Thursday, July 23, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Shadow Captain (Revenger, #2) by Alastair Reynolds

Shadow Captain is the second book in British SF author Alastair Reynolds’ YA space opera Revenger trilogy. The series follows two teenaged sisters, Arafura and Adrana Ness, as they have adventures after running away from home to escape the smothering rules of their widowed, tradition-minded father. The Revenger trilogy is set in a solar system where space piracy is rampant and humanity is scattered across twenty thousands artificial habitats which have been created (thousands of years ago by unknown entities) by repurposing the mass the original eight planets.

The Ness Sisters were separated early in Revenger, due to events I don’t wish to recount here to avoid spoiling them. The first book was centered around the story of the younger sister, Fura Ness, as she made incredible efforts and indelible sacrifices to eventually reunite with her sister. In the second book, Shadow Captain, Adrana is the primary first-person character but since the sisters spend most of their time together, Fura has a major role in the story.

The two Ness sisters are co-captains of a very small crew on a space ship they have named “Revenger.” Due to some unfortunate circumstances, they are forced to take the crew to a small artificial habitat in order to seek treatment for an injured crew mate and re-stock the ship with diminishing supplies.

On the habitat, Fura and Adrana meet a dangerous and powerful man who may or may not have ulterior motives for helping them. They also are forced by their burgeoning reputations (as a result of things that occurred in the first book) to take drastic actions which have significant consequences for their futures, and the future well-being of humans all over the solar system (which is called the Confederation).

The series is a curious mix of space opera (the story contains aliens, ship-to-ship battles, mysterious communication technology and an overarching mythology about how the solar system cane to be the way it is) and steampunk (the space ships use solar sails as the primary form of propulsion, most weapons are projectiles or curious “energy rays” and the language used by most characters is somewhat archaic and reminiscent of 19th century pirate novels).

The primary strength of the book is the Ness sisters, and especially their relationship. Although they love each other, they are often keeping secrets from each other and this can lead to tension and conflict. The world(s) in which the story is set has many unusual and intriguing features that pique my interest. (The main form of currency is something called a quoin which is managed by aliens but has been rumored to have secrets which have yet to be revealed through two books.)

Overall, the plot of Shadow Captain is slightly less engaging than Revenger (I think Arafura is the more compelling character of the two sisters but this book is told mainly from Adrana's perspective). However, the more we are exposed to the overarching aspects of the story, the more interested I become. I look forward to seeing how Reynolds ties all the threads together in the third book, Bone Silence.

Title: Shadow Captain .
Alastair Reynolds.
Paperback: 432 pages.
Date Published: January 15, 2019.
Date Read: July 2, 2020.

☆  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.50/4.0).


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