Fleet of Knives continues the adventures of former warship Trouble Dog and her crew who, in the aftermath of the events that unfolded in Embers of War, find themselves deeper in danger. The crew of freighter Lucy’s Ghost are marooned on an ancient spaceship, and send out a distress call that only Trouble Dog can answer; combine that with the threat of the Marble Armada and alien monsters, there’s seemingly no safe place in the universe for Sal Konstanz and her friends to be.
The plot that unfolds has the pace of a thriller, told in short chapters from varying perspectives. It’s a method that works extremely well, offering insight into the motivations of all the key players; each chapter ends on a moment that encourages the reader to continue on for ‘just one more’, submerging them in the story. Although Powell’s style may feel economical in comparison to other sci-fi novels, he gets the balance right - there are no wasted words, no lengthy chunks of exposition to distract from what’s actually happening to the characters - and the sense of immediacy, empathy and jeopardy is pervasive throughout. As well as maintaining that feeling of wonder that comes with all good space operas, Powell creates spooky moments too, along with wit and some especially moving scenes that keep the reader entertained throughout.
Where Powell truly excels is in the narrative voices; no two characters sound the same, while some - such as Nod - are a world apart from any other, and all the more believable because of it. Each narrator reveals what is important to them, which may not necessarily be everything the reader needs to know, adding to the sense of intrigue and danger, while their interactions with others are always realistic. Building on the foundation of the first novel, this is a great book that contains everything expected of the genre and more besides. It’s huge fun, and the characters are a delight to spend time with - we can’t wait for them to return.
FLEET OF KNIVES / AUTHOR: GARETH L. POWELL / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW