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Sci-Fi Review – Embers of War

Embers of War by Gareth Powell

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)



EMBERS OF WAR by Gareth Powell is an action-packed fast-paced space adventure. It’s the first book in a trilogy, but it has a complete story arc that comes to a decent conclusion, so you could stop here and not feel like you were left hanging.

The prologue sets up the rest of the book.  There’s a war, and a decision is made to annihilate an entire planet, one with a sentient forest that’s millions of years old. One of the sapient warships who participated was the Trouble Dog.

Trouble Dog cannot forget what she did. She resigns her commission – unheard of for a warship – and joins the House of Reclamation, an organization dedicated to rescuing spaceships and others in distress. “Life Above All” Is their motto.

Captain Sal Konstanz was the captain of a hospital ship on the opposite side of that war, but she also has renounced war and is now the captain of Trouble Dog.  While on a rescue mission, their medical officer is killed by an alien creature. Sal is blamed for it by crew member Alva Clay as well as her superior officer, but punishment must be delayed – a passenger ship has been attacked in a far corner of the galaxy and Trouble Dog is the closest who can assist.

When they stop to refuel, they’re approached by Ashton Childe, an intelligence officer for one of the warring factions. His superiors have ordered him to get on board Trouble Dog by any means possible and find Ona Sudak, a passenger on that attacked ship.  Why her, he doesn’t know, he just follows orders.

They quickly realize the rescue mission is going to be highly dangerous. Trouble Dog receives an ominous warning from her sister and brother ships, who are still fighting. Konstanz has other problems too, with a new medical officer with no training at all, Childe and his frenemy who came on board during a firefight, and the sullen Clay, who might at any moment decide that mutiny is the way.

Sapient spacecraft are nothing new in science fiction, but I really liked Trouble Dog’s personality and descriptions of what it’s like to travel in space. The book switches rapidly between first-person POVs of Trouble Dog, Konstanz, Childe, Sudak and Nod. Nod’s chapters are very short but interestingly strange – he is Druff, an alien species that specializes in repairs to starships – but it’s Trouble Dog and Konstanz who stood out in my mind.  I also really liked the idea of the House of Reclamation.  The big secret they find was quite fun too, I’m sure that’s going to be the basis for the rest of the trilogy. I also very much enjoyed that the characters (all but one, apparently) have a moral sense, even Trouble Dog – that war is an awful thing, that killing your enemy is not something to celebrate, and that if you take a life to save others you might be right, but you still can’t escape what you’ve done.  It’s an excellent start and I’ve got the next two on my list.



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