARC of this book, by the author, in return for an honest review.

Get your own copy from:

Bold Strokes Books

Amazon

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