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Honor's Knight (Paradox) by Rachel Bach
Review by Ernest Lilley
Orbit Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0316221082
Date: 25 February 2014 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In Fortune's Pawn, the first book in the Paradox series, we met Devi Morris, the space-going mercenary who seems to live in her custom-made powered armor, and who'd signed on for a tour as security on a notoriously dangerous trading ship to get the resume bullet she needed to be considered for the most elite force in Paradoxian space, the Devastators, the King's hand-picked armor troops.

But that was a whole book ago, and by now we know that the Glorious Fool isn't really a trading vessel, that the cook isn't really a cook, and that Devi's been infected with something that lets her see the invisible alien menace that's been reducing planets to rubble for the past seventy odd years. We know that, but Devi doesn't, because at the end of Fortune's Pawn she got a memory wipe of all the interesting bits, none of which she was cleared to know. Including the part about falling helmet-over-spaceboots in love with the cook.

Now Devi's wandering around the ship wondering what the hell happened during the last attack on the ship, the one she evidently beat off before blacking out, and why she can't stand the sight of that cook.

The cook in question is Rupert, and like the captain he's part of a secret project to stop the spread of planetary destruction caused by the invisible creatures. Devi's encounter with an alien derelict left her infected with an experimental virus that gave her the ability to see the phantoms, which are composed of psychic energy, and grown to full size to cause matter to destabilize, resulting in quakes, or ultimately the creation of an asteroid belt where a planet used to be.

Up till now, the only defense against the phantoms has been to use the plasmic energy of a girl called Maat to destroy them. Maat was the product of earlier experiments by the aliens that infected Devi, and her energy gets channeled through a host of girls that she's psychically imprinted to be extensions of herself. They didn't volunteer for the job, but were kidnapped as soon as they showed psychic ability, similar to Halo's Spartans. Their usable lifespan is measured in a handful of years at best...when their former self starts to break through and they have to be killed before they go berserk and turn their energy on their handlers.

It's a dirty business, but the daughters of Maat have the ability to kill phantoms, and nothing else can touch least until Devi got infected. A few lives taken to save a few billion seems like a fair deal to the handlers, but not to Devi, who is starting to understand what's going on and why her memory went missing.

She's also developing her own plasmic powers, and though various factions want to use her as a pawn, or possibly even a knight, she doesn't like any of the options she's being offered.

Throughout the book Devi struggles with eluding those that would turn her into their weapon at the cost of her freedom and possibly even her sense of self. Striking off alone while there's a universe to save isn't really an option, so she's going to have to take her pick of strange bedfellows, assuming she doesn't get snatched by aliens, rebels, or the gang she'd originally signed on with. She's also going to have to come to terms with her feelings for Rupert, who she's been brainwashed to loathe, despite being in love with him.

Like a lot of middle books, Honor's Knight gets to do a lot of work but doesn't get to enjoy a happy ending, or really, any ending at all, just a pause before the next book picks up the story. Devi does manage to resolve a lot of issues, but the larger conflict with the phantoms looms over the horizon, and there's still no shortage of people, aliens, and psychic monsters eager to get their hands, claws, or ethereal tentacles on her.

Of course, if she can work things out with Rupert, getting his arms around her might make up for a lot of it. If he can get her to take off that damn space armor.

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