PrintE-mail Written by Christian Bone

With their family near financial ruin, sisters Arafura and Adrana Ness sign themselves up to sail the stars on the sunjammer Monetta’s Mourn under Captain Rackamore. But when Bosa Sennen, the most fearsome pirate in the skies, tears their lives asunder, Arafura must journey to the edges of space – and her own endurance - in order to enact her revenge…

Alastair Reynolds is one of the biggest names around in British sci-fi, so you know you are going to get a well-told, intelligent piece of hard science fiction with him. As such, the worldbuilding of Revenger is expertly done. Told in the first person, the book never shoves exposition down the reader’s throat as Reynolds prefers to drip feed the rules and history of this ancient universe throughout the narrative. It’s an intriguing and atmospheric place - a cosmos where spacefarers scavenge the treasures of civilisations long since gone and use the skulls of the dead to communicate between ships. There is also the flavour of old-fashioned sailing novels about it. Similar to Treasure Island, it’s a coming-of-age tale told in recollection and Victorian slang words like “cove” are frequently used.

However, what might surprise you is how character-driven the story is. Despite the author’s hardcore sci-fi reputation, Revenger is primarily focussed on the journey of Arafura. She’s a brilliant female lead – a book-lover who is wrenched from her cosy homeworld and thrust into a life of adventure, hard work and heartbreak. Never a passive character, it is Fura’s single-minded mission and perseverance that keeps the reader racing through the book to see if she makes it. In fact there is a strong female cast of characters all round, with Fura’s best friend, sister and mortal enemy in Bosa Sennen proving to be fascinating characters as well.

On the one hand, Revenger is definitely worth a go for space opera fans and followers of Reynolds. Yet even if your tastes are a bit more down to earth, the book is still a must-read as it is an unexpectedly personal and emotionally-driven tale of determination and retribution - with some great twists along the way and a gutsy heroine who will appeal to fans of young adult literature. Even though everything is mostly wrapped up by the end, the hints at more to come leave us eagerly awaiting a return trip to this corner of Reynolds’ sci-fi universe


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