Saturday, May 10, 2014

REVIEW: Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn (Paradox, #1)Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2013
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Series: Paradox #1
Awards: None
Format: In Print
Narrated By: NA

Man, I am so at sixes and sevens over this book.  I think the most important thing to point out is that I enjoyed it IMMENSELY. I like it a huge amount. One of my favorite shows of all time is Firefly and I’ve been wishing and hoping for a book that scratches the same itch and Fortune’s Pawn kind of does! It involves a small cast of eccentric characters on a trader ship in space which has alternative motives than just honest trade. There’s a dangerous galactic mystery and conspiracy that Devi, the heroine, is uncovering. I definitely got a Firefly vibe though the character Devi mostly resembles is likely Jayne:).

The plot is fast paced and action packed. Devi is a mercenary with big ambitions. She wants to be a member of an elite group of body guards, the Devastators, which protect Paradox’s God-Emperor. In pursuit of this ambition she takes a security job on board the Glorious Fool which has a reputation for being the most dangerous posting out there. One year of experience on the Fool is equivalent to five elsewhere. Devi isn’t worried because she’s at the top of her game and her battle armor, which she affectionately calls the Lady Grey, is top of the line. Devi learns quickly however that the Glorious Fool is not what it seems and she may have bitten off more than she can chew. From page one this was a page turner for me with a great plot and characters that aren’t terribly complex but who are interesting and easy to get behind. There is a real sense of a space opera and adventure.

The tech and the world building are also fantastic. It is detailed enough to remain interesting and to create a sense of atmosphere. It also felt somewhat Firefly-esque with two cultures descended from Earth, both of which have central planets and more sparsely populated pioneer planets.

So what’s the fly in this ice cream? Well, first the easier and not likely to be controversial thing.  I didn’t really buy the romance which is a shame because according to the question & answer with Bach that is included it was one of the motivators for writing the book. It had a similar feel to insta-love even though it’s not technically that pat. It wasn’t at all clear what they loved about each other probably because besides being mysterious, handsome and a good cook we know little about Devi’s love interest. He’s more interesting in theory than in reality. And considering Devi’s previous mode of relating to men it seems odd that this is the one. Bottom line is I didn’t buy it, it didn’t give me the tinglies, it seemed contrived and inauthentic.

The second sticking point is likely to get my feminist card revoked or at the very least make no sense at all.  I’ve realized that I don’t really 100% enjoy characters like Devi.  I love heroines that are tough and can kick ass - Buffy, Ripley, Dana Scully – love them all but for some reason I have trouble connecting with Urban Fantasy heroines and females characters like Devi.  I feel like the ways in which they are exhibiting being “strong” and “tough” are to strongly emulate men.  They’re violent, and obsessed with weaponry, they drink hard and sleep around.  I mean it’s great for people to live their life however and be whoever they wanna be but it seems like frequently, for a female character to be tough, that equals acting like a traditional male character in all facets of their life.  I don’t feel like there are a lot of male characters written up as icons of awesome because they embrace more feminine inclinations.   I think the reason why I like Buffy, Ripley, and Dana Scully is because they are tough and awesome while still being feminine.  Does this make any sense or am I just digging myself a gigantic hole?  I’d appreciate some discussion of this even if it’s to point out that I am COMPLETELY misguided.  Regardless of this, I still mostly enjoyed Devi but the nature of romance and her “macho-ness” kept this from being a five star review.   

Final Verdict: A barrel of fun, despite some hiccups in the character/relationship department and I will definitely be picking up the sequels sooner rather than later!

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