Fortune’s Pawn: Romantic space opera

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach science fiction book reviews romantic space operaFortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

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.

The Paradox Novels — (2013-2014) Publisher: Deviana Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. One of those is going to get her killed one day — but not just yet. Not when she just got a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble. And with a reputation for bad luck that makes one year as security detail on this ship equal to five years everywhere else — Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year might be more than even Devi can handle.

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KAT HOOPER is a professor at the University of North Florida where she teaches neuroscience, psychology, and research methods courses. She occasionally gets paid to review scientific textbooks, but reviewing speculative fiction is much more fun. Kat lives with her husband and their children in Jacksonville Florida.

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6 comments

  1. Kat, this book has been in my TBR queue for quite a while. After reading Liviu’s review I thought it sounded like something I’d enjoy. After reading your review (well done by the way), I’m concerned that it might be too romantic for my tastes. I like Space Operas, even though I’m fairly new to the genre…but a romantic space opera…I have doubts. Just the thought of reading a paranormal romance makes me cringe. Don’t get me wrong, a little romance is fine and dandy but it can’t be a major part of the story and keep my attention. What do you think, should I read it?

    • Hi Beau!
      I don’t know if it helps, but I’ve noticed that even though I like reading his reviews, Liviu and I often have very different reactions to the books we read. I also think he tends to rate books higher than I would, in general.

      Three stars from me means that it’s worth reading and I did mention that I wished I had the second book, so that means something, too. I have the second book now and look forward to reading it soon.

      There is definitely a major romantic element here, but there is a strong plot, too, so the focus is not entirely on the romance (as it usually is in a paranormal romance).

      I think you should give it a try. Please let me know what you think!
      Kat

  2. Melissa (My World...in words and pages) /

    I’ve looked at this book a few times, but it didn’t seem to call to me. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy it, I might. But I like the points you make here. Sounds like the mystery is well done.

    • Hi Melissa,
      The mystery was the most compelling part for me.
      I just finished the sequel last night. It had the same strengths and weaknesses as the first novel. The mystery continues to be the best part, but much of the mystery is solved in book 2. I’m hoping the third volume won’t be too heavy on the romance, but based on the ending of the second book, I’m suspecting that it will be. I’ll read it sometime in the next month.

  3. I just finished the book, and your review is spot on. The romance parts weren’t that big of a deal, but they did irritate me a bit. The way Devi thinks about her love situation so much in some sections it starts to get old. I read and listened to the audiobook. I’m not a fan of the narrator’s interpretation of Devi’s accent, or the light hearted air she gives to the book in general. I found myself enjoying the book more if I read it, rather than listening. 3 Stars. I’m not eager to start the second book, but I might at some point. The plot is pretty intriguing…

    • Sounds like we’re in agreement, Beau. I will have my review of the second novel up soon. It had a lot less romance and a lot of answers about the plot.

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  1. Honor’s Knight: More trouble for Devi | Fantasy Literature: Fantasy and Science Fiction Book and Audiobook Reviews - […] a strange and dangerous situation and though I don’t care about her romance — as I explained in my …

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