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    Daring and violent space opera adventure

    This is a promising debut novel from an independent sci-fi author, a combination rebel adventure and first contact story. Sicoe succeeds at quick pacing, suspense, and convincing portrayals of several alien perspectives. The abundance of pain and violence could be read as pulpy overuse, but is effective in its way. The weaknesses of the book are the uneven plot, which often seems to lurch from one crisis to another without overall coherence, and the flimsy characterization of the protagonist, Taryn. Like the several major human characters around her, Taryn lives at the margins of power structures. She’s a political dissident and criminal, living with childhood trauma, making uneasy associations with other dissidents with their own traumas. Maybe Sicoe is making a point that people on the margins like this, even with the best intentions, are going to be bad at making plans, make a mess of their relationships, struggle with basic kindness, and get thrown around by circumstance. It’s realistic, but it makes for characters that are hard to read. Sicoe has some other interesting themes around power structures, as she shows her underdog heroes and elite officials alike constrained by the system, sometimes literally enslaved. Overall, I found the story worthwhile, and I’ve already downloaded the second book in the series.

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