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on 16 September 2017
If you are looking for innovative, subversive and stylishly-written space opera this is not it. It is however, perfectly decent and fairly standard sci-fi with a slightly bland female lead and cast of characters. The plot centres on Devi Morris, former mercenary, who enlists as security on the spaceship the Glorious Fool in a bid to enhance her CV and attract a job offer from the Royal elite force the Devastators. Despite apparently being a standard interstellar freighter, the Glorious Fool and her captain Brian Caldswell seem mysteriously well connected with her fellow crew members, both human and alien, also sheltering secrets. In other words it's that old standby, the mismatched team on a mission. Nothing necessarily wrong with that and it has proven successful across a whole heap of genres, including sci-fi. The excellent Expanse novels of James S. A. Corey are perhaps the best sci-fi examples out there at the moment (discuss). Anyway, anyone writing space opera these days has to cope with the impact that the late Iain M. Banks and his Culture series had in combining seriously-stylish writing with a gleeful tearing-up of genre cliches. Fortune's Pawn doesn't reach those heights, coming across almost as a standard romance novel (Devi is instantly attracted to the mysteriously melancholy ship's cook Rupert Charkov) with added spaceships and aliens. Talking of which the supposedly fearsome Xith'cal alien lizard pirates seem to be slaughtered in industrial quantities throughout the book - maybe they should take up a different profession. There's also little worldbuilding as a backdrop to the action. Apparently there is a severely hierarchical human society with an all-powerful royalty and aristocracy. The heroine appears not to question that at all, simply desiring to join the enforcers of the regime. Perhaps more is made of that in subsequent books in the series and this novel certainly sets up a sequel, with plot lines left hanging right, left and centre. All of that said, Fortune's Pawn certainly has enough going for it to make it worthwhile investigating the subsequent novels.
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on 2 June 2017
A space mercenary with a shipload of ambition and a fondness for punching people goes on a near-suicide mission in the hopes of getting noticed by the religious warrior elite of her planet: the Devastators, the King's personal guard.

Devi, the unapologetically bad-ass main character, gives a perspective that is hard, smart, and funny. But the thing that most sets FORTUNE'S PAWN apart is surely the fantasy-esque world of powered-armour knights, fascinating alien species (including sassy bird people and terrifying Alien-esque xenomorphs), and a religion based around powered-armour, strength, and a warrior King.

With a steamy romance and a main character who isn't afraid to beat her way up the career ladder, FORTUNE'S PAWN will surely appeal to any readers who like their sci fi grounded, quick, and mean.


The kind of book you read in one sitting.

Prose: Clean, quick, unsentimental -- just like Devi

Plot: An unfolding conspiracy (all the more fun when the main character just wants to get paid to hit stuff)

Feels: Unexpected
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on 19 July 2015
I liked the trilogy, was very well entertained but it is not in the same league as Banks and such
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on 12 May 2014
I don't often give books 5 stars, but I found this to be well written and well paced, without descending into the constant slaughter that you can get with some books of this genre. There's a genuine mystery here, and Ia character I found sympathetic as she wrestles with conflicting feelings. I like Rachel Bach's style, and went straight onto book 2.
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on 29 March 2017
I bought Fortune's Pawn a while ago, and to be honest I forget why.

For once I found myself at the start of a trilogy. I'm a devil for coming in on book 2 and not realising until I'm halfway through. But anyway.

Devi, badass merc that she is, signs up for a tour of duty as a security officer on board the galaxy's most accident-prone ship. In order to prove her worth to elite outfit The Devastators.

The stakes keep escalating, as the ship's crew starts out as a quirky Firefly gang of misfits, and then gradually becomes really quite unexpected.

All the characters are well-drawn, and most of them have an agenda of some kind. The story is relentlessly exciting and good fun.

In the end, though, it didn't quite grip me enough to make me want to read the next two any time soon. Definitely worth a look for people who like books about space mercenaries.
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on 17 May 2014
Finally, a fantastic protagonist in a kickass space opera, who just happens to be female!

I grew up in a small town, discovered Heinlein and LeGuin around the age of 11, and oh, do I really wish there'd been more books like this to read!

If you're a male who never reads SF books by women because you think they'll be sappy romances -- or just lame sci-fi -- then I encourage you to give this book a try. It will knock your socks off.

If you like books that include lots of torrid romantic scenes, this book will probably not suit you.

Bach's world-building is excellent, and the personalities of her characters are well-developed -- highly-skilled but flawed, whether heroic or villainous, or both: but intriguing and, often, easily-identified with.

I cannot say enough how refreshing it is to read about a female character who, [MINOR SPOILER HERE]
when it turns out the guy she's fallen for is a bad guy, does not hesitate one picosecond to shoot him in the head.

How refreshing it is that the denouement of the book does NOT involve her ending up with the guy she's fallen for and living happily ever after, it's about her being strong and smart and figuring out what's going on, doing the right thing, kicking ass and taking names.

Well worth the read -- but don't start it on an evening when you have to go to work the next day. I can't wait for the next book in the series to be published.
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on 8 February 2014
Here’s a book that blindsided me. I went in thinking it would be just about “okay” – and came out frothing at the mouth for the next one! Already preordered. But let me not get ahead of myself.

Deviana Morris is a gun-toting mercenary, with a hankering for danger and blasting pirates, who is ambitious as hell. While most mercs are happy to move up the ranks until they hit a cushy office job, Devi isn’t like that – she wants to be a Devastator, the most dangerous job in all of Paradox, and she’ll do damn well anything to get it.

Which is precisely why she gets herself a job on the Glorious Fool, captained by Caldswell, which is said to be cursed. After all, the Devastators count one year on the Fool to be the equivalent of five years service elsewhere. And since mercs don’t usually live for long, Devi decides to fast track her career.

But there are secrets aboard the Fool, ones she shouldn’t stick her nose in – but pigheaded little Devi can’t help but poke her nose in, endangering her life and, more importantly to her, her career. As if it wasn’t complicated enough, she finds herself ridiculously infatuated with Rupert, the ship’s cook – who seems to have some secrets of his own.

You can see why I was a little hesitant, right? Love and secrets – could be a Nora Roberts novel in space. Except, it’s not. Devi is a believable character – hardened from years as a merc, ambitious as anything, who answers violence with violence and puts her career before anything. She has never dated – only slept with casually – men before, so her reaction to Rupert’s soft kindness is understandable.

It’s also not as if she falls heads over and becomes reliant on him as a character – not at all! She feels like an idiot for her feelings, and she takes what she wants, whether it gets her into trouble at all.

I really loved Devi, but Bach’s secondary characters are colourful too – a bird navigator, who is bristly and has a superiority complex, an know-it-all alien doctor with a sense of humour and a sweet, if a bit kooky, hippy roommate. They provide a great backdrop for the novel, and I’m hoping to hear more out of them in the future novels – particular Hyrex. I loved him.

The mysteries come in midway through the book, and I’ve got some (what I think are) fairly good guesses towards them, but I’m anxious to find out. They aren’t overdone, and there are plenty to sink your teeth in to. I’m particularly intrigued as to what the hell the bugs are.

The prose is solid – nothing to write home about, but it does the job, moving the story about. The plot does meander in places, but it’s a nice break from the sometime relentless action in others.

Like I said, I’m pumped that the next two books are both coming out this year, and can’t wait to find out where Bach takes us next with the crew of the Glorious Fool.
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on 14 November 2013
Nice ideas and good world building but a little clunky in places. Bounces along entertainingly and has some well written action setpieces but the interpersonal stuff can be a bit laboured. Not sure if that is intentional as the character strikes me as one uneasy with social interaction (that doesn't involve hand weapons at least).

Quick and easy read but very much set up for a sequel or two. Clear how the story will evolve however (or at least the romance side). Enough hints of future secrets to keep me intrigued and wanting to find out what happens next.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and will get the next one. Will be interesting to see where the story goes.
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VINE VOICEon 3 February 2014
The first book in a cracking science fiction adventure and one that worked wonderfully for me as a mismatched crew struggle against impossible odds in a battle that only the select few know about. It has some cracking combat, some top notch prose and with an added love angle works delightfully well for me on so many levels.

Add to this a female lead character that feels like a futuristic knight (with modern weaponry) all round had me wanting more and whilst I’m not sure what will occur in the future, its definitely an epic in the making. Magic.
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on 18 March 2015
Devi is a merc, a highly armoured security guard with ambition. She wants to reach the most respected rank of Devastator and is willing to put everything else aside to get there.

The first thing that struck me about the world building, and in fact the way the book is written in general, was that there's little extraneous information. Everything you need to know to get a clear picture is there but no overly long descriptions. I thought this really helped the pacing of the book, along with the fact that the author didn't feel the need to keep hammering home the fact that the majority of these characters aren't human. "I didn't know what Christmas was" was all that was needed instead of some great explanation of what may have been similar on Paradox.

This book is first and foremost a sci-fi book that just happens to have a romantic element. Just as well because once the sexy times appear they are, to be honest, a little disappointing.

However I definitely appreciated a strong female lead who didn't need any overly 'male' traits to make her strong and, also, a world where her ambition and drive were accepted with no negativity about her gender.
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