Completed 8/29/2018, Reviewed 8/30/2018
This is a good, disturbing book. It’s a look at war and child abuse through the eyes of a boy who’s recruited by pirates. It’s tough to read in parts because of this content. The writing style however is wonderful and it’s a fairly easy read. This is the third book of a trilogy. I didn’t realize it was such but the novel stands alone pretty well. It won the Gaylactic Spectrum award for positive LGBTQ images in science fiction and fantasy back in 2006. However this content is obscured by the sexual abuse the protagonist endures.
Yuri lives on a moon that was once occupied by aliens. At the age of four, the aliens attack and he, his family and the survivors are shuttled off to a refugee camp. There he lives a troubled life until Marcus Falcone recruits him and his friend to a merchant ship at the age of nine. In actuality, Falcone is a pirate, perhaps the most powerful pirate in the galaxy. Like all pirates, he recruits homeless and refugee children to his cause, indoctrinating them early into this lifestyle. Falcone takes a liking to Yuri and sets him up as his protégé, teaching him the ways of starship command and violence. At thirteen, Yuri becomes a geisha, learning sexual manipulation and assassination. Later, he gets his own ship to command, but is captured and imprisoned. The feds give him a choice, to rot in prison, or to take a deal to be released and help bring down the pirate empire.
That’s a lot of information, but it is not necessarily spoilers. The book is told with two timelines. It begins with Yuri being presented the deal by the feds, the Black Ops. You find out a lot of the plot in that first chapter. Then it goes back in time to tell his story growing up on the moon, the attack, the refugee camp, and life on the pirate ship. The chapters alternate between the present and the past, showing how Yuri came to develop into the pirate he is now.
Lowachee’s prose is pretty awesome. The book is told in first person present and past for the two timelines. The past is pretty straight forward. The present is filled with Yuri’s reflection and inner dialogue. It makes for difficult reading at first, but flows well as you get used to it. I think some of the confusion I had at first had to do with not reading the previous books, and also because it introduces a lot of concepts that are explained later in the chapters about Yuri’s past.
It’s hard to like Yuri throughout the book. This is mainly due his being manipulated into terrible behavior in his training as protégé and geisha. Rather than rebelling, he succumbs to it and embraces it. Most of what I felt was pity for him. The pirate ship has become his family and for the most part, does as they command. It’s only later that he has conflicted feelings about what he has become.
I give the book four stars out of five. It’s really well written and a powerful story about life with “the bad guys”. I found myself gripped by the book and horrified at the same time. It’s not a story for everyone, but it certainly tells a story about what war and a life of violence can do to people.
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