My rating: 4 of 5 stars
With Revenger, Alastair Reynolds turns his talents toward a far-future sci-fi swashbuckler. Here, sisters Adrana and Fura Ness join the crew of a sunjammer in order to earn money after their father's savings are lost. It sounds like a simple plan until Captain Rackamore's crew runs afoul of Bosa Sennen, a space pirate that many believe is more legend than reality.
Although the book gets off to a bit of a slow start while Reynolds puts all his pieces in place, by the time Part One finishes Revenger is an unputdownable adventure filled with high-stakes, grim choices, and plenty of future-history flourishes to excite.
The story is told in first-person POV, through the eyes of Fura Ness. She's a wonderful gateway into the universe Reynolds has crafted here, and her development over the course of the story is top-notch. I quite enjoyed seeing her transform into a strong, independent young woman, even as the choices she is forced to make ravage her body and soul, while her heart is swallowed by vengeance. Reynolds does a brilliant job developing her from a waifish youth into a hard-edged, revenge-driven woman of action and consequence.
I also really dug the universe itself, and the mysteries it holds. Scattered between worlds are small planets known as baubles, sheathed in a protective cocoon that opens irregularly and contain alien artifacts. There is a lot of history baked into Revenger, of both human and alien mystique, much of it even beyond the ken of our characters, and it is these historical left-overs from past alien conflicts that becomes our pirate's booty analog to motivate the crew of the solar-sailed spaceships to plunder for riches. It's also the motivating factor of Bosa Sennen, our sort-of Blackbeard of the stars, and the lure for conflict.
My only real complaint is that we don't get quite enough of Bosa to satisfy. Since the story is told strictly from Fura's point of view, we're offered limited insight into the chief antagonist or Fura's crew mates, although her observations are enough to get us by. It's during the climax of Part One that it becomes quite clear that Bosa is a serious force to be reckoned with, but I wouldn't have minded another scene or two to help cement her status as the frightening myth most of these space sailors regard her as.
In fact, I wouldn't at all mind another book or two set in this universe. Although Revenger is currently billed as a stand-alone, there's enough threads left loose and dangling to indicate Reynolds may have some grander plan to explore, should he choose. If not, this is certainly a compelling enough read on its own. Still...it'd be a real shame if we didn't get to read more about Fura Ness and the adventures of these sunjammers. I'm quite keen for more of these particular space pirates, matey.
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