Tag Archives: science fiction adventure

Review of INDIE EBOOK Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick #Brainfluffbookreview #Ascendingbookreview

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Himself picked this one up – and recommended that I read it. After trudging through a couple of hefty fantasy reads, I was yearning for a sci fi space opera adventure and reached for this one…

Twenty-five years ago the Vardeshi came to Earth. Then they vanished without a trace. Graduate student Avery Alcott always knew they would return. When they do, she’s the only one who can speak their language. She’s quickly recruited to join the crew of an 11-man starship on a one-year mission into the depths of space.

What an impressive debut! I loved the character of Avery – bookish, quiet and introverted, which doesn’t stop her being driven and single-minded with hidden resources. Which she certainly needs… She is a linguistic student selected by a brilliant college professor to learn the Vardeshi language just in case they return. And then they do – and she is the only person of an eligible age who can speak their language.

The preparation for a mission where she will be travelling on a Vardeshi ship as a member of their crew as part of the cultural exchange is so very well depicted. I found this book hard to put down as Avery finds herself tackling hand to hand combat, learning how to send secret messages and cooking her own meals on portable equipment as no one knew whether alien foodstuffs would be poisonous to humans, or vice versa. I also loved her struggles to acclimatise – finding the lighting, slight gravity differences, the fact that everything around her isn’t designed for a human body – an issue that she has to cope with.

When things begin to escalate, I’ll admit my heart sank for a while, as I had a horrible feeling this was going to slide into a Hollywood scenario where the whole situation would become overblown and unrealistic, after it had started so strongly. Fortunately, I think Pechenick manages to avoid that one – the nightmarish situation Avery finds herself in is, after all, believable – as is the fallout.

I tore through this one, unable to put it down until I reached the end – when I was adrift with longing for more… I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Bright Shards which is coming out on 1st August – and we’ve pre-ordered it. Very highly recommended for fans of well written first contact adventures.
9/10

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Review of ARC Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow by Jennifer Lee Rossman #Brainfluffbookreview #JackJetstarksIntergalacticFreakshow

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At some stage I downloaded this arc in return for an honest review – and then forgot to transfer it from my computer file onto my Kindle. Thank goodness I’ve now found it, because I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky offering by Lee Rossman, whose writing I have already enjoyed in her novella Anachronism – see my review here.

Jack Jetstark travels the universe to seek out the descendants of superpowered freaks created long ago by VesCorp scientists. The vibrations encoded in a particular song transform the members of Jack’s crew into a firebreather and an angel, a wildman and telepathic conjoined triplets, so they hide the truth of who they really are with the theatrics of a carnival. The song plays every night through the receptor Jack carries with them, but when one night it has a different ending and their temporary powers become permanent, Jack believes the change is a signal from the woman who sent him on this quest in the first place. He and his freaks must navigate a universe at war to protect the love of his life. But does the ruler of VesCorp really need protecting?

This entertaining read is something of a mash-up – one of those where the science fiction explanation works well, but nonetheless has more than a slight fantasy feel. I thoroughly enjoyed the first person protagonist, Jack Jetstark, who is a sympathetic character with a lethal skillset, but nonetheless comes across as emotionally vulnerable. I enjoyed his steadfast love for his childhood sweetheart that could come across as naïve, but because of the pledge they’d made – he completely trusted her. I also like the care he demonstrates for the disparate family of genetic ‘freaks’ he travels with.

However, their constant journeying from one backward planet to another, putting on their small show comes to an abrupt end when the music changes and with it, so does everything else. From that moment on, this adventure changes gear and the pace picks up whirling us into an action adventure that buckets forward full tilt.

At this stage it would have been easy for the characters to become thinner as they become caught up in events, but Lee Rossman keeps a firm grip on the pacing and her main players, to the extent that I found that my thoughts were often with the antagonist and her motivations. Is she necessarily wrong in her approach? Will Jetstark’s intervention make a bad situation worse? I think this is the mark of an accomplished writer to be able to raise those important questions while all the mayhem is kicking off.

