What a sheer delight of a book. Better even than its predecessor, Big Damn Hero, it hits all the fan favorite beats while managing to avoid more adroitly the issues I had with the first book. Captain Mal Reynolds’ annoying mouthiness gets put on the backburner, as does the glorification of the losing rebel army that hearkens far too closely to the racist American Confederacy. It helps that The Magnificent Nine is centered on my favorite crew member, Jayne Cobb, in all his imperfect blockheaded glory. In this novel, he receives a distress call from an old flame and persuades the crew of the Serenity to fly to the backwater planet of Thetis to help defend the town of Coogan’s Bluff from a band of marauders who style themselves The Scourers, under the leadership of purported former Reaver Elias Vandal.
Upon arrival, the crew is surprised to discover that Temperance McCloud, as she’s now known, has a daughter named Jane, born several months after she abruptly ran out of Jayne’s life. Jayne, of course, is the last to suspect that Jane might be his daughter, but when he does… Let’s just say that this book confirms my choice of Jayne as The Best. I totally cried at the ending, and I very much loved how deftly the issues of parenting and abandonment were handled here. I also very much preferred the main conflict here, of our heroes and the town against the Scourers, versus the vengeful kidnappers of the last book (but also, more Jayne is preferable to more Mal, in my book.) I did guess the big twist, however, which made none of it any less touching.
Now I’m really curious to see where the next book, Generations, goes with the canon. I did enjoy getting to know Mal and Jayne’s backstories, and I’m really interested in everyone else’s too. Well, maybe not the Tams as much, since we know a lot about them already. Speaking of, they were both handled really well in this novel, as was Shepherd Book, who I’m dying to learn more about. The blurb for Generations seems to head off in a different direction however, but honestly, I’m here for it.
With a big Thank You to Titan Press for sending me this gorgeous hardbound copy. My only complaint is that Jayne’s eyes look brown on the cover instead of blue, which I ordinarily wouldn’t complain about except it’s kind of a plot point. The rest of the physical book is an absolute treasure, tho.