Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn (Paradox, #1)Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Magic in space! Woot!

I loved it. This was one of the books Ilona Andrews recommended on her blog and it had been sitting in my kindle since that day. I’ve found she rarely goes wrong with her recommendations.
Deviana Morris is a mercenary with impressively high ambitions. She’s had a very successful career and just recently left an impressive post because they would have sat her behind a desk next. Deviana wants to be a Destroyer. The elite of the elite, and answerable to the King alone. She wants power and action and doesn’t want to wait two more decades to gather enough experience so the Destroyers finally come calling. Instead she takes up a post as security for an intergalactic trading ship with a reputation for getting into bad trouble, because each year on the Glorious Fool counts as five for those in the know.

Out to impress, Devi takes the guard’s job, something she’d avoiding for years for the sheer dreariness, and expects to be bored out of her mind. Instead she faces inexplicable monsters, frustrating secrets and deadly knowledge that even the good guys can’t let her know and live. She also meets Rupert Charkhov, the ship’s cook with a military bearing and an affable charm that she finds irresistible. But Rupert is far from the uncomplicated lovers Devi has always preferred and soon his are the secrets that she becomes most interested in uncovering. (Innuendo. Har har.)

I like Devi a lot. She’s slightly cocky but genuinely good at what she does. She’s a hero through and through but not infallible. She admits her mistakes and learns from them, but her stubbornness could rival mountains. She adores her battlesuit and her weapons, and cares for them almost as much as for her own life. She’s also cynical in the way she looks at her fellow beings, but her prejudices are not so deep that she can’t see past them. One of the ways the author chooses to show the dichotomy of human beliefs here is the way Devi, along with all Paradoxians, have an almost naive belief in the miracles of the godking who rules them, but view all other mentions and evidence of magic or ‘plasmex’ with suspicion.

The world building has a peculiar inconsistency in that there are advancements like travelling through Hyperspace and healing broken bones in hours, but ice packs are still ice in a plastic tied to the limb with gauge. The fact that there is still plastic confuses the hell out of me. Thousands of years from now, if nothing else changes that one thing definitely will. Also the existence of blatant sexism was odd. Perhaps a case can be made that any new civilization would go through many of the same social changes that ours did, but somehow in an age of battlesuits where gender is no bar to fighting against bigger and badder opponents, the idea that gladiatorial fights had female fighters in mandatory bikinis was a little odd. Okay, very odd. Also the slutshaming. Really? Deviana has spent years as a mercenary, and as a culture they celebrate life through sex and war. Her honour is in her work. How often and who she has sex with shouldn’t even have been an issue in this world. But even so a macho skullhead calls her a slut and Devi thinks in her head that that’s not an insult she’s heard for the first time.

The society is rather feudal too. They have nobility and peasantry and deep rooted classism. In a way Paradox is no better than present day earth and maybe in a lot of ways much worse. It’s not what I think of when I imagine an advanced society.
But Bach has done a pretty good job of melding sci fi with elements of fantasy. The science is never distractingly wrong and the fantasy never jars you out of the unfolding space opera. I liked the first book and am off to get the second. It’s action packed and the pace never lags. I wish Rupert was slightly less tortured but then the poor guy has a lot to lose. Now all I want is to see Devi get back at everyone who thought they could control her. This will be fun.

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