Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach (aka Rachel Aaron)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was great, but there were a few things that could have been done a lot better.
What I Didn’t Like
+ the romance
I did not care an ounce for the romance between Devi and Rupert. Of all the men Devi had met in her life, as someone who traveled a lot and was in a field dominated by men which meant she was surrounded by men at all time, she had to go fall for Rupert who is one of the worst men that she could have fallen for. It’s not because Rupert is a bad person; to the contrary, he’s a fucking Gary Stu. It’s because he cannot be more unavailable for romance. I hated how for most of the book, the romance was one-sided on Devi’s end. In addition, Rupert is a danger to Devi and he can easily ruin her career goal to become a Devastator, a dream she has worked to hell for, because of who he is and his duties.
+ the love interest
Who is Rupert? Well, as I said he is a Gary Stu. He’s tall and handsome. He cooks. He protects Ren, the Captain’s mute little girl. He fights better than he lets on, better than anyone Devi, a super tough heroine who has fought countless people and things, has ever known that it seems so... inhuman. He’s mysterious. *gags* I felt like a wishlist of traits in the perfect marriageable man was being checked off as Rupert was developed as a character, and ironically the dude is not even available for romance so fuck marriage.
Upon revelation, readers learn Rupert is a self-torturous soul who is forced to choose between doing his duties and being with his first love that is Devi. When I learned that, I immediately thought, “Am I reading a science-fiction or a cheesy romance set in a science-fiction?” Oh my gawd, the romance was so cheesy!
+ the romance, part 2
The romance was also forced. Rupert’s reasons for falling in love with Devi were flimsy as straws; it was borderline instalove. Devi was unlike anyone Rupert had ever met. Bitch please! With Devi, I was baffled how a self-proclaimed commitment-phobe could suddenly for the first time in her life not only fall in love but to fall in love with someone, as said before, who could not be more unavailable for romance. Devi could have chosen Anthony who she had known for a long time and trusts and does her favors (which she doesn’t even return), Anthony who loved her and made his intention of wanting a commitment with her clear, Anthony who has the look, the job, and the money, etc. But oh no, Devi had to choose the guy who made it clear he cannot be with her, and she was willing to risk everything for him when he clearly said he could not do the same. Have some self-respect, Devi. Have a fucking bucket of self-respect.
The only silver lining was that Anthony wasn’t pulled along in Devi’s romance shitfest and appeared only twice in the book, both times briefly. No stupid love triangle, at least.
+ the ending
And the ending. What the fuck? Basically, the plot shoved Devi back to step one and now in book two readers will be forced to go through the romance shitfest between her and Rupert ALL OVER AGAIN. No. Just... no. I kind of hope Rupert is one of the characters that gets killed. The ending left a sour taste of what was mostly an enjoyable read if you put aside the romance shitfest.
What I Did Like
+ the heroine
A friend told me a Goodreads reviewer described the heroine as a Kate Daniels in space. Kate Daniels? In Space? I love Kate Daniels! This book turned from “mildly interesting, read it when in a scifi mood” to “very interesting, read it over the weekend.” The description was accurate much to my pleasure. Devi was every bit the kickass heroine I expected. The things that made Devi different from Kate was her ambition, her reverence for her Paradoxian heritage and monarch, her respect towards authority, her fondness for the drink, and her proud attitude towards sex. When Deviana Morris wants some, she gets some, whether it be drink or sex. Screw you, double standard. I loved her unrestrained attitude.
I also loved that she was nobody’s fool. Devi knew when to follow her instincts and when to ignore them for the sake of continual deception and her career. She didn’t put complete trust in the Final World Lock, her Paradoxian armor suit’s black box, and had a backup black box called a Mercenary’s Bargain even though it was illegal as death. The woman was prepared and practical, completely believable as a mercenary.
+ the world building
I wasn’t as lost as I thought I was going to be because the book was hard science fiction with alien races and intergalactic conflicts. It didn’t take me more than a few chapters before I tightly grasped what was going on and who was who and of what alien race and loyalty. The world building was very solidly done. The geopolitical landscape read genuinely like world news you would see on BBC or CNN except the setting is in the distant future and there are aliens in the mix.
You had your intelligent and big-ego-to-match bird-like aliens, the aeons, your hunts-and-eats-other-aliens lizard-like aliens, the xith’cal, your mysterious hardly-ever-seen jellyfish-like aliens, the lelgis. Of course, there are humans, and they separated into Terrans and Paradoxians, the former a republic, the latter a monarchy. But it’s not just humans who have factions, I also got to learn of a few in other alien races. As it is with humans, just because you are of the same species doesn’t mean you share the same loyalty. There were as many intraspecies conflicts as there were interspecies ones.
The world building didn’t say there was a war going on but there were “military conflicts,” government conspiracies, biological weapons, blah blah, the usual shit you read on worlds news, except as you know, with aliens in the mix. That said, sometime aliens do get along with each other as the case is with the Glorious Fool.
+ the other characters
As a reader, I have a pretty hard time tracking characters but this book did not give me any hardship. Every character of the Glorious Fool was distinguishable and memorable. I love the sense of humor which underlaid the character development. Take for example, Hyrek. One would think the last character to be the ship’s doctor, I repeat: the ship’s doctor, is of a race who eats people, but yet there was Hyrek, a xith’cal doctor, a genderqueer xith’cal doctor.
Hell, some of the characters I least expected to like I actually came to like. Nova, full name: Novascape Starchild (yes, really), helped man the ship’s bridge. She was developed as this sheltered girl who came from, um, a religious group to put it kindly if you catch my drift. Of course, I quickly saw that beneath the sweet hippie surface was someone who actually thought for herself and there was a perfectly good reason for the existence of the religious group. Psychics are in the house!
Cotter was the other half of the security team which Devi served on, and dude was a stereotypical sexist thug whose brain was only capable of seeing things to kill and killing them. I expected there to be a lot of drama and spats between Devi and her antithesis of a co-worker, but surprisingly there were none. Cotter was a wee smarter than I thought and didn’t need more than one asskicking lesson to accept the fact that Devi was the top dog. Cotter grew on me. He grew on me more than I thought because what happened to him at the end, I was... sad.
I came to care for all the members of the Glorious Fool, yes including Rupert as much as he annoyed me. Dude did save Devi’s life a bunch of times, and I like Devi alive. With Captain Caldswell, I have mixed feelings to be honest even though there are good reasons to despise him. I have mixed feelings because I have yet to learn his side of the story. I’m not ready to condemn him just on Devi and Rupert’s side of the story alone. But I think this is a good thing because it means his character is dimensional.
+ the plot
Putting aside the romance, I liked everything about the plot. I liked how the plot balanced between the slow times and the fast times. I never felt bored at all. My favorite parts were when Devi tried to uncover conspiracies, and we readers learn what Devi learned was only the tip of the iceberg. I foresee epicness.
There are a lot of things in play, and it could have been confusing, which is why I am really thankful that the book was strictly narrated from Devi’s first person viewpoint.
I rate Fortune’s Pawn 3-stars for I liked it. While the yucky romance cost the book a star, the book remains a great read. I actually think the current book description doesn’t do enough to advertise how action and intrigue-filled the book is. If you’re in the mood for science-fiction promising epicness and love kickass heroines, give a Fortune’s Pawn a try.
Review of book 2: Honor's Knight
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