Highly recommended for fans of space opera adventure featuring strong characters.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 2nd July, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow by Jennifer Lee Rossman

69% Merulo and I exchanged a glance. Could we leave people behind? Could we live with ourselves after, even if we prevented anyone else from experiencing that misery and torture again?
A sadness came into his eyes, and he pleaded with me. “Not saving is killing.”
I sighed, knowing I would have made the choice eventually. Best to plan for it in advance rather than scrambling during the siege. “You heard him,” I called into the back. “We’re saving ‘em all, so find the time.”

BLURB: Jack Jetstark travels the universe to seek out the descendants of superpowered freaks created long ago by VesCorp scientists. The vibrations encoded in a particular song transform the members of Jack’s crew into a firebreather and an angel, a wildman and telepathic conjoined triplets, so they hide the truth of who they really are with the theatrics of a carnival.

The song plays every night through the receptor Jack carries with them, but when one night it has a different ending and their temporary powers become permanent, Jack believes the change is a signal from the woman who sent him on this quest in the first place. He and his freaks must navigate a universe at war to protect the love of his life.

But does the ruler of VesCorp really need protecting?

I was horrified to find this arc nestling on my list in Calibre – at some stage I had downloaded it and then promptly forgot it was there. Apologies to the author – especially as it is a quirky read that I am thoroughly enjoying. Review to follow!

Review of INDIE Ebook The Lost Gunboat Captain – Book 1 of the Jolo Vargas Space Opera series by J.D. Oppenheim #Brainfluffbookreview #TheLostGunboatCaptainbookreview

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This is one of the books Himself snagged when looking for yet more enthralling space opera adventures that we are both addicted to…

Alone in the cold black with 36 hours of oxygen. Jolo Vargas, Federation Gunboat Captain, is trapped in a runaway escape pod zooming towards Federation space. But will he be dead before he gets there? He’s in a tight spot. But he’s a war hero, just the type of man who could work his way out of this jam. But there’s just one little problem. He doesn’t remember who he is.

The beginning of this book rocks – I absolutely loved it as a confused protagonist tries to work out exactly where he is, who he is and what is going on. There was some debate as to whether he is actually alive… It gradually transforms into a more conventional space opera foot-to-the-floor adventure with an unusual protagonist – a protagonist who isn’t what he initially seems to be. Haunted by visions of a beautiful young crew member that he knows is in danger and that he needs to save, yet not sure of who he is, this protagonist only gradually begins to realise what is happening around him. However it soon transpires that whoever he is, he is certainly a disaster magnet and mayhem ensues wherever he goes as he continually dodges overwhelming odds in the form of unpleasant aliens and their pliant human allies. Fortunately, these aliens tend to rely far too much on their heavily armoured suits that protect their soft wormlike bodies and are unaccustomed to the kind of defiance they are suddenly facing.

I found the protagonist in this multi-viewpoint adventure an interesting mix – necessarily we need to bond with him, but there are aspects of his personality that we cannot know about so there is also a bit of necessary distance between the reader and the main character. Oppenheim deals with this tension very effectively as the story unspools towards an unexpected development surrounding that beautiful young woman that fills his thoughts. It’s nicely done and I enjoyed the world with the satisfyingly nasty aliens. I’m hoping to continue with this series during 2019.
8/10

Sunday Post – 26th May, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been a very, very busy week – as is evident by the fact that I haven’t had time to post anything on my blog since last Sunday – other than the Friday Faceoff. This week it’s been allll about work. As the academic year speeds towards the close, a number of meetings regarding Tim’s progress all converged on this particular week. It meant I haven’t seen much of Himself, either – as this week he had Wednesday and Thursday off. We have half term coming up and I am looking forward to having a few days off just to catch my breath – and have the grandchildren to stay, which is always fun. Though predictably, the wonderful weather we’ve been enjoying is now fast disappearing.

