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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

cover of 'Marque and Reprisal' by Elizabeth Moon

This book picks up shortly after Trading in Danger (which I read and enjoyed last year). Newly minted space captain Kylara Vatta survived a civil war and even a mutiny by dangerous people temporarily housed on her ship, and acquitted herself well enough that the mercenary company in the area offered her a job, but she decided to stay with the family business of trading, for now. Shortly after the book opens, there are multiple, coordinated, devastating attacks on Vatta ships and on their main offices and palatial home on the planet Slotter Key. Ky and her ship manage to escape unscathed, but because the ansible communications are down she doesn't know exactly what's happened, she decides to proceed with taking her cargo to Lastway as planned. Soon, she's embroiled in a much bigger war to try to save what's left of her family, find out who was responsible and why, and see if she can somehow start rebuilding the family empire.

I think this book was even more enjoyable and faster paced than the first one; perhaps that's because the first book in a series requires a bit more setup in the way of world- (or galaxy-) building and introducing characters. But there might be other reasons I found it more engaging, too. The stakes are higher this time: nearly all of Ky's extended family has been wiped out, and certainly all of her immediate kin; and what's more, there are hints and indications that there is some connection between the attack on Vatta and the attacks that have been destroying or disabling the ansible, the inter-stellar communication system monopolized by ISC. Another thing that benefits the book is the introduction of interesting new characters: a young Vatta kid named Toby, out on his first apprenticeship, who happens to be offship and survives when his ship is blown up; Ky's cousin Stella who everyone thought of as very pretty but flighty and unreliable, who has been working in a different capacity helping out the company for several years; the country-boy stowaway Jim who keeps getting into scrapes (including rescuing a Jack Russell terrier on Lastway station); and perhaps most interesting of all, the unreliable and possibly dangerous Rafe, and old friend (of sorts) of Stella's who proves to be useful, but also may have an agenda of his own. There's also quite a bit of danger and action-- close calls and escapes from assassination attempts, some space battles, and some crazy, innovative ideas on Ky's part.

The "marque" in the title refers to a "letter of marque" authorizing a ship's captain to operate as a privateer. Kylara receives one of these at Lastway, sent by a former instructor at the Slotter Key Spaceforce Academy, which authorizes her to defend Slotter Key's interests-- and is shocked to learn that her home system makes use of privateers (apparently a cheaper but morally ambiguous way to keep a system safe, since privateers are not much better than pirates in many people's eyes). She doesn't immediately intend to make use of it, but it does open up new doors in her mission to find any surviving Vatta family members, avenge the family, and start the recovery process.

This book didn't come to as much of an ending; Ky does have a decisive victory, taking out an enemy who may have been one of the sources that made it possible for the Vatta home and main offices to be destroyed so utterly, and she claims an old Vatta ship in the process. But rather than giving much closer, it seemed to be setting up more story lines with the larger plot and the characters, just starting to reveal something of what is going on with ISC, Vatta and their attackers. It seemed a little unsatisfying, but perhaps effective in a way since I will probably be looking for the next book in the series sometime soon.

Title:Marque and Reprisal
Author:Elizabeth Moon
Date published:2005
Genre:Science Fiction
Series:Vatta's War
Number of pages:317
Notes:read an ebook


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