This review is spoiler free.
Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox #1) by Rachel Bach
Published on 07.03.2013
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Synopsis: Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet. That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.
In every post in which I’ve mentioned this book, I’ve also mentioned that I don’t read much science fiction. Especially this subgenre. The words “space opera” don’t really inspire excitement in me as I feel like it sounds a bit ridiculous? For clarification, I’m not calling the genre ridiculous, just the name.
As I hadn’t read this genre before, I wanted to look up a definition first. This is the one I found on Goodreads: “Space opera is a subgenre of speculative fiction or science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing powerful (and sometimes quite fanciful) technologies and abilities.” To be honest, that’s exactly what this book is.
I had never read anything from the space opera genre, but I felt quite optimistic about this book. Why? The author, Rachel Bach, has written one of my favorite underrated fantasy series The Legend of Eli Monpress, under her name Rachel Aaron. So I figured there was a big chance I’d like this too.
This novel is set in space (duh). Aside from the different planets, each with different creates, cultures and habits, there are also different dimensions you can jump to. Doesn’t that sound incredible?
There are several different species in this novel, each intriguing in its own way. There’s a bird-like species called aeons for example. I really enjoyed reading about these different types of characters and planets. It was especially interesting to see what kind of reputation the races had with others. For example, Devi’s people (Paradoxians) are people of war and conquest. They have a reputation of a love for fighting. Obviously, Devi fulfills that stereotype in a way because she’s a mercenary. Another race, the xith’cal have a terrible, and well-deserved, reputation. With regards to them, Devi had a “shoot first, ask questions later” policy because their race eats humans. Yuk. It’s very fascinating!
Here are two quotes I loved about the bird-species.
“But I’d faced down much scarier things than overgrown chickens with bad attitudes, and I held my ground.”
“An officer with literal feathers to ruffle. This was going to be rich.”
In my opinion, this book was very action-packed. We start the story with Devi, who has just come back from an assignment with a famous mercenary group. She has fought her way up the rank for a while, raking in promotion after promotion. She’s advancing much faster than anyone has in a long time, but it’s not enough for her. She wants to be a Devastator, the best mercenaries alive, and personal protectors to the King. But to become a Devastator, you need to be asked and most of all, you need years of experience. Devi doesn’t want to wait for that long, and thus decides to take on a job she despises: guard duty on a spaceship. This spaceship however, is very special. The Glorious Fool (the ship) has the worst reputation: mercenaries barely every survive a year, which is rare for a trading ship on that normal route. One year in the service of The Glorious Fool could very well earn her a place on the Devastator team.
I really enjoyed the plot of this book. I do think some parts of it were rather predictable, and as mentioned in the description of the genre, it is a melodramatic adventure with a focus on romance as well. I found it to be a quick, and most of all fun read. I had so much fun while reading this book! I loved watching it all unfold, and seeing how Devi would solve every crazy attack happening to the Glorious Fool.
Of course, I have to talk about Devi. She was such a fun main character. As I’ve mentioned, she’s a Paradoxian mercenary. Paradoxians take their merc jobs seriously, and they are very technologically advanced. They have made their armor into an art, and Devi saved up for years to by her Lady (which is what she calls her suit of armor). They allow her to see in a 360° angle, lend her great strength, endurance, and so on. Kind of like an Iron Man suit, but more slimmed down? A less chunky Iron Woman, you could say. She lives for her job as a merc, and you can see her years of experience throughout decisions she makes, conclusions she draws in situations and so on. One downside is that she mentions her job as a merc, and how good she is at it, often. After a while, that can be a bit annoying.
Overall, I really loved her though. She lives for the adrenaline and adventure. She’s confident, proud of her body and her abilities, and not afraid to show what she wants. She drinks. She curses. It makes for a hilarious character, really. I absolutely loved reading from her perspective.
I didn’t mind the romance either. I’ve read some reviews in which people say they just didn’t feel the romance, but I quite liked it. There’s just so much attraction in the beginning, and Devi constantly flirting. It’s fun. You go, girl! Plus, you could expect a pronounced romance in this book, because it’s literally in the description of the genre.
Overall, I really enjoyed this read. It was fun, fast-paced and an incredibly quick and captivating read due to Devi’s fun character. I immediately picked up book #2, which I also enjoyed and am currently waiting to pick up book #3. To me, this was a great introduction into the space opera genre, and Rachel Bach has pleasantly surprised me again.