I have now completed the first draft of Mantivore Prey which is a relief. I am going to take a bit of a break from writing until the summer holidays to give myself some time to focus on a major clean and declutter, which is desperately overdue…

Last week I read:
Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
American Fred Fredericks is making his first trip, his purpose to install a communications system for China’s Lunar Science Foundation. But hours after his arrival he witnesses a murder and is forced into hiding. It is also the first visit for celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu. He has contacts and influence, but he too will find that the moon can be a perilous place for any traveler. Finally, there is Chan Qi. She is the daughter of the Minister of Finance, and without doubt a person of interest to those in power. She is on the moon for reasons of her own, but when she attempts to return to China, in secret, the events that unfold will change everything – on the moon, and on Earth.
This entertaining near future space opera was mostly great fun, though I thought the ending was a tad off if this is a standalone.

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection narrated by Stephen Fry
The death, quite suddenly, of Sir Charles Baskerville in mysterious circumstances is the trigger for one of the most extraordinary cases ever to challenge the brilliant analytical mind of Sherlock Holmes. As rumours of a legendary hound said to haunt the Baskerville family circulate, Holmes and Watson are asked to ensure the protection of Sir Charles’ only heir, Sir Henry – who has travelled all the way from America to reside at Baskerville Hall in Devon. And it is there, in an isolated mansion surrounded by mile after mile of wild moor, that Holmes and Watson come face to face with a terrifying evil that reaches out from centuries past . . .
This whole series has been a complete joy to listen to – I’m prolonging the pleasure by listening to other audio offerings in between each of the books.

 

The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett
Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.
This delightful cosy mystery is great fun with an unexpectedly poignant ending. I love the fact that Brett has plenty to say about the state of middle England and library closures in amongst the murder and mayhem.

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring A Discovery of Witches – Book 1 of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Sunday Post – 19th May 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

Odyssey Theatre
https://twitter.com/OdysseyTheatre_/status/1131638482441572352 Yep – this is me in proud mama mode. My son, Robbie, is busy rehearsing for this production of Loot which is running from 8th June-10th August.

#writerproblems: #characterdeath in #storytelling (Part 2: melting shoes and raising stakes) https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/05/23/writerproblems-characterdeath-in-storytelling-part-2-melting-shoes-and-raising-stakes/ Once more, a cracking article from my friend Jean…

Why Starve Fish in Spas for Pedicures?
https://chechewinnie.com/why-starve-fish-in-spas-for-pedicure/ How depressing – these poor fish are starved to force them to eat the dead skin on people’s feet…

Game of Thrones: A Song of ‘I Literally Can’t Even’ https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/05/game-of-thrones-storytelling-cautionary-tale/ Kristen Lamb jumps into the controversy on the final series of GoT – what do you think?

Protecting Your Creative Mindspace https://writerunboxed.com/2019/05/23/protecting-your-creative-mindspace/ This nifty article is very helpful if you are struggling with writers’ block.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Sunday Post – 5th May, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

On Monday, my son flew out to L.A. to start rehearsals, as he has landed a part in a production of Loot written by Joe Orton at the Odyssey Theatre. I’m delighted for him!

This week my Creative Writing Monday group resumed – and it was a really special start to my last course. One student presented his children’s book that he’s been working for several years – it’s a delightful story with beautiful colour illustrations. Another student brought in a Wellbeing magazine that had published one of her poems; another student showed us a poem of hers that has been published in an anthology celebrating independent book shops; and yet another student brought along a quarterly poetry collection that had published one of her poems. What a wonderful way to start the term! It isn’t that unusual that one of my students is placed in writing competitions, or have stories and poems published – the standard of writing is high in all the groups, but that level of success is extraordinary. On a less happy note, my grandchildren have been smitten by a really virulent strain of chicken pox – one after the other…

I got a bit carried away at Pilates this week, picking the strongest black bands to use when performing a series of exercises – which left me hobbling around for the next couple of days, stiff as a board. As some stage this year, I need to get more serious about my fitness… I’m also exploring Mindfulness to help combat the stress I’m battling – watch this space.

