Review of Fortune’s Pawn – Book 1 of the Paradox series by Rachel Bach

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This is fun! I’m always a sucker for well-written, entertaining space opera and it doesn’t get more enjoyable than this…

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 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 anywhere 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.

Written in first person point of view, Devi is a wonderful protagonist. A driven, adrenaline-junkie, she spends her earnings on wicked weaponry and a shielded suit that she loves far too much, to the extent they all have names. She also likes the odd drop and playing poker. I loved her – and her impulsive character that gets her into regular scrapes. One of which is the ship’s cook, Rupert, who is gorgeous and unattainable – so typical tricky romance. Which is fine by me. If this had been a contemporary romcom, then I may have had a bit of a problem that there isn’t more of an unusual spin on the plot trajectory – but so much else is going on in this action-packed adventure, it isn’t remotely spoiling my enjoyment. Mostly because the writing is solidly good throughout.

œF$¿Æ‘$8Òò¤»däå¸R8BIBach’s world-building is confident and holds together – I love the fact that she comes from a planet with a strong warrior caste that worships their King, and that their history with Earth and everything Terran has been troubled. Devi’s shipmates are as eccentric a bunch as you could wish to meet. The armour-plated nightmare alien race are represented by the ship’s doctor, Hyrek, who acquired his knowledge of anatomy during his stint on a tribe ship, working in the butchery section; while Basil, the navigator, is from an avian species whose skill in always knowing where he is derives from his flocking instinct. There is the mysterious daughter of Captain Caldwell, Ren, who never speaks or engages with anyone, but obsessively plays chess and accompanies the Captain and Rupert on their odd trade missions.

Not that Devi has too much time to ponder such enigmas. Their ship seems to be the target for a lot of powerfully unfriendly attention and she is generally right in the middle of the fray, leading to plenty of full-on action. Anyone who follows this blog will know that I’m fond of science fiction – but I’m especially keen on the variety that focuses on the protagonists, using the future to explore opportunities and landscapes currently unavailable to humanity. Bach’s offering has the punchy, readable style normally reserved for urban fantasy, with the wider, more various opportunities that science fiction offers. And this particular heroine reminds me of Anne Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax and Elizabeth Moon’s Ky Vatta. I’m conscious that on the strength of one book, I’m adding Devi Morris to a very select list – but I’m halfway through the second book and loving it every bit as much as the first. And if you, too, like your science fiction well written, with plenty of character-led action, track down this book – you’re in for a treat.
9/10

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