Ambitious warrior Devi Morris plans to make her mark on the world by becoming a Devastator – and to get a spot in that elite crew of soldiers, she’s joined the crew of The Glorious Fool, a trade ship so notorious for danger that one year working aboard counts as five years working another ship. But Devi soon discovers she could be in over her head – because the ship’s not notorious without a reason, and that reason is more dangerous than she originally thought it would be.
FORTUNE’S PAWN is the first volume telling Devi’s tale, and it’s attention-grabbing from page one. Blending action with Devi’s internal monologues, the story manages a tone and pace that’s fun while not intimidating. Author Rachel Bach’s exploration of different alien races – including the deadly xith’cal and the jellyfish-like lelgis – is also fascinating, and the amount of care paid to xith’cal social structure is absolutely fascinating.
The greatest strength of FORTUNE’S PAWN is definitely Devi’s voice. Devi Morris is an armored mercenary, and though her job can easily be mistaken as a death wish, she has the intense desire to live life to the fullest. That trait is clear in her lively voice and her interactions with everyone and everything. She has some very interesting quirks, too: every weapon she owns has a name, as does her beloved (and expensive) suit of armor.
Aside from Devi, though, very few characters felt fleshed-out in this novel. I was absolutely fascinated by Nova, her bunk-mate from a space-worshipping community, but very little about Nova felt truly expanded on, though she had many opportunities for rich characterization. The only characters who felt deep and rounded were Devi herself, the captain Caldswell, and Devi’s love interest Rupert, though Rupert felt only barely deep as a character.
Interestingly, Caldswell proved to be much more mysterious and fascinating than Rupert despite there being no romantic involvement; Devi’s curiosity about him and the various mysteries about exactly why his ship finds danger so frequently ended up drawing the reader in much more than other characters.
FORTUNE’S PAWN feels like a techy, mecha action story with a bit of romance on a spaceship. Though the characters felt a bit flat, the world was rich and fascinating, and the action-driven plot would engage any reader who loves a great action story – and the twist ending will leave you itching for the next book.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Feliza Casano is the founder and editor in chief of Girls in Capes and writes for all sections of the web magazine. Follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.