Last week I read:
Children of Ruin – Book 2 of the Children of Tim series by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time. Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth. But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.

And it’s been waiting for them.
This is a cracking read, although I struggled initially to get into this book, which I think is more down to me than the book. However once I became fully absorbed into the story, I loved it. Tchaikovsky’s ability to write other species is unsurpassed. Review to follow.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Audiobook by Douglas Adams, narrated by Stephen Fry
One Thursday lunchtime the Earth gets unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the Galaxy is a very strange and startling place
I know and love the story – and this audiobook, with Fry’s superb narration, is great fun. Highly recommended for fans of quirky comedy and/or enjoyably humorous space opera adventure.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 28th April 2019

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Oracle’s War – Book 2 of the Olympus Trilogy series by David Hair and Cath Mayo

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Screaming Staircase – Book 1 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Deathless – Book 1 of The Deathless series by Peter Newman

Friday Faceoff featuring Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

6 Newbie Mistakes that Will KILL a Perfectly Good Story https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/05/five-mistakes-kill-story/ Advice from this experienced author and social media maven is always worth reading…

The Literary Pig: HAG – debut poetry collection by Zoe Mitchell https://tracyfells.blogspot.com/2019/04/hag-debut-poetry-collection-by-zoe.html?spref=tw Tracy provides an excellent review and interesting interview with Zoe that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Lexicographer of Misinformation https://interestingliterature.com/2019/05/03/the-lexicographer-of-misinformation-tom-burnam-dictionary-of-misinformation-review/ In these days of fake news, this fascinating article features a pre-digital debunker of ‘facts’ we generally believe are true…

Shiver Me Timers! the 2019 Hugo Finalists Part One https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2019/04/10/shiver-me-timbers-the-2019-hugo-finalists-part-one/ In my effort to catch up, I encountered this really useful and enjoyable article on the 2019 Hugo Finalists from The Cap – one of my favourite review bloggers…

The Band, Martin Carthy, Anton Karas: The Third Man Theme https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2019/04/06/the-band-martin-carthy-anton-karas-the-third-man-theme/ I also had the pleasure of catching up with Thom’s recent articles he’s posted at The Immortal Jukebox – and encountered this gem… Do, do, DO play the video of the opening credits – it’s a joy.

Many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – I will catch up with you as soon as I can, so thank you also for your patience. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Knight: A Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War – Book 2 by Timothy Zahn #Brainfluffbookreview #Knightbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoy Zahn’s writing – see my review of The Cobra Trilogy – so scooped this one up when I saw it on Netgalley. Once again, it appears that I had got hold of the second book of a series where I haven’t read the first – and in fairness to me, it isn’t apparent from either the title or the subtitle that it is the second book, either. Though this time around, I would recommend that you get hold of the first one, The Sibyl’s War, before diving into Knight as initially I found it a tad challenging to work out what exactly was going on – and I regularly crash midway into series.

Nicole Hammond was just trying to survive on the streets of Philadelphia, then she and her partner Bungie were abducted by a race of mysterious moth-like aliens and taken to a strange ship called the Fyrantha. Now she is a Sibyl, a special human that has the ability to communicate with the aliens and their ship, and no one is happy. Competing factions control different parts of the Fyrantha with the humans and other sentient aliens caught in the middle. But Nicole is done being bullied, and now she has a plan to take control of the ship. She just has to outsmart war profiteers and slavers to do it.

I really enjoyed this one. Nicole is accustomed to living by her wits and it’s this attribute that keeps her alive and relatively unscathed. That, and her stubbornness in refusing to lie down and accept the fate that awaits herself, her companions and the rest of Earth… The stakes in this story couldn’t be higher – Earth is at the mercy of a ruthless, technologically advanced race of aliens who are looking to cash in on whatever humanity has to offer in the way of bankable commodities. Up to now, the abducted slaves on the vast ship that has snatched them up, have managed to persuade their masters that humans are useless at fighting, so they have concluded that selling off humans as slave armies to the highest bidder is pointless.

