Devianna Morris is the most ambitious mercenary you’ll ever meet. Her life’s goal is to join the Devastators (the super-elite king’s guard) and the only way to get there fast is to sign on to the security team of the merchant ship called The Glorious Fool. Devi doesn’t know why The Glorious Fool is so dangerous, but she knows that it manages to kill just about every member of its crew, so just surviving for a year should be enough to bring Devi to the attention of the Devastators.
At first Devi is not too impressed with her new job. Her security partner is brave and competent, but he’s a jerk. The captain’s strange chess-playing daughter is aloof and unfriendly. Devi’s roommate is a loony hippie. The ship’s cook is totally hot, but he is not responding to Devi’s advances in the normal way, which is annoying, not to mention embarrassing.
Things get more interesting for Devi — and really complicated, in fact — after The Glorious Fool makes a stop for some sort of business meeting on a strange planet. When the captain, the cook, and the daughter leave the ship and don’t come back, odd things start happening. When Devi goes out to find them, even weirder stuff happens. Now Devi’s got a mystery to solve… if she doesn’t get killed first, which is actually very likely.
I was caught up in Fortune’s Pawn almost immediately, mainly because Devi is such a unique character for space opera. At first I really admired her toughness and ambition, though soon I realized that the main reason she seems unique is because she’s a woman. If you changed her name to Devin and said she was a man, she’d seem like any other roguish macho mercenary you’d meet in speculative fiction. I appreciate that Rachel Bach (pseudonym of Rachel Aaron) has created a strong heroine, but for me a better heroine is one who’s awesome because she uses her brains rather than because she acts like a man. I’m hoping that Rachel Bach feels the same way and that we’ll see Devi grow a little more complex in the coming sequels. There’s already much I like about her and perhaps when we get to know her a little better she’ll shed some of the tough guy image. (But even if not, certainly there’s room on the bookstore shelves for heroes like Devi.)
I had another related issue with Fortune’s Pawn: I didn’t quite believe in the romance. I don’t want to say too much about the plot (for fear of ruining it), but Fortune’s Pawn is definitely a romantic space opera, so the romance kind of needs to be believable and so far, in my opinion, it isn’t. The problem, essentially, is that the love develops too quickly and without much basis. This is related to the characterization of Devi as little more than a rogue (which we hope gets better) and the necessary need for mystery surrounding the crew of The Fool. Because of this, there’s a lack of knowledge about each other and a lack of trust that just doesn’t seem to justify the sudden feelings of love. Lust? Sure. Love? Not likely.
Yet as I grew less enamored with Devi and her romance, I grew more interested in the fast-moving mystery-style plot. At the end of Fortune’s Pawn, Devi makes some intriguing discoveries and then, in a major plot twist, the rug is completely pulled out from under her. I was disappointed that I didn’t yet have the sequel, Honor’s Knight which means that, obviously, despite the problems, I was entertained by Fortune’s Pawn.
The PARADOX series is most likely to appeal to readers of romantic space opera, or even paranormal romance. It is unlikely to work for readers who are serious about the science in their science fiction. The “science” here is pretty weak.
I listened to the audio version of Fortune’s Pawn which was produced by Tantor Audio. Emily Durante was well-cast as Devi, the first-person narrator. She has a tendency to drop the “g” in words ending in “ing” which must have been her attempt to give Devi a unique voice. I kept noticin’ it, though, so I found it a little distractin’. Other than that, Durante was great and I plan to read Honor’s Knight in audio format, too.