Gosh, I am loving this series so much!
Rachel Bach has written a science fiction series, of which Honor’s Knight is the second installment, that mixes space, aliens, fighting, conflict, romance and intrigue in just the right amounts to make it wildly entertaining, without sacrificing believability, integrity or kick ass action. Plus, she has given us an incredible almost-but-not-quite over the top heroine that actually works, one that has chutzpah up the wazoo and the goods to back it up – and yet is perhaps the only “normal” character in the books thus far.
In Fortune’s Pawn, the first volume of the Paradox Series, we met Deviana “Devi” Morris, a warrior for hire looking to bolster her resume so she can catch the eye of the Devastators, the most elite fighting force in the entire Paradoxian system. Joining the Devastators is Devi’s dream, but they only take the very best of the very best, so she resigns her commission with Paradox’s government military in order to stand out in the crowd of armed mercenaries. She knows that signing on as security officer for the fabled – and infamous – private ship the Glorious Fool and Captain Brian Caldswell would probably give Devi more action than she was bargaining for, but that’s just the way the she likes it. By the end of this book, Devi still doesn’t know the real story of the Glorious Fool, but she knows that it’s not truly involved with trading or smuggling, and in the short time she’s been with the ship she has encountered foes that are familiar, those that are mind-blowingly strange and incredibly threatening, and those who were supposed to be friends. Oh, and she kinda sorta falls in love, too. Not to mention that she keeps seeing little glowing bugs everywhere, that no one else seems to be able to see.
In Honor’s Knight, we learn a lot more about the intrigue into which Devi has landed – a lot more. But that knowledge doesn’t come easily, and it’s not something that is clear cut, black and white. Devi is the center of a political tug of war where the survival of the entire known universe is at stake. The question is not so much how to save the worlds, the question is who is going to be calling the shots and who’s method is the one with the least amount of blood on its collective hands. To make matters even more hazy, the grounds for loyalty keep changing under Devi’s feet, making it awfully hard to know whom to trust.
But if there’s someone in the galaxy who can beat the odds, it’s Devi Morris. She is glorious. I normally hate hero types who are built to be invincible, but Rachel Bach has done an incredible job in making Devi intelligent (but not scholarly), skilled (expertly so, but then, she’s been subject to years of training), good looking (but not drop dead gorgeous), street smart (from more than just her military background), and a wise ass (wittily so), but also vulnerable, fallible, and occasionally just plain dense and/or easily played.
While Devi is confident in her abilities, she’s even more confident in her armor. Having scrimped and saved for many years, she’s been able to obtain a set of top-of-the-line combat armor well suited to her smaller stature and need for speed and balance as well as strength and durability. In fact, it’s her Verdemont Knight-class armor (nicknamed “Lady Gray” – Devi has a penchant for nicknames that is somewhat annoying and therefore wonderful) that allows her to sashay so cockily into almost any combat setting, and therein lies the point where Devi is different from all the other sci-fi uber leet heroes I’ve encountered – she’s good, but what makes her over the top good are the tools she uses; otherwise, she would just be a pretty face with a soldier’s smarts. But Lady Gray – and the small arsenal (but a constant one, and of course, all with their own nicknames) she’s learned to wield with a deadly skill makes her a force to be reckoned with, regardless of the situation. And when her survival instincts kick in along with her training? Well, I’d bet on Devi any day of the Paradoxian calendar. Even the Terran calendar.
With luck, pluck and a little help from her friends (whoever they happen to be at the moment), Devi seems able to get out of any situation, even though not at the time she imagines she will, or in a way that seems readily evident. But again, author Rachel Bach excels where so many others have stumbled. Yes, unexpected developments can save the day, or perhaps give the diversion or the crack in the armor needed to save the day, but those unexpected developments make absolute sense – they don’t just show up out of a thematic vacuum. The key word in the developments in Honor’s Knight is “unexpected”, not “miraculous”, a distinction that a lot of action-based sci-fi writers tend to ignore. I’m not going to go into detail because pulling on one thread of this story will make the entire thing unravel, and I want you to have the joy of turning each page in this book as full of anticipation as I did. Suffice it to say, the plot is very well woven, of very high craftsmanship. And it’s a whole helluva lot of fun, to boot.
There is some romance in the series – less so in Honor’s Knight than in Fortune’s Pawn, for reasons that will become quite obvious – but not enough to make the pure action junkies squeamish, and just the right kind to make the truly romantic happy (think a high dose of intimacy rather than just plain old sex). Yet another place where these books shine.
In this day and age of long waits between serial novels, it’s refreshing that Fortune’s Pawn, Honor’s Knight, and the forthcoming Heaven’s Queen (April 22, 2014!) were/are all released/releasing within a few months of each other. Yet as eager as I am to finish out this series and find out the final outcome for Devi, Rupert and all the other colorful characters in the Paradox Series, I’m going to be sad to see it come to an end, because at only 2/3rds of the way through, it’s already been one of the most fun literary joy rides I’ve been on yet. Still, I am anxiously awaiting the appearance of Book 3; after all, the first ride might be the sweetest, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t more fun to be had in climbing on again. Pedal to the metal, baby, let’s ride!