Friday, February 27, 2015

Honor's Knight - Rachel Bach

Honor’s Knight is the second in Rachel Bach’s ‘Paradox’ series. The narrative follows the delightfully named Devi Morris, a powered-armour user, as, put simply, she jaunts around the galaxy, usually on the run from somebody, and proceeds to eliminate everything around her with extreme prejudice.

This second book picks up from the conclusion of the first, and immediately establishes credentials by not ducking any consequences. Devi is emotionally wrung out, hurt, confused, and particularly good at suffering in silence. Readers of the first volume will be left as torn apart as Devi; the first third of the book is really one long emotional crisis, and it reads very well.
Bach has a knack for clear, concise, easy to read prose. Like her heroine, the text is blunt, stylistically straightforward, but packs a serious punch. It was very easy to find myself turning pages, and looking up an hour later wondering where all the time had got to!

The characters are largely familiar from the first volume; outside of Devi, and one of the new characters whom I won’t spoil here, they don’t really have the sort of depth that I’d like. This may be a function of the first person narrative more than anything else, but most of the cast remain relative ciphers. They do have some backstory, usually provided in dialogue with Devi, but it was a struggle to really see most of them as more than foils for the heroine. There are a few exceptions of course – Caldswell, the captain from the first novel, draws attention from the first page; Bach gives a nuanced portrayal of a tormented, angry man, and manages to keep a large part of this subtextual, insinuating itself into the reader’s experience via incidentals, rather than explicitly infodumping in the prose.

There’s also the central romance, between Devi and the cook from the previous novel (Rupert); this suffers rather from the consequences of the first novel, and the impact of those consequences is wonderfully written. That said, the whole romance angle reads a bit more awkwardly than I’d hoped – it’s just not as interesting to read as the various plots, machinations, hostage situations, gunfights and witty dialogue in the rest of the book. The ripples that come out of the relationship are wonderful, the impacts on the narrative are fantastic, it just didn’t quite ring true for me.

Plot-wise, this one is an absolute barnstormer. The original book, Fortune’s Pawn, was a fast-paced action piece. Honor’s Knight keeps that pace, and the rapid-fire action, and intertwines it with some serious twists and turns – crosses, double crosses,  justifications and lies mixed up with gunfire, quick escapes, and last minute salvation.

Overall then, if you’ve read the first book in the series, you really will want to follow up to see where this one is going. The series has a lot of promise, and it’s delivering.

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