February has been an insane month for me personally. My wife and I have sold one house, bought another and are in the midst of preparing for the move at the end of next week. But I'm still reading. Not as often, or for as long, and it's gotten harder and harder to find the time to write reviews but with Rachel Bach's second Paradox novel, Honor's Knight releasing today I thought I should add my voice to the signal and hopefully get this spectacular sequel some extra sales.
I was a big fan of Fortune's Pawn finding its heroine, Devi Morris, one of the most compelling protagonists of 2012. With a strong sense of urban fantasy tropes, this space opera has a lot to recommend it. Bach's blend of compelling characters, intricate world building, hard hitting action, and a mystery in every corner gets turned up a notch in the second outing, and my niggling complaints with the romantic subplots are addressed so well I almost forgot that I'd had them. Honor's Knight is a superior sequel that fires on all cylinders and readers are in for a white knuckle romp as Devi finds herself the most wanted weapon in the universe by the story's midpoint.
Honor's Knight picks up immediately after the events of Fortune's Pawn, with Devi's memories of her discoveries about Caldswell 's true mission, and her relationship with Rupert erased. Devi knows there is something strange going on as she continues to see glowing creatures that no one else can see, and the strange black substance that seems to appear on her hands at random, but with her memory full of holes and fears of being labelled insane and forfeiting her dreams of being a Devastator she decides to soldier on and keep her mouth shut. But as things get progressively weirder Devi finds herself the target of several kidnapping attempts and she begins to have terrifying dreams that tug at those missing memories. Things are about to get worse, much worse. Not to worry, Bach protagonist is no blushing violet. She handles crisis like she handles everything else, with grim determination, cutting edge armor, and guns blazing.
It's a credit to Bach's skills that despite symbionts that can take down whole teams of mercenaries in power armor, mysterious invisible aliens that can shatter entire worlds, and secret organizations with more power than planetary governments, the real selling point is her overwhelmed and outmaneuvered heroine. Devi Morris is exactly the kind of protagonist that the genre thrives on. Her personality drips from every interaction and she never simpers, or succumbs to the angst all too common in romance heavy fiction. Hurt Devi and you can rest assured that she'll do her dead level Paradoxian best to lay you out. She's tough, unapologetic, driven, principled and yet has just enough vulnerability to sell the romantic subplot that is at the heart of the novel. As protagonist goes, Devi is one for the ages.
And Bach definitely knows her way around a combat scene. While not as frequent as those in Fortune's Pawn I actually found the action scenes to be more fluid and realistic this time around. Also, I was pleased to see that Devi actually needed rescue far less as well. And the romance element also improved dramatically, with Devi actually responding to reality of Rupert's lies and manipulations and not just succumbing to the very real connection between them and sweeping things under the rug. I found it a definite improvement.
All of the supporting characters get some small amount of the spotlight and are fleshed out rather nicely as well as the universe at large, with stops on several new planets along the way. But perhaps the best part of the novel are the moral and ethical quandaries that Devi faces as she is forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. Devi never makes the easy choice and that only makes her a more compelling protagonist.
All in all, Heaven's Knight is a great leap forward not just in the series, but in Bach's maturation as a writer. Fan's of space opera and urban fantasy a like should not let this series pass them by. Even if you were on the fence after, I strongly recommend staying on board for the rest of the series. The conclusion is bound to be epic. Fortune's Pawn I strongly reccomend staying on board for the rest of the series. The conclusion is bound to be epic.