And so the Embers Of War series closes in the bright glow of conflict and its aftermath, a truly terrific, action-packed space opera that ponders as well what it means to be human, in all our splendor and sordidness.
As Light Of Impossible Stars begins, the sentient warship Trouble Dog is desperate for fuel and on the run from the Fleet Of Knives headed by war criminal Ona Sudak, who’s gleefully re-embracing her megalomaniacal past. Trouble Dog’s captain, Sal Konstanz, is still coming to grips with what Sudak’s dreadful plans have already wrought for civilization as they know it. However, Sal and the rest of her traumatized crew understand that worse still lies in the threat of the dragon-like creatures lurking at the edges of hyperspace. The one thing both the Fleet Of Knives and the hyperspace dragons seem to fear is the rent in reality known as the Intrusion, so it’s in that direction that the Trouble Dog and her passengers go in search of supplies and answers.
Meanwhile, a young woman named Cordelia Pa is coming to terms with her own upbringing on the Plates, an artificial set of habitats layered in space a short distance from the Intrusion. She and her brother Michael had grown up scavenging for ancient artifacts to survive, but a surprise visitor turned her world upside down, offering her a chance at a life less limited. When she discovers the bargain that was made in order to shape her, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about herself and her connection to the alien technology she grew up surrounded by. Inevitably, her path and the Trouble Dog’s must converge if either of them has any hope of saving humanity from the twin threats of Sudak and the space dragons (ooh, cool band name!)
There’s honestly not much else I can tell you about what happens here, because it would lessen the emotional impact of the book/trilogy. I can tell you that I cried buckets at the Penitence’s last conversation (Johnny!!!) and that I desperately want to read more books in this setting! I have a feeling that Gareth L Powell is done with Sal’s story, and possibly with Trouble Dog’s too, but I’m hoping there’ll be more in future regarding Cordelia and the Plates (slightly less cool band name.) I also want to know what happened to Sofia in all that time! There’s some really inventive stuff on display here, plus Mr Powell completely sidesteps the many pitfalls endemic to having a diverse cast. Small, happy spoiler: no gays were buried in the plotting of this book.
Splendidly satisfying space opera trilogy that builds off the promise of its first installment, through its terrific second, to tell a sweeping tale that interrogates the need for preemptive warfare while emphasizing a greater acceptance of the identity and inherent nobility of others. Also, idk how Julia Lloyd manages to make each book cover even more beautiful than the last: it’s truly astonishing.