Jun302014

Book Review ~ Fortune’s Pawn (the Paradox Series) by Rachel Bach

In Brief as a Reader

I enjoyed Fortune’s Pawn, although it is certainly the first in a series given the ending. Devi is a likeable character with a fun attitude toward life and a sweet modern approach to romance. The plot has some unexpected twists, but Devi never betrays herself or the reader. Neither the violence nor the sex got too graphic for me and both are used with intelligence and moderation in service to plot and character, and as such, never gratuitous.

Bach’s writing style is fast paced, almost movie-like, with a light breezy touch. This book is not work, thank goodness. It’s good solid fun.

In Detail as a Writer

One of my favorite things was Devi’s relationship to her guns and armor, the way she names them and coddles them and knows everything about them. This ties in to Devi’s Jayne-like attitude to life in general. (Jayne, as in Firefly, doesn’t Devi strike you as a female version? Isn’t that fantastic?) And, as I pointed out before, is a tidy way to get around the info-dumping problem. Also Devi’s atitude and behavior to her weaponry is a nice insight in to her character.

Rachel discusses the Lady Grey and powered armor over on the Orbit Books site.

“I’m a merc. A black eye is the sign of a good night, not an injury to be guilty over.”

The world building was interesting, I was particularly focused on when Rachel chose to deviate from the reality of now into a far future, and when she did not. For example, the clothing was kept current.

“I must have woken him, because he was dressed in a soft white undershirt and navy sweatpants, the only thing other than a suit I’d ever seen him wear.”

Being clothing orientated myself, I found it a little sad that however far into the future this is, sweatpants are still around. Curses. Sometimes Rachel even goes all the way past current language into historical. This, for example, is from the second book: 

“What are you talking about? Basil’s a doll for an aeon.”

I don’t know how I feel about using “doll” in a far future context. And I did find it a little jarring as a reader. Possibly because I’d noted it for this review and so was looking for it? Which would make it my own issue with immersion. The longer I’m a professional writer the more frequent this becomes.

On the other hand, Devi’s swearing is always in universe. By which I mean she swears like a Paradoxian, not a 21st century Earthling. (Often discussed among authors in terms of: to ‘frak‘ or not to ‘frak.’)

“God and king,” I muttered, turning my chest piece over so I could get a better look. “I’m amazed I had any blood left in me.”

Many authors agonize over whether to utilize a swear as a technique for world-building and thus remind the reader of the alien nature of the character (but risk jarring the suspension of disbelief with dorkiness) or whether to stick with modern expletives because this makes a stronger point to the reader about the emotional tenor of the scene. An in-universe swear word, like ‘frak,’ can be more disorientating than useful. Rachel neatly avoids this with “God and king” for Devi. Although as Devi is, throughout the first book, seemingly agnostic, I was left wondering… which god?

“Too late to change your mind now,” I reminded him. “In for a shot, in for the bottle.”

I liked Devi’s romance with Rupert although, I must say, the name Rupert did keep throwing me. It’s kind of a goober of a name. Like Marvin. Personal preferences and all that. Rupert in my universe is a large foppish man with a very waxed mustache and a last name like Bobbintiff. But I did enjoy his character, and I could see why he might be attracted to Devi. Their exchanges, both verbal and physical, were touching. They were also much needed scene breathers, given the pace of the plot.

“He reached down, gently pulling my hair out of my ponytail and spreading it out over the pillow. He stroked it once, almost like he was petting it, and then he stood up, tossing my hair band on the dresser. “We’ll try this over again tomorrow when you’re sober enough to know what you’re saying,” he said, walking to the door. He stopped when he reached it, and the smile he gave me made my whole body feel warm.”

I’m particularly a fan of the fact that Devi is often the romantic aggressor. It fits her personality, and it’s refreshing to read.

“I licked his lips with the tip of my tongue, waiting for him to respond, but Rupert was a rock beneath me, completely still. He didn’t even seem to be breathing.”

If I have any gripe with this book, and it is a very very minor one. I felt that Devi destroying her Mercenary’s Bargain was out of character. I also am not a fan of the amnesia trope. I stopped reading the Stardoc series when the “she can’t remember anything” reared its ugly head. I blame too much Days of Our Lives in college. I simply don’t like it. In Devi’s case, since she’s such a dogged pursuer of what she wants, I can understand that it was the only way to get romantic separation in the second book. Still, I can’t help but think about that scene in Men in Black:

Jay: Did you ever flashy-thing me?
Kay: No.
Jay: I ain’t playing with you, K. Did you ever flashy-thing me?
Kay: No.

However, in this case, I read on to the second book because I knew there were only three books in the series and I have faith in Rachel bringing it all home nice and neatly.

Tell me, mercenary, what did he pay you to buy such stubborn silence?” I shrugged. “Nothing special. He gave me a job, and I honor my contracts.” “She’s telling the truth,” Nic said behind me. Brenton heaved a long sigh. “You Paradoxians and your damn honor.

SF Signal’s Review of Fortune’s Pawn 

Moving On With The Series?

