Tuesday 28 April 2015

#CBR7 Book 46: "Heaven's Queen" by Rachel Bach

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 4 stars

This is the third and final book in the Paradox series. It really won't make a whole lot of sense or be particularly satisfying if you haven't read the first two books in the trilogy. Start at the beginning with Fortune's Pawn. It's a really fun, action-packed series with great world building., so if you like space adventure, you are unlikely to regret it. It also goes without saying that there may be spoilers for the previous books in the series in this review. Proceed at your own risk if you're not caught up.

All Deviana "Devi" Morris wanted was to be a Devestator, one of the elite guards of the Paradoxian God King who she reveres and worships. Since signing on with Captain Caldwell on Fortune's Fool, she's nearly died countless times, she's had her memory wiped and restored, she's fallen in love and fought the man she fell for nearly to the death to retain her freedom and independence. She's infected with a mysterious and highly dangerous virus, hunted down by two powerful alien species. Several human organisations want to capture her, take her into custody and basically weaponize her. In addition, after a slightly botched jump out of hyperspace, Devi and her companion has been missing for eight months and most of the people close to her thought she died.

The possible future of the human race is hanging in the balance, and Devi needs to figure out a solution to eliminate the phantoms, free Maat and the daughters, preferably without being killed herself in the process. Yet Devi's never been afraid to go out fighting and if she has to die, which it's looking more and more likely she might, she's going to make sure it has a lasting impact.

While Honour's Knight was so action-packed it nearly exhausted me while reading it, Heaven's Queen has a slower opening third, with Devi and Rupert on the run, trying to keep Devi safe from all the various factions who want to get their hands on her. While there is some nice further character development in this section, it did nonetheless drag a bit, and because Bach has done such a great job fleshing out and establishing the supporting cast of the Paradox series, spending time with only Devi and Rupert got a bit boring after a while.

I needn't have worried, however, because the last two thirds of book pick up nicely again, while the story hurtles towards its action-packed and inevitable conclusion. We get more quality time with the crew on the Fortune's Fool, meet a few new characters and re-visit some previously established individuals. Some are interested in aiding Devi, others would rather just capture her and use her to further their own ends.

Over the course of the trilogy, Devi has gone from a fairly self-centred and purely career-oriented warrior, only concerned with advancement as fast possible. Through the dangers and adventures she's survived, she's had her horizons comprehensively widened, forced to re-evaluate her opinions and pre-conceptions time and time again. Some of the characteristics that could make her rather exasperating in the first book, have been polished and refined through her hardships and challenges  and now help her in choosing her final course of action, crazy and reckless as it may seem to others. Devi has so much agency in this book, and I cheered her along every step of the way, even as I worried what was going to happen to her in the end.

I really liked that for all that Rupert is a nearly indestructible fighter himself, he's realised that what Devi needs from him is just for him to watch her back, not to control or restrict her actions. I saw some complaints on Goodreads that he's been reduced to a boring wimp meekly trailing in Devi's wake in this book, I strongly disagree. Devi has proven time and time again that she's more than capable of taking care of herself, even though she may seem dangerously impulsive on occasion. Her risks pay off and it's one of the reasons she's become such a skilled warrior. The last thing she needs is a man who tries to make her decisions for her. While he's clearly not always very happy about the choices she makes, Rupert has learned the hard way that Devi needs to choose her own path, and if he wants to be with her, he needs to respect her choices - which he does.

Having discovered that Rachel Bach is actually a pseudonym for Rachel Aaron, who also writes historical fantasy novels, I can't wait to check out more of her writing. If her fantasy is half as fun as her science fiction adventures, I will be very happy indeed.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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