RogerBW's Blog

Fortune's Pawn, Rachel Bach 16 February 2014

First of a projected trilogy. I learned about it from a half-chapter free sample in the back of Ancillary Justice.

Devi has just resigned from the Blackbirds, a powered-armour mercenary unit operated by her homeworld of Paradox. She's good at armour, and she wants to avoid the desk jobs she'll be promoted into and instead join the élite Devastators, the unit that guards and fights for the sacred king. But that's not going to be easy even with her great record: the best route open to her seems to be to sign on with a merchant spacer who gets through an awful lot of security troopers even though he doesn't seem to be going anywhere desperately dangerous.

This book throws one in at the deep end. All that, and some basics about the various aliens who inhabit this set of worlds, is thrown out as casual background information in the first chapter. I very much admire Bach's approach to getting across information that's old hat to the characters, but of course new to the reader. There's also an assumption of genre knowledge: we're expected to know, for example, roughly what powered armour is without needing it explained in depth. For an experienced reader of science fiction none of this will be any problem, but someone new to the genre might experience some difficulty.

Bach describes the book in her afterword/interview as an "action-packed space romance", and I think that's fair. There's an obvious and thoroughly flagged romance trope early on, and they don't stop there, though they're not as predictable as some -- Linnea Sinclair, I'm looking at you and Finders Keepers. If you dislike books with kissing in them, this is probably one to avoid. (It's not as shy of action as, say, Bujold's Vorkosigan series has become, but action is only one of the things this book is about, and if you were only interested in that you'd be disappointed.)

Apart from the action and romance, there are strange psychic powers, alien superweapons, and at least two conspiracies. I'm enjoying the way all this has been wound together; I hope it can be unwound as satisfactorily in later volumes, which I certainly plan to read. My main concern is that Devi may end up being a bit of a Mary Sue, too good at everything.

The finale is more of a pause for breath than an ending; this is not a point where the story would reasonably stop.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

See also:
Honour's Knight, Rachel Bach
Heaven's Queen, Rachel Bach

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