Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach

>> Wednesday, July 23, 2014

TITLE: Fortune's Pawn
AUTHOR: Rachel Bach

PAGES: 352

SETTING: Futuristic
TYPE: Sci-fi romance
SERIES: 1st in the Paradox trilogy

Deviana Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. One of those is going to get her killed one day - but not just yet.

Not when she just got 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. And with a reputation for bad luck that makes one year as security detail on this ship equal to five years everywhere else - 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 might be more than even Devi can handle.

Devi Morris career as a mercenary has been extremely impressive. Not yet 30, she has worked her way up military ranks, and then to the top of the active service ranks in a well-regarded mercenary company in Paradox. With nowhere else to go other than management, she has quit her job and is looking at what her next step should be. Because Devi's ultimate dream is to be a Devastator, one of the Paradoxian King's elite armoured unit, and that's not a job you apply for. It's by invitation only.

Trying to figure a strategy to get closer to her dream, she gets a tip from an occasional lover: the rumour is that surviving a tour of duty on a certain Captain Caldswell's ship is a surefire way to get noticed. Several people who've served on his ship as security officers have gone on to be Devastators. Of course, the negative is that, although this is a freighter that works in routes that aren't particularly dangerous, Caldwell seems to go through security personnel like tissues.

Devi duly gets herself a post on Caldwell's ship, the Glorious Fool, and it almost immediately becomes clear that the rumours were right. The ship somehow ends up involved in dangerous situations all the time, and it's obvious nothing is quite what it seems. Devi is intrigued, but trying to find out more might put her in even graver danger.

I really loved this book, right until the end.

Mainly, it's all about Devi. I've seen her compared to Ripley, in Alien, and yep, I can totally see that. She's fabulous: strong, ambitious and unapologetic about it, and above all, extremely competent at what she does. She is a warrior, and I loved that since Paradoxian soldiers fight in sophisticated armour (her Lady Grey is almost a character in its own right), the whole issue of physical strength is moot. It's all about intelligence and bravery and tactical awareness, and this means Devi can be just as formidable a warrior as any man. And she's very, very formidable. There is a no-nonsense attitude to her that I found really appealing, and I respected her determination to find out what on earth is going on with the Fool and its captain, as well as the cleverness with which she goes about it.

And there are lots and lots of Secrets for her to discover on the Glorious Fool. There's a captain who's supposed to be a trader but doesn't do much trading. There's his daughter, a young girl who spends her days in eery silence and whom everyone is incredibly protective about. There's Rupert Cherkhov, the ship's very attractive cook, who is seemingly in the captain's confidence and capable of incredible physical feats. And that's even before Devi goes off ship on a misguided rescue attempt and ends up witnessing some unexplainable creatures she was meant to forget about. Not to mention the weird episode of the ghost ship.

And that leads me to that ending. Lots and lots of secrets, and by the ending, we've only scratched the surface. And then the book ends in what feels like a massive cliff-hanger. A lot of the ground Devi has managed to gain is just wiped away, which felt kind of annoying, but worst of all was that there was no sense of any conclusion. Obviously if you have a trilogy like this one, with a strong overarching story that has such an emphasis on mysteries, you're not going to get all, or even most of the answers at the end of the first book. But there needs to be some sort of internal closure for each of the volumes, at least something for a reader who wasn't crazy about the book and is not interested in continuing with the series. That reader needs to feel like they got some sort of self-contained story, if not all the story. Here it felt simply like a longer story that stopped and will continue in the next volume. It feels manipulative. Fortunately for me, I would have read the next books even without the manipulation and all 3 books in the trilogy are out already. If either of these hadn't been the case, though, I would have been majorly pissed off.

Finally, I started the book thinking this was straight sci-fi with maybe a small romantic subplot between Devi and Rupert, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the romance was quite a big element. I liked it. There's definitely a lot more to come, especially since a lot of the big secrets involve Rupert, and I'm looking forward to the rest.

MY GRADE: A strong B. It would have been higher if not for my annoyance at the ending.


Li 23 July 2014 at 22:02  

I hate cliffhangers too, but as I already had the next book on my Kindle, this didn't annoy me as much...

I'd have hated to have read this when it was first released though.

A really strong trilogy overall, I thought.

Rosario 24 July 2014 at 07:32  

Li: Yes, exactly. I would have liked to have known about the cliffhanger before starting, though, so that I could start it knowing I was going to have to read all 3 books in a row (I'm halfway through book 2 now). Then again, if I'd known that, I might have waited a long while to start it!

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