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Sci-Fi Review – Light of Impossible Stars

Light of Impossible Stars by Gareth L. Powell

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


LIGHT OF IMPOSSIBLE STARS is the final volume in the Embers of War trilogy by Gareth Powell.  For events of the first two – EMBERS OF WAR and FLEET OF KNIVES –  read my previous reviews, here and here.

The sapient warship Trouble Dog and her brother ship Adalwulf have barely escaped from the Marble Armada fleet and are now on the run. They are heading for the Intrusion, an area that both the Armada and the hyperspace “dragons” avoid.  Reality in the Intrusion is not exactly stable, and no one who’s gone there has ever come out. But they have information that leads them to believe it could be the way to survive, if not defeat the Armada. They’re critically low on fuel, though, and need to find something quick.

We are introduced to two new characters, Cordelia Pa and her brother Michael, who live on one of a number of artifical worlds known as Plates which are very close to the Intrusion. Individually the Plates are not very big, but they are arranged in a group and travel between them is easy enough, if you have the money. Cordelia and Michael have come down in the world since their childhood, and now make a living scavenging alien artifacts from the depths of one of the Plates. Cordelia has some strange abilities that she tries not to think about. But someone has been looking for Cordelia, and her situation is about to take a dramatic turn.

As before, the story is told in quick chunks of first-person POV from different characters: Trouble Dog; Sal Konstanz, the captain of Trouble Dog; Johnny Schultz who was rescued during the last book; the vile Ona Sudak; and Cordelia. Those are the main voices but there are also snippets from Nod, the Druff engineer, and Michael. Again, except for Nod, the voices are not all that different from each other.  I wish we’d seen something from Lucy, but Powell doesn’t give her much of a role here.

Arthur C. Clarke once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and I feel like Powell relied on that too much. Cordelia’s abilities look like magic to me and so did the appearance of Sal’s relative. The “dragons” physical manifestation is too much like fantasy (wouldn’t it have been interesting if different races saw different monsters?).  We see the payoff from the Druff scenario that was set up earlier, but I was expecting something less mundane – I’m not sure why, because on reflection I see how Powell set that up very nicely.   As before, not every character is going to survive and that did make me sad.  I liked the ending, with the exception of Sudak’s fate – she’s so despicable I wanted her squashed like a bug. Can’t have everything I guess, and it fits with everything else we know about Sal.

It’s a relatively happy ending for our characters,  flows along briskly, and has very good imagery, but I feel this book isn’t quite as good as the previous two. The sameness of the character voices, the too-convenient appearance of saviors, and Cordelia’s “magic” abilities lead me to mark it down a bit.  Despite that, I enjoyed it and the series as a whole. It’s a good entry in the space opera genre.






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