One of my pals recommended Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach by describing it as, and I quote, “WTF science fiction.” She was then able to point to the precise (early) chapter where the WTFery begins, and that was all it took to sell me on this book. (Thanks, Carmanita!)
In Fortune’s Pawn, Devi Morris is the best mercenary in the Blackbirds, but she wants to be more. Her greatest ambition is to join the Devastators, the Sacred King’s own force of high-tech armored badasses, and the fastest way to do that is to survive one year working security on the supposedly cursed ship The Glorious Fool. But as adept a fighter as Devi is, she doesn’t know what’s in store for her…
Fortunately for readers, what’s in store for her is 320 pages of awesome power armor, sassily-named weapons, condescending bird people, killer lizard people, sweet space hippies, a hot dude with a polite accent who also happens to be a cook (and maybe something else), and several pesky mysteries that just won’t leave Devi alone.
Fortune’s Pawn wastes no time with its storytelling. By the end of Chapter One, not only do readers know what Devi’s after, but she’s already on The Glorious Fool, leaving the story to rocket forward at the pace one would expect of a book involving armored mercs. The basic plot is simple: There’s something weird about The Glorious Fool and Devi wants to figure out what it is (while still ensuring her shot at the Devastators). And while the action is spectacular – and reason enough to read this book – the characters are what make the story worth it. Though some get more page time than others, all are interesting – or at least intriguing – to read about, and though not all are explored very deeply, they’re written in such a way that one suspects the author has probably created a detailed backstory she just couldn’t fit in the book.
Devi, of course, is the most lovingly crafted, a capable lady merc whose love for her armor is second only to her love for kicking butts with it, but she’s far from a Michelle Rodriguez stereotype. Her ultimate motivator is her ambition, and while she’s not about to let anything get in the way of achieving it, she’s not so ruthless as to be heartless or single-minded about it to the exclusion of all else. It’s not every action novel that would see its armored merc become pals with her meditative space hippie roommate, nor that would allow the same merc a legit, respectful (i.e. not stupid) romance, but Fortune’s Pawn does.
Devi’s relationship with Rupert, The Glorious Fool‘s cook, is one of the best in the novel. When it comes to love, Devi’s not looking for swoon so much as a hot bod, but she finds that and more in Rupert, sometimes to the detriment of both (even if each wants the other). Theirs is a relationship fraught with will-they-won’t-theys that is made no less complex by the secrets surrounding Rupert himself, which Devi wants to solve and Rupert has no interest in disclosing, even after awesome sex. It’s a mature and balanced romance that, for once, contributes significant entertainment to the story and doesn’t distract from its sci-fi action bits at all.
Fortune’s Pawn is hands-down the most entertaining book I’ve read this year. If you love fast-paced sci-fi action, give it a try. You’re in for an explosive treat.
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