Marque and Reprisal: No time to grieve

science fiction book reviews Elizabeth Moon Vatta's War 1. Trading in Danger 2. Marque and Reprisal 3. Engaging the Enemy 4. Command Decision 5. Victory Conditions Marque and Reprisal by Elizabeth Moon

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.

Kylara Vatta, risk-taking, rule-breaking, can-do heroine of Trading in Danger, is back in business – the kind that’s anything but usual – in the new military science fiction adventure by ace action storyteller Elizabeth Moon. The exciting military career she hoped for never got off the ground – but Ky Vatta ended up seeing plenty of combat when she took the helm of one of the commercial transport vessels in her family’s fleet… and steered it into a full-blown war. Now the lessons she learned in that trial by fire are about to pay off: because this time, the war has come to her. To be exact, someone unknown has launched a full-throttle offensive against Vatta Transport Ltd., Ky’s father’s interstellar shipping empire. In short order, most of Ky’s family is killed, and subsequent attacks sever vital lines of communication, leaving Ky fighting, in every sense, to survive.  Determined to identify the ruthless mystery enemy and avenge her family’s name, Ky needs not only firepower but information. And she gets both in spades – from the band of stranded mercenaries she hooks up with, from her black-sheep cousin, Stella, who’s been leading a secret life, and from Stella’s roguish ex-lover, Rafe. Together they struggle to penetrate the tangled web of political intrigue that’s wreaking havoc within InterStellar Communications, whose effective operation their own livelihoods – and perhaps lives – depend on. But the infighting proves to be infectious, and it isn’t long before Ky’s hired military muscle are turning their suspicions on the enigmatic Rafe, whose wealth of knowledge about ISC’s clashing factions and startling new technologies has begun to make him smell like a rat… or a mole. With swift, violent destruction a very real possibility, the last thing Ky needs is a crew divided against itself – and she’s prepared to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that Vatta stays in business, as well as in one piece. What she’s not prepared for is the shocking truth behind the terror – and a confrontation with murderous treachery from a source as unexpected as it is unrelenting.

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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.

View all posts by Kat Hooper

One comment

  1. Well, these sound like they’d be perfect summer reading. I will have to order them.

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