Fortune’s Pawn is the first book in The Paradox Series, and it is absolutely yummy if you are into light space opera with a tough, smart heroine, some romance, and lots of action. Which I am, so…yum!
Devi is a mercenary who hopes to reach a high status position as a Devestator, one of the King’s guards. In order to get promoted, Devi accepts a job guarding a ship that always seems to get into trouble. The ship has an irritable captain, a mechanic who slaps patches onto the hull with maniacal cheer, a doctor who is a species of alien known for eating humans, and a silent, mysterious young girl who plays chess by herself all the time. The ship also has a very sexy cook who has lots of secrets. And, true to its reputation, the ship and/or its crew seems to be in trouble almost all of the time.
I like that the author respects the reader’s intelligence enough to slip in world-building without spelling things out at length. This world seems solid, dirty, and real, with complex but believable social structures. And Devi is a great character. Although Devi is often rescued, it’s not because she’s a girl. Her competence as a fighter is well established and she only requires assistance when she is fighting an extremely unusual opponent, an extremely large number of opponents, or both. She reminded me a bit of Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, but she’s much more mentally healthy than Starbuck. Not that she doesn’t have her neurosis, but on the whole she’s socially adept, confident, and not self-destructive.
The pace of the book is good – there are moments of calm and conversation, there’s humor, there’s tons of action, and some hefty mysteries for Devi to solve. I don’t think this book is a genre-buster – if you are not interested in science fiction books set in space with lots of action, then give this book a pass. but if you like tough warrior heroines, sexy, mysterious, kind heroes, and a strong supporting cast in an interesting, action packed setting, don’t miss this book. My one caveat is that it ends on something of a cliffhanger, so be prepared for that.
Can we just spend a moment to pay proper respect to the cover art? See what that is? A picture of a woman, that does not focus on her boobs or her butt! I love this cover art so very much. Over on orbit.net you can read this entry by the illustrator (Kirk Benshoff) about how he made the art for the series. It’s beautiful, it fits the concept, it fits the character, it tells the reader at a glance who the book is about. Kudos, Kirk Benshoff.