Sirantha Jax is a jumper. A rare gene gives her the ability to work with pilots to move ships through Grimspace and exponentially speed up interstellar travel times. She’s also facing a lifetime of incarceration for causing a crash that killed everyone on board a ship full of mediators and diplomats. But did she actually cause the crash? Jax can’t remember, and the interrogations, dream therapy, and solitary confinement are doing nothing but driving her toward a mental breakdown. Jax is also deep in mourning over the death of her pilot in the crash. Kai was her pilot, her lover, her best friend, and the thought that she may have caused his death adds to her crushing grief. She can’t have caused that crash, but if she didn’t, what really happened?
When a rebel group offers to help her escape confinement she goes – but there’s a cost, and Jax begins to wonder if she made the wrong choice.
One of the things I loved about this novel is how deep Aguirre gets into her character’s emotions. Jax is broken and on the edge of insanity. The loss of Kai is still a raw wound, and she’s never given the time to truly grieve. Instead she’s thrust into non-stop danger with a rising body count. Her internal dialog of despair and pain coupled with a core of strength and leadership is nicely done. I love how the hero, March, is portrayed. Initially he’s the rock that seems to be able to carry the world on his shoulders, but as the book goes on the reader (and Jax) see how he doubts himself. March’s character is complex, emotional and strong with weaknesses he hides, and lapses of judgment that put the entire crew and mission at risk.
And some of that is what bothered me about the novel. At one point, March takes what appears to be a moral action, but that decision deviates from their all-important mission, and has devastating repercussions. I still love him. He’s a flawed guy, and I really enjoy that in a novel, but wow, what a bad move! Of course, the alternative decision would have made him look like an uncaring, heartless jerk, and I’m not sure his character could have lived with that.
Likewise, Jax has a moment where she remembers what happened in the crash. It’s not directly applicable to their mission, but it affects the crew, and the overall rebel movement. Does she tell anyone? No. Not until much later, anyway. I wanted to strangle her. I know there was a lot going on, and I’m guilty of having my characters either intentionally or inadvertently forget to share information too, but this was BIG STUFF. And as paranoid as she’s been in the novel to that point, I was surprised she didn’t immediately tell March, at least.
The plot is engaging, but it’s clearly a series-style plot. Our band of heroes works on phase one of the PLOT in this novel, and of course nothing goes as planned. I enjoyed this, and it reminded me quite a bit of how the Firefly plots were structured. I’m hoping I’ll see more forward momentum in the next novel of the series, but I’m okay with one step forward, two steps back as long as I see overall development in characters and long-ranging themes.
Romance – this was pretty hot for a sci-fi and I liked it. Jax is grieving, and that leads to significant roadblocks in any new relationships. Still Aguirre did a nice job of the interplay between guilt and attraction, and the vast differences in personality between the dead Kai and the very much alive March. Some sci-fi readers have criticized the book for being too “romance-y