Fortune’s Pawn: review

Fortune’s Pawn: reviewFortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
Series: Paradox #1
Published by Orbit Books on November 5, 2013
Genres: adult, science fiction
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Amazon • Indiebound • Goodreads

four-half-stars

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

When Fortune’s Pawn landed on my doorstep I regarded it with the usual skepticism. (I know, I’m terrible.) But sometimes taking a chance on something you’ve never heard of pays off in a big way, because I love, love, loved this book! It’s science fiction written like urban fantasy–while I may catch some flack for that description, what I really mean by that is that it’s a well-plotted, complex futuristic story, but it zips along with snappy dialogue and snark more commonly found in UF. And as much as a badass as Devi is, there’s also a definite focus on her love life as well.

If you’re a fan of scifi, here are just a few things I’ve come up with to persuade you to give this series a chance.

5 Reasons to Read Fortune’s Pawn

Devi is really IS like Ripley in Aliens. Marketing copy often makes me laugh rudely, but it is spot-on here. This woman owns a crazy tricked-out space/armor suit with an awesome array of weaponry, knows how to assess a situation for best tactical advantage, is unapologetic about her career ambitions and about her physical needs, and is both uncompromising and realistic in her goals. You rarely come across female characters who push so insistently to the forefront and demand your respect, though the great thing about the first person narration is that you are also privy to the doubts and needs she doesn’t reveal to anyone else.

Smart, snarky attitude Devi is so freaking funny that being in her head kept me laughing throughout the whole book. What a smartass! She is so smart and so strong that I wish I knew her in real life. I’m used to adult scifi being a little more dry in tone, so this was a really fun and unexpected style of narration.

Great world-building I hate to say this, but reading this book made me realize how the world in YA scifi often feels slight or inorganic to the story. There are no shortcuts to laying out this story, and the facts and anecdotes gradually build upon themselves so that you really feel as though you’ve inhabited Devi’s life on this ship.

Diverse Cast of Characters They say that science fiction is the most forward-thinking in terms of representing diversity, and this book is a great example of that. Every single character is memorable and has just enough back story to keep things interesting, including a fragile young psychic, a doctor whose gender raises fascinating discussion, and a vast array of interesting species that I’ll let you discover on your own.

Well-plotted, explosive action sequences You know how it feels like some characters just stumble into hastily sketched action scenes and then it’s over before you’ve even realized you were at a climactic moment? This isn’t one of those stories. Even while Devi is blasting attackers in the middle of battle, she calculates her resources, looks out for her team, and makes logical moves with perfect precision. Rachel Bach writes these scenes in such a visceral way that you can practically feel the impact of combat, and I’m half-convinced that she’s actually lived on a space ship with alien mercenaries.

Surprises Around Every Corner One of the pleasures of not knowing too much about a book is finding out things as the author meant you to. While I’m pretty good about anticipating plot twists, and guessed a few of the ones here, they’re so well done that the knowledge didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story at all. There’s also a fantastic ending–hoo boy, that cliffie is a doozy! It’s one of those that leaves you excited to see what happens next, however, and Orbit has mercifully scheduled the second book to release in spring 2014, so we don’t have to wait a whole year for the sequel.

One quibble…just one.

I have to admit that although there’s a lot of chemistry between Devi and Rupert and I like him, something about this relationship isn’t pulling at me quite yet. Maybe it’s because I’m shallow and I have a hard time getting past the name Rupert? Sue me!  But he’s a nuanced, interesting character, and the secrets he’s hiding have huge ramifications for Devi. The decisions made towards the end of the book are pretty tough, and I grew to like him (and them) more and more throughout the story.

One small quibble isn’t bad, though, especially when there’s so much that had me hopping with excitement. Rachel Bach has shot right up onto my favorite authors list, and I’m so pleased that I’ve found a new series to love. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of adult science fiction fan, I think most readers of urban fantasy or YA science fiction will find Fortune’s Pawn to be an easy crossover, the same way that Written in Red is an easy transition.

SPACE. ALIENS. KICKASS WOMAN. FUN. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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