After being kicked out of the officer’s academy, getting dumped by her fiancé, and taking a position as a captain in her father’s shipping empire, Kylara Vatta is not living the life she planned. She barely escaped the events in Trading in Danger and was considering severing ties with Vatta Transportation until tragedy struck. An unknown enemy has declared war on Vatta, bombed their buildings and killed most of the family. But Ky has no time to grieve. The enemy is after her, too, and she has no idea what to do or, more importantly, who to trust. As she learns in this installment, Marque and Reprisal, even family members can be enemies. (I so wanted to use the phrase “traitor trader” there, but I spared you.)
Marque and Reprisal picks up right where Trading in Danger left off and those who were pleased with the first installment of VATTA’S WAR will likely be pleased with this one. Ky desperately needs some allies which gives Elizabeth Moon the opportunity to freshen up the story with several new characters: Stella Vatta, Ky’s sexy blonde cousin with the bad reputation who turns out to be smarter than most people would guess; Rafe, Stella’s ex-lover who has deep secrets of his own; Toby Vatta, a 14 year old cousin who’s now an orphan; Martin, Ky’s newly hired bodyguard; An entire fleet of interstellar mercenaries; Jim, a young stowaway; and a puppy.
Ky and the crew deal with a series of misfortunes which keeps the story moving quickly. As Ky learns that the real world doesn’t follow her ethical code, she’s just beginning to adapt, though she’s not quite sure where the line she doesn’t want to cross is or whether perhaps she’s already crossed it. There’s plenty of death and destruction in this story so far and it’s clear that Ky has a lot of fighting left to do, both physical and emotional, to recuperate from the mess she’s in, to get revenge on her family’s unknown enemies, and to rebuild Vatta Enterprises.
The greatest strength of this series is that it’s emotionally compelling, unpredictable, and often exciting (the climactic fight scene in Marque and Reprisal is awesome). There are some definite issues that will turn some readers off: a few long slightly technical sections where Ky and her crew are prepping the ship and getting armed, repetitive dialog as Ky goes over the plans or history with each new character, too frequent reminders that Ky is worried about her possible killer instinct, a lack of distinctive flavor for the different planets and ports we visit, a few plot devices that seem contrived (especially the little twist at the end of this book), and I suspect that Ky’s unwillingness to think about her dead family has more to do with Moon’s reluctance to write about it than Ky’s reluctance to think about it. But even so, I’m enjoying the story well enough to forgive these flaws.
I’m listening to the audio production narrated by Cynthia Holloway. As soon as I finished Marque and Reprisal I spent one of my precious Audible credits to download the third VATTA’S WAR novel, Engaging the Enemy. I’m really rooting for Kylara Vatta, but I’m kind of scared of her, too.