Rachel Bach creates the rollicking SF/Romance that she had wanted to read herself in the first book of her Paradox series, Fortune's Pawn.
Deviana Morris isn't just any armored fighter, she's a gal with a plan. Having risen as far as she can in her armored company without being forced into a desk job, she spontaneously leaves her position with the Blackbirds and starts looking for the next step in her Plan.
Devi wants to be a Devastator. The best of the best of the King's Own fighting force, Devi knows that she'll have to make a name for herself before the recruiters even look her way. So when one of her closest friends suggests she take a post as security on a freighter, she's pretty suspicious. Walking in circles in her battle armor on the deck of a ship isn't generally what the Devastators are looking for on a CV. But after checking out the history of the the Glorious Fool, and realizing just how much trouble the ships gets herself into, she caves and signs up.
What she finds on board is...peculiar. Her fellow security guard Cotter is pretty much the meathead she expected when she first saw his overcompensating armor, and her roommate Novascape Starchild is a predictably spacey, but genuinely a good person.
The ship's doctor, however, is a xith'cal, a sentient lizard race better known for eating humans than patching them up.
And their pilot is literally a giant bird, an aeon, from a violently xenophobic race whose claim to fame is being the best pilots in the known universe.
And their cook has far more charisma than any one human has a right to.
But it's the captain, Brian Caldswell who is the biggest enigma of them all. Seemingly just another captain of a trade freighter, the more Devi travels with him, the more she realizes that something's up. And as the missions get more bizarre, and more dangerous, none of what she's being told adds up. Perhaps a good merc would simply let things go unquestioned, but that's just not her style.
Some secrets, though, are more dangerous when they come to light.
Rachel Bach has already proven her writing chops as Rachel Aaron in her Legend of Eli Monpress series, and fans of that quintet will find lots to love here as well. Seamlessly mixing humor and adventure into her science fiction, along with a hearty helping of romance, creates a perfect storm of emotions by the end. Never have I wanted to throw my reader across the room more than when I realized that the book was over, and it would be months before the next one comes out. Bach has an amazing universe created here, and in the first volume has her readers emotionally invested in the characters and eagerly anticipating the rest of the story.
Highs: Every character is so complex and multi-dimensional that their interactions are absolutely fascinating.
Lows: The unexplained strange kid character is becoming more and more common, to the point where I nearly rolled my eyes when she appeared.
Verdict: Bach specializes in the 'hook,' and keeping her readers' interest from page one, and she's done a fantastic job.
Further Reading: Honor's Knight, The Legend of Eli Monpress, The Android's Dream
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