Nicole’s skills at communicating with some of the odd, alien components of the ship, such as the moth creatures, give her some vital advantages, but I think Zahn has successfully avoided making her too much of a Mary Sue. I also like the fact that the humans on board don’t all think the same way – some are simply intent on surviving at the expense of everyone else; others think the strategy that Nicole and her companions adopt is simply wrong and yet at least one key character believes that if she betrays her fellow conspirators, she will be rewarded by being freed to return to her family.

All in all, the desperate skirmishes and adventures aboard this extraordinary, vast ship make for gripping reading and I will be backtracking to discover how Nicole came to be aboard the Fyrantha and looking forward to the next slice of the adventure. The ebook arc copy of Knight: A Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Review of PAPERBACK Nimbus – Book 3 of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford #Brainfluffbookreview #Nimbusbookreview

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This is the third book in the Psi-Tech series, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. See my review of Empire of Dust and Crossways.

In a galaxy where the super-powers are the megacorporations, and ambitious executives play fast and loose with ethics in order to secure resources, where can good people turn for help? The megacorps control the jump gates and trade routes. They use psi-techs, implant-enhanced operatives with psionic abilities, who are bound by unbreakable contracts.

But something alien is stirring in the depths of foldspace. Something bigger than the squabbles between megacorporations and independents. Foldspace visions are supposed to be a figment of the imagination. At least, that’s what they teach in flight school. Ben Benjamin knows it’s not true. Meeting a void dragon was bad enough, but now there’s the Nimbus to contend with. Are the two connected? Why do some ships transit the Folds safely and others disappear without a trace?

Space opera needs some kind of faster-than-light propulsion system to make it work – something that makes all those huge distances workable. Many fans will give authors a pass if they choose not to focus on that aspect – after all, how many air passengers actually know the engineering theory behind the jet engines that carry them around the world? But there are a group of writers in the genre who meet the problem of ftl travel head-on and create a world where the manner of travel is actually part of the story. I very much enjoyed this aspect of Bedford’s world. The existence of foldspace, where pilots navigate by their implant-enhanced visualisation of access points via jump gates, such as the one close to Space Station Crossways, makes vast distances and interstellar trading feasible.

The two main protagonists in this story – Cara and Ben, are once again confronting what happens in foldspace. Ben’s whole life has been shaped by this issue, as he was a young boy when his parents disappeared without a trace on a passenger liner – while his older brother vowed never to go into space and stayed dirtside as a farmer, Ben resolved to face down his fears and go into space. Perhaps there might even be a chance that he might discover what happened to his parents… However the steady stream of mysterious disappearances are sharply increasing to a point that the megacorps can no longer keep it quiet. While Ben is constantly plagued by terrible nightmares after his encounter with the Nimbus.

I very much enjoyed this final slice in Cara and Ben’s adventures. There is the usual action and adventure I’ve come to expect from Bedford, featuring her likeable, sympathetic protagonists, while I also appreciated the ongoing changes in the cast of characters. I particularly liked that people who have been through harrowing experiences go on struggling – no Teflon-coated heroes here. The denouement and climax satisfactorily wraps up not only this book, but also the whole series.

