Book Reviews

Shrouded Loyalties by Reese Hogan


Released: August 2019
Publisher: Angry Robot
Pages: 320
Rating: 4/5

In an alternate universe, two countries at war end up unleashing something far more dangerous than they ever could have imagined.

From Goodreads:

A soldier returns home with a dangerous secret from an alternate realm, unaware that she is surrounded by spies and collaborators, in this intense military science fiction novel.

Naval officer Mila Blackwood is determined to keep her country’s most powerful secret – shrouding, the ability to traverse their planet in seconds through an alternate realm – out of enemy hands. But spies are everywhere: her submarine has been infiltrated by a Dhavnak agent, and her teenage brother has been seduced by an enemy soldier. When Blackwood’s submarine is attacked by a monster, she and fellow sailor, Holland, are marked with special abilities whose manifestations could end the war – but in whose favor? Forced to submit to military scientists in her paranoid and war-torn home, Blackwood soon learns that the only people she can trust might also be the enemy.


Military science fiction is one of my favourite genres to lose myself within. It’s tough to write because not only do you need to have plausible world building, but you need to have scenes that are action packed and engaging. It’s not always easy to pull off, but Shrouded Loyalties has managed to do so within a well written and totally unique package.

I couldn’t get enough of everything to do with “shrouding,” especially the mysterious Lovecraftian monsters within the realm that shrouding took our soldiers through. I wish we could have spent more of the book shrouding, especially in the first half, but what we did get was amazing.

One interesting aspect of this story is that we have the points of view of characters from both sides of the war. We get to see inside the minds of soldiers on either side of the battle lines, making it hard for the reader to know who is actually “the bad guy.” These grey areas were fascinating and even though the reader starts out thinking we’re meant to be rooting for one team, after awhile you start to wonder if maybe you should be rooting for the other one.

As for the characters, Blackwood was a tough one to like because she was quite reactionary and petulant. We spent most our time with her watching her lose her cool and trying to recover it. Her relationship with her equally petulant brother really put my patience to the test, too. Almost every Belzene we meet is difficult to like for that matter. For the good guys, none of them sure acted like it.

Despite the Dhanvaks being portrayed as the enemy, the Dhanvak characters we meet are much more relatable and sympathetic, even if they come from a country that actively oppresses women. Can I also say how refreshing it is to see the lighter skinned race being portrayed as the more tribal, patriarchal society?

Holland, our main Dhanvak character, was truly compelling and I ended up really feeling sympathy for her. Born to a society where women can never be anything more than wives and mothers, she has disguised herself as a man to serve in her country’s army. She not only has to keep her gender a secret during her missions, but also has to hide the fact she’s an enemy spy when she’s assigned to Blackwood’s submarine. Talk about a double agent!

We read chapters from the points of view of several characters, but our main ones were Holland and Blackwood. I absolutely loved that the two focal characters are women because, let’s face it, women should be leading more military science fiction novels. Women are badass, too!

Speaking of badassery, the action scenes in Shrouded Loyalties were incredible. These scenes made up for all the Belzene squabbling to be sure. Reese Hogan did an amazing job setting up and executing brutal and intense military action throughout this book.

Other than the bickering, the only other thing I feel I need to point out is the novel’s appeal to non-military sci-fi enthusiasts. While the world building was impressive, the reader is immediately dropped into this universe without much explanation. This is usual in this type of fiction, but if you aren’t used to it then it can be a little jarring. More gets explained as the book goes on, but at first you’re essentially a tourist dropped in the middle of an unknown world halfway through a raging war. I can see this turning off some readers, but for me I’m glad I stuck with it because it eventually fell into place and made for a cracking good story.


Military science fiction is my ultimate guilty pleasure because it not only takes you away to another place entirely different from your own, but you get non-stop action with it too. When it’s done right, it’s a spectacular literary experience. Despite a few character issues, Shrouded Loyalties has pulled this off with an exciting and creative take on the genre. It also incorporated some truly terrifying horror scenes that creeped me out to my core.

Additionally, the book raises several philosophical questions and continually puts the reader to the test as we try to figure out who we should be rooting for and why. I started out Team Belzene but kept switching to Team Dhanvak before finally realizing that in war, there really are no good guys- especially when there’s so much more going on below the surface than you thought.

Buy on

Buy on


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3 thoughts on “Shrouded Loyalties by Reese Hogan”

  1. It’s a fantastic genre! A few others within it: The Forever War, Starship Troopers, The Light Brigade, Old Man’s War.

    You can really lose yourself within this subgenre. Plus it often feels like you’re reading a summer blockbuster, but with better character development 😂


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