She must know that I love my sci-fi to be light and adventurous. She must have heard I have a small love affair with Warhammer 40k, Starship Troopers, and anyone else with armored power suits. She realized that I often sacrifice stuff like character development when I read my fluff; not because I want to but because often that is all I can get. She figured all this out, and then went and wrote a book just for me! She had to of, I can think of no other logical reason this book would come together the way it did.
Devi is a mercenary who has been clearing out nasty alien pirate nests and she is damn good. But she doesn’t want to be good, she wants to be the best; a Devastator, elite guard of the god-emperor himself. She signs on for a year with The Glorious Fool, a seemingly inconspicuous trader with a history of promotion for former guards. Of course we all know that the ship will provide a few surprises and just may be more than it seems, don’t we?
Oh man, where to start? I love the fact that I get to have my cake and eat it too. Power suits are awesome. Devi has doozy, her “lady” is customized all over, smaller than the hulking contraptions seen in most stories; the suit she wears feels more like a knights armor by description; a knights armor that makes her faster and stronger and holds all her weapons in place. Of course all the little extras are there; cameras and sensors, auto targeting, self-healing packs that stim her up if injured and glorious weapons, all with names. Do you like sci-fi adventure stories? I do, and this is the kind of stuff that makes the Black Library books sell. There are nasty aliens that enslave and eat humans, some unexplained psychic stuff going on, an encounter with a ghost ship that may have a nasty secret, and rag tag crew that each have their own secret. It is a glorious mash up of Firefly, Star Wars, WH4K; yet it still feels fresh and original.
But I don’t just get bolter porn here (look it up if you don’t know the term.). I also get characters that are more than “tough guy” and “tougher guy.” Devi is a real kick; smart and independent, totally in charge of the situation. As a protagonist I can’t ask for not much more. The real surprise came from her fellow guard on the ship. This is a guy who screams out “COMPLETE TOOL” when you meet him, and in a lot of ways he is. He has the biggest armor on the market, watches gladiator bouts in his spare time, and at first looks at Devi as nothing more than a pretty face. Immediately Devi has to teach him who’s who on the ship; with a bout of power suit awesomeness she asserts her dominance. And here is the kicker; he actually respects it! I know! It is not a complete reversal of character; he still gives her lip and is caught leering at times. But he does his duty, works well with her, and even takes orders in crunch time. In the hands of a lesser author he would have either been pure schoolyard bully or would have completely changed personalities. Bach made him semi likable by the end, but still something of a tool.
Lot of adventure and a decent amount of intrigue fuel the book. But it is not going to appeal to everyone. Space adventure isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; there is no doubt that at times the action is a bit cartoonish. (Side note: This is the second review this month where I have called parts of a book cartoonish). But without losing its pace the book took a more serious turn toward the end, setting up the next in the series. Aaron’s Eli Monpress series started off a bit cartoonish as well, and it got better and better. I have full faith that I will be just as happy with this series with each new volume.
I am unapologetically a Rachael Aaron fanboy, and I am also a space adventure junkie. I rarely due “hard” sci-fi, I don’t need explanations for how things work as long as the pass the “does it look awesome” test. If your standards for sci-fi are different you certainly will have a different opinion of the book. But this book should appeal to a wide range of fans. Do you like Star Wars or bolter porn? Grab this book. Do you like sci-fi with strong females and maybe a little bit of romance? This book here. Nasty armored lizard aliens that eat people? Got a book for you. Space adventure with a few unsolved mysteries? Oh ya.
So go ahead and enjoy read it, you will probably enjoy it too. But remember, it was written just for me.
It is also apparent to me that I should have mentioned way earlier in the review that Rachel Bach is the pen name for Rachael Aaron. Sorry.
Review copy acquired through NetGalley.
First posted to Fantasy Review Barn in 2013.