Highly recommended for fans of character-led space opera.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Survivor in Death – Book 20 of the In Death series by R.D. Robb #Brainfluffbookreview #SurvivorinDeathbookreview

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I’ve tried one of these near-future murder mysteries written by the very successful Nora Roberts under her pen name J.D. Robb, but it didn’t really do it for me. I decided to give the series another go and this time asked Himself for one of the best books – and he recommended this one…

The only thing that kept young Nixie Swisher from suffering the same fate as her parents, brother, housekeeper, and young sleepover companion was the impulsive nine-year-old’s desire for an illicit orange fizzy at 2 a.m. Taking the bereft girl under her wing, Eve is determined to make sure the killers don’t get the chance to finish their lethal job. From the first, however, the investigation is baffling. The Swishers were a nice family, living on the Upper West Side in a house with an excellent security system. Ordinary almost to a fault, they seemed unlikely victims for this carefully planned and executed crime. Valuables at the scene were left untouched, there was no sign of vandalism — just the corpses of five people murdered in their sleep.

Firstly, don’t worry about crashing midway into this series. I didn’t need to break a sweat to figure out who was doing what to whom – and Robb provides plenty of information about Eve Dallas and her backstory, given this particular crime also resonates unpleasantly with her. I really liked Eve, who is a typical, gritty cop wedded to restoring some kind of order onto the street of 2059 New York. I also liked the fact that she is very happily married to bad-boy-turned-good Roarke – do be warned that this isn’t one to leave around for the younger teens to read as there are a couple of steamy sex scenes and the language is somewhat salty at times.

That said, while the home invasion is horrible, Robb is careful not to tip into gratuitous violence – or sentimentality. I was impressed that the little girl’s plight is also depicted with restraint and some understanding of how children cope with trauma.

There had to be some suspension of belief over the fact that Eve scoops the little mite up and takes her home – but Robb manages to just about bring it off, I think. In amongst the investigation to discover who perpetrated this terrible crime and why, there is a steady stream of cop humour which I found very welcome. This book had me hooked right to the end, also believing that Nixie would eventually find happiness again – which mattered. And I now understand why this series is a firm favourite with so many folks, Himself included…
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The High Ground – Book 1 of the Imperials series by Melinda Snodgrass #Brainfluffbookreview #TheHighGroundbookreview

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This is one of the books that I tucked into during November for Sci Fi Month – before I realised that I’d run out of days. However, reading and writing a review about an enjoyable, entertaining space opera adventure is never a hardship…

Emperor’s daughter Mercedes is the first woman ever admitted to the High Ground, the elite training academy of the Solar League’s Star Command, and she must graduate if she is to have any hope of taking the throne. Her classmate Tracy has more modest goals — to rise to the rank of captain, and win fame and honor. But a civil war is coming and the political machinations of those who yearn for power threaten the young cadets. In a time of intrigue and alien invasion, they will be tested as they never thought possible.

This book is written from two viewpoints – and is one of the reasons why it works so well. We get an insight into Mercedes’ life and the strains of being the first young woman ever admitted to a male bastion – Solar League’s Star Command – to prepare her for the task of ruling in her father’s stead. And no – this isn’t your classic female heroine panting to knock down the barriers to women having more freedom in society, as Mercedes was perfectly happy with her court life and spending time with her highborn female companions. She is appalled when her father informs her that she will be attending The High Ground.

Her desperate reaction is also mirrored by another reluctant candidate from the other end of the social scale. Her father’s skilled but poor tailor is thrilled when his only son, Tracy, is selected as a scholarship student to attend The High Ground. Tracy isn’t so impressed – he hates the whole rotten system and has no intention of being part of it on any level, until he realises the problems it will cause his father if he walks away.

Snodgrass has been very canny in selecting both these characters as it means we see two lives at both extremes of this rigid, very hierarchical society, both with their own constraints and pressures that oddly, end up being similar even though the causes are quite different.

I’m aware that I’ve given the impression that this is one of those stories all about the social structure with lots of chat, meaningful looks and not much else – it isn’t. In amongst the classes and the difficulties of fitting in, there is plenty of action – and when it all properly kicks off with a life or death event pulling in both main characters and most of their friends and foes, I simply couldn’t put this one down.

I really enjoyed this one and am delighted to find yet another talented female author writing my favourite kind of fiction – I’m definitely going to be tracking down the next book in this series.
9/10