Yes! I have to know what happens with Devi and Rupert and the glowing bugs and Ren and …

Book two opens with a glimpse of the intriguingly named Maat (Ma’at the Egyptian feather headed goddess of justice, truth, and balance perhaps?) and insight into Ren’s back story. We move on to learn of a connection to Devi’s new mercenary partner. I liked this a whole lot because as readers we think the back story was for Ren, but later on it’s revealed to be a set up for this new character instead. Also it’s a double down incorporation of the prologue (which, all too often, should be left out). Hear ye hear ye newbie writers: this is how a prologue is done!

Now where was I?

Oh yes. And silly me, crying out for Devi’s back story and more of Paradoxian culture, I should have trusted Rachel. Basically that’s what readers get almost instantly in this book. We get insight into religion and ritual:

“using my suit’s star map to make sure his feet faced Paradox so he would be ready to stand when the king called and tapping a double measure of salt into each of his hands, a tip for the death guide”

And a further peek into the history of Paradoxians versus Terrans.

“The war might be over, but scaring Terrans witless is one of life’s little joys. These were core worlders, too. Most of them had never even seen a Paradoxian in armor outside of the movies.”

Devi is still Devi but as she struggles with amnesia she begins loosing some of herself. This feels intentional, on the part of the author. However, initially I struggled to relate to a character who, in the first book is defined by her confidence, who can now trust nothing not even her own mind. And, I don’t understand why she isn’t more frustrated with her own brain. I would be. As a result, I felt very stressed reading the down time parts, and a sense of relief reading the battle sequences. Devi is only the Devi we remember from Book One when she is fighting someone. Again, I think this author intent, and a unique way to provide extra tension. I appreciated this as a writer, but not certain how I felt about it as a reader. I wanted more of Devi, but I felt as if I was getting less.

“retracting the blade and then shooting it out again just for the joy of hearing the razor sharp edge whistle through the air.”

As others point out, this book does get deal darker. So be wary of that aspect.

If you feel as I do, I urge you to read on despite any qualms with the first part of book two. Trust me, it is SO WORTH IT.  I’m past that bit and you better believe I can’t put this book down! Must. Finish. Series.

If you would like to continue with the Paradox series and keep chatting about it. The Gail Carriger Goodreads Fan Group is running a discussion thread for each month’s book and I think Skye will allow readers to continue on with chatting about further books in this series there. Won’t you Skye?

 (Thread for Fortune’s Pawn discussion: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1860752-june-read-fortune-s-pawn-rachel-bach)

The Rest of the Paradox series ~ Some Spoiler-ish-ness

It actually turned out to be a good choice to read on. The amnesia trope is thankfully dropped exactly 1/3 of the way through book two. I should have more faith in Rachel!

“The word had barely formed before everything I’d lost came roaring back.”

At the same time, we also get a crafty look into Rachel’s master plan, as an author. Devi is presented with the moral Paradox that is the title of the series. Yes, I know Paradox the name of Devi’s home planet, but we aren’t on planet, are we? So we knew there had to be a major thematic paradox in play, didn’t we now? Anyway, it’s a dozy and a good one. Particularly when presented to a killer like Devi. Let’s be honest, taking lives is what Devi does best. So what does Rachel do? She gives unto to her mercenary protagonist the ultimate one life for many conundrum, throwing Devi’s own life into the balance. (Insert Gail’s professional white-glove clapping of approval here.) Crafty, very very, crafty. It is, when all is said and done, a perfect paradox.

Unfortunately, it forces Devi to become the very type of special I was hoping Rachel would avoid with her accessible every-woman main character. However, I refused to lose faith again. I did so with the amnesia trope and that was neatly avoided, so I won’t do it with the special trope.

“It must be you,” she whispered as the black stuff started seeping from my skin into her fingers. “Because you are the only one who can.”

I ended up carving out a weekend after I turned in two manuscripts to finish the whole series in one gulp. I adored it all the way to the end. It has a great finale, and it made me happy. Devi stays Devi, the action never stops, the solution is right, love triumphs, and everything is as it should be. My kind of story. I am so looking forward to Rachel’s next series. Hopefully she will let us know when and what.

“I’ve learned my lesson, Miss Morris. If I want to take you on again, I’m going to hire a tank.” “Don’t count on it,” I said proudly. “I’ve beaten a tank.”

And now, the book group is moving on!

Next up? Blood & Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

This is an old favorite re-read for me so I will do a blog post early on this month talking about why I chose it.

GAIL’S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1801 Dress and Spencer  1801-1810  The Museum of London

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Primary Brights Bouquet to Art 2014

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Smart Watch

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
The Full-Time Writer

PROJECT ROUND UP 
Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First:   Edits handed in. Release date March 17, 2015. Not yet available for pre-order.
Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last.   Finished rough draft, cutting and trimming begins soon. Release date early November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order.


The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
Waistcoats & Weaponry (Coming November 4, 2014)
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels
 $0.99 short stories (ebook only) Marine Biology, My Sister’s Song, & Fairy Debt

Book News:

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Posted by Gail Carriger

 

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  1. amoderngirl said:

    Great review. My gripes were the same as yours (amnesia, destroying the data)–I felt like I didn't want to have to wade through Deci rediscovering everything again, but maybe I'll continue on, since you vouch for the series. Good read though–thanks for introducing us to this.

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