Fortune’s Pawn: a book review

image from http://www.goodreads.com
Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.
That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.
If Sigouney Weaver in Alien met Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, you’d get Deviana Morris — a hot new mercenary earning her stripes to join an elite fighting force. Until one alien bite throws her whole future into jeopardy.

Overview

Devi Morris wants nothing more in life than to become a Devastator – the elite personal guard of the King of Paradox himself. So when an opportunity comes knocking to drop ten years from the wait, Devi follows it, and becomes security detail on the Glorious Fool. The only problem is, the Fool is notorious for being cursed. Crewmen don’t live long on her jobs, despite her being a trading ship. Still, nothing is more stubborn than a mercenary’s ambition (or at least this mercenary) and Devi’s dream is on its course – until she starts hearing screams that short out her powered armour, screams cried by invisible tentacled monsters and killed only by vacant little girls and faceless black aliens. But Deviana Morris is nothing if not adaptable, and these things she can overlook.

That is, until she starts seeing glowing, translucent, many-legged bugs immune to time, space, and atmosphere.

Bugs that no one else can see.

This is one job that’s going to stretch her to the limit, unlike any other.

Pros

I suppose I should start with the disclaimer that Rachel Aaron Bach is one of my favourite authors. She wrote the Legend of Eli Monpress fantasy series (the first of which I reviewed here last year after reading it for the third time. So, obviously, I went into the Paradox series knowing I would like it. And I do. A lot.

But, getting into the actual pros of the review here…

Devi is a fantastic badass and I want to have a beer with her. Or whiskey. Or she can have those and I’ll stick with my caesars or wine. She’s single-minded and pigheaded, in the most charming of ways. She’s also believable as a person, beyond being the glorious action heroine she is. When her emotions start to compromise her work, for whatever reason, she struggles to come to terms with it, to push them aside like she’s accustomed to doing. Despite being this so she believes infallible glory-hog, she’s as susceptible to loss, confusion, and suffering as the rest of us.

Being that Rachel is typically a fantasy author, her worlds are diverse. I think this gives her a definite edge in world-building compared to people who might just stick to one genre (so here’s to hoping my own fledgling sci-fi is as lush because of my fantasy background). The paradox of, well, Paradox, is especially neat. It’s this hyper advanced civilization that prides itself on being number one in the universe, and yet it goes by a monarchy and feudal class system way behind its time. The aliens were neat, as well – the birdlike aeons and lizardly xith’cal.

I also adore the crew of the Fool. I love Nova and Basil, as are really to be expected, and Mabel bringing a pet cat aboard a trade ship is precious; but the three crewmen of the Fool who got me most were Caldswell, the captain; Rupert duh; and Hyrek. Hyrek, being xith’cal and therefore public enemy number one for mercenary Devi, has a really interesting dynamic on the ship, and as the story progresses and the reader – and Devi – get to know him better, one really gets to like him a lot. Caldswell was interesting because my opinion of him constantly changed; one minute I knew what he was thinking, and the next he said something that completely threw me off. Rupert, well, I loved him because I’m weak in the knees for a man in a tailored suit though Eli takes the cake for being disarmingly charming.

Cons

There are some instances of telling instead of showing that irked me, usually in description of Devi’s power armour, the Lady Gray. While it was entertaining at first, eventually the telling got rather frustrating, and I wanted Devi to prove how good her armour was, rather than telling us about it. We know it’s the best, because she would settle for nothing less, but don’t fawn about it at all times. It seemed a little too infallible.

Just like with the Spirit Thief, however, there aren’t many other things I can complain about.

All in all

These are a severely entertaining read. I read them when they first came out as ebooks earlier this year, then ordered and bought them at work in paperback and reread them. As soon as I finished them, I was on such a sci fi kick that I was like, WHY DON’T I JUST READ THEM AGAIN and managed to stop myself. If you love sci fi, Fortune’s Pawn and the Paradox sounds like a big band from the ’40s series is an excellent addition to your bookshelf. But if you aren’t a big fan of sci fi, it’s a good starter series, because of Rachel’s fantasy background and because she doesn’t delve so deeply into the technobabble that the reader doesn’t understand what’s going on.

Fortune’s Pawn gets four out of five stars.

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