TITLE:  Fortune’s Pawn
AUTHOR:  Rachel Bach
PUBLISHER:  Orbit, 2013
SERIES:  Paradox, Book 1

THE BOOK: Searching for a way to get noticed and get a spot with the Devastators, the elite king’s guard of Paradox, Devi Morris takes a security job on the most dangerous trading ship in the region, The Glorious Fool.  It doesn’t take long for Devi to realize why one year with this ship counts as five years with any other trader.  The captain, Brian Caldwell, seems like a magnet for enemy action.  The crew is unusual as well, with a cranky avian navigator, a xith’cal (a species that normally eats humans) as the ship’s doctor, the captain’s strangely mute daughter and the hunky cook, Rupert. Devi, not a shy girl, immediately makes her interest in Rupert plain, but he resists letting her get too close, The ship sees plenty of action, from raiding parties of xith’cal to a mysterious attack of an invisible monster on a planet the Fool stops at for cargo, but it might be the secrets of Caldwell and Rupert that are the biggest danger to Devi.

 MY TAKE:  I adore space opera.  The mix of action and ideas is irresistible to me, and Fortune’s Pawn is very good space opera.  The far flung future of this series includes two subgroups of humans (Paradoxans and Terrans) and shows or hints at a variety of other alien groups.  Some of these are allies, some are enemies.  One of the things that Bach does amazingly well is her action sequences.  Devi is a fighter beyond compare.  She’s adorably attached to both her armor and her weapons (they all have names), and fights like a dream.  It’s very difficult to find battle scenes that I don’t just want to flip past (I skipped all the battles in War and Peace, too). But Bach’s battles are vivid and absorbing, choreographed like a ballet. This book has a great cast of characters, but the reason that it succeeds so completely is Devi. Devi is so appealing because she is completely straightforward. Whether it be her love life or her job, Devi attacks things  head on. She knows exactly what she wants. There are plenty of thrill-seeking danger addicts who love ‘em and leave ‘em in science fiction, but to have that character be a woman?  Genius. When Devi decides she wants Rupert, you know that she will get her man.

 THE GENRES: SF  As I said, this is space opera perfection.  All the hallmarks of that subgenre are there — spaceships and aliens; big guns and fancy space armor; mercenaries and empires; and lots and lots of action.  It’s not all shoot ‘em ups though. Although the emphasis is on action, there are big SF ideas here as well (although not a lot of hard science), and an intriguing conspiracy that will be explored in further books of the series.  There is a culture clash between not only humans and aliens but between the two branches of humanity that took radically different paths since leaving Old Earth.  ROMANCE The attraction between Devi and Rupert sparked immediately on Devi’s end, but Rupert is much more  reserved.  Watching them get close and pull away keeps a delicious tension.  I can’t talk too much about the way their relationship plays out except to say that there are three books in the series, and this romance has to go through some hurdles to get to its happy ending. The two genres are extremely well-balanced.

RATING: 8/10  Soooo good!

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