Fortune’s Pawn: review

December 11, 2013 2013, 4.5 star books, crossover adult title, rachel bach, sci fi or futuristic 68 ★★★★½

Fortune’s Pawn: reviewFortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach
Series: Paradox #1
Published by Orbit Books on November 5, 2013
Genres: adult, science fiction
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Devi Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It's a combination that's going to get her killed one day - but not just yet. That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises.

The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

If Sigouney Weaver in Alien met Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, you'd get Deviana Morris -- a hot new mercenary earning her stripes to join an elite fighting force. Until one alien bite throws her whole future into jeopardy

When Fortune’s Pawn landed on my doorstep I regarded it with the usual skepticism. (I know, I’m terrible.) But sometimes taking a chance on something you’ve never heard of pays off in a big way, because I love, love, loved this book! It’s science fiction written like urban fantasy–while I may catch some flack for that description, what I really mean by that is that it’s a well-plotted, complex futuristic story, but it zips along with snappy dialogue and snark more commonly found in UF. And as much as a badass as Devi is, there’s also a definite focus on her love life as well.

If you’re a fan of scifi, here are just a few things I’ve come up with to persuade you to give this series a chance.

5 Reasons to Read Fortune’s Pawn

Devi is really IS like Ripley in Aliens. Marketing copy often makes me laugh rudely, but it is spot-on here. This woman owns a crazy tricked-out space/armor suit with an awesome array of weaponry, knows how to assess a situation for best tactical advantage, is unapologetic about her career ambitions and about her physical needs, and is both uncompromising and realistic in her goals. You rarely come across female characters who push so insistently to the forefront and demand your respect, though the great thing about the first person narration is that you are also privy to the doubts and needs she doesn’t reveal to anyone else.

Smart, snarky attitude Devi is so freaking funny that being in her head kept me laughing throughout the whole book. What a smartass! She is so smart and so strong that I wish I knew her in real life. I’m used to adult scifi being a little more dry in tone, so this was a really fun and unexpected style of narration.

Great world-building I hate to say this, but reading this book made me realize how the world in YA scifi often feels slight or inorganic to the story. There are no shortcuts to laying out this story, and the facts and anecdotes gradually build upon themselves so that you really feel as though you’ve inhabited Devi’s life on this ship.

Diverse Cast of Characters They say that science fiction is the most forward-thinking in terms of representing diversity, and this book is a great example of that. Every single character is memorable and has just enough back story to keep things interesting, including a fragile young psychic, a doctor whose gender raises fascinating discussion, and a vast array of interesting species that I’ll let you discover on your own.

Well-plotted, explosive action sequences You know how it feels like some characters just stumble into hastily sketched action scenes and then it’s over before you’ve even realized you were at a climactic moment? This isn’t one of those stories. Even while Devi is blasting attackers in the middle of battle, she calculates her resources, looks out for her team, and makes logical moves with perfect precision. Rachel Bach writes these scenes in such a visceral way that you can practically feel the impact of combat, and I’m half-convinced that she’s actually lived on a space ship with alien mercenaries.

Surprises Around Every Corner One of the pleasures of not knowing too much about a book is finding out things as the author meant you to. While I’m pretty good about anticipating plot twists, and guessed a few of the ones here, they’re so well done that the knowledge didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story at all. There’s also a fantastic ending–hoo boy, that cliffie is a doozy! It’s one of those that leaves you excited to see what happens next, however, and Orbit has mercifully scheduled the second book to release in spring 2014, so we don’t have to wait a whole year for the sequel.

One quibble…just one.

I have to admit that although there’s a lot of chemistry between Devi and Rupert and I like him, something about this relationship isn’t pulling at me quite yet. Maybe it’s because I’m shallow and I have a hard time getting past the name Rupert? Sue me!  But he’s a nuanced, interesting character, and the secrets he’s hiding have huge ramifications for Devi. The decisions made towards the end of the book are pretty tough, and I grew to like him (and them) more and more throughout the story.

One small quibble isn’t bad, though, especially when there’s so much that had me hopping with excitement. Rachel Bach has shot right up onto my favorite authors list, and I’m so pleased that I’ve found a new series to love. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of adult science fiction fan, I think most readers of urban fantasy or YA science fiction will find Fortune’s Pawn to be an easy crossover, the same way that Written in Red is an easy transition.

SPACE. ALIENS. KICKASS WOMAN. FUN. I can’t wait to see what happens next.


An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

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68 Responses to “Fortune’s Pawn: review”

  1. Mona

    This book has gotten soooo many high reviews! I have got to read it now.

  2. Larissa

    Awesome review Wendy! (:
    It made the book on my radar and I gave it a chance yesterday.
    I hadn’t been able to put it down and just finished it awhile ago c:
    Devi’s just awesome, and that ending has me itching for the next installment.
    Thanks for writing this and allowing me to be aware of this fantastic read <33

  3. Deyse

    Have you realize how urban fantasy girls seems to be a lot more like… girls? ahaha I just read a couple of urban fantasy myself and always had a blast with the heroines of these books. I also agree that adult scifi normally is just to much stoic but I do love YA scifi so I’m looking forward for this book.
    Deyse recently posted…The Seers, by Julianna Scott

  4. Dre @ Sporadic Reads

    This book had me at snarky attitude and great world-building. Sometimes, a book flops for me when I can’t imagine the world the characters are living on. I always want to imagine myself in it. Also, I love actinon-packed sci-fi books. This book really sounds awesome! Fantastic review :)
    Dre @ Sporadic Reads recently posted…My Bookish Wish List

  5. Sam @ Realm of Fiction

    Rupert? Oh, Wendy, I don’t blame you. Shallow as it may be, the wrong name can be enough to keep me at arm’s length. Rupert is up there with Richard and Oliver for me. (And I hope no Ruperts, Richards or Olivers ever read this comment!). This book sounds fantastic though. I’m surprised that I haven’t come across it before – it sounds exactly like something that I’d like. I can already tell that Devi will be a character I’ll enjoy. The snarky types are some of my favourites. :) Awesome review! I’m glad that this was such a pleasant surprise for you.
    Sam @ Realm of Fiction recently posted…Mini-Reviews: Cracked by Eliza Crewe & Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah, I’m glad I’m not the only superficial one, Sam. Oliver and Richard aren’t favorites of mine either, but they’re still better than Rupert, imo. (I even started joke-pronouncing his name Roo-pair like Stephen Colbert’s last name, but it didn’t help.)

      It is a really, really fun book. I hope that people find their way to it, and I hope you love it as much as I think you will!

  6. A Canadian Girl

    Wendy, I’m not a fan of sci-fi, but I still really like the sound of this one. It’s hard to find books that have smart, snarky heroines, great worldbuilding and a memorable cast of secondary characters so I’ll add this one to my wishlist. Thanks for the recommendation!
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Split Second

    • Wendy Darling

      YES, IT IS ALL THOSE THINGS. I really do think it’s an accessible book even if you aren’t normally a scifi fan; I guess it depends on what it is about scifi that you enjoy or turns you off! I’m glad you’re going to give it a chance, though.

  7. Jen @ YA Romantics

    Ha — our reading tastes overlap quite a bit, but this is where we diverge. I’m a very picky sci-fi reader. I like futuristic books, I like books with premises based in science, but action-heavy stories set in space are not really my thing at all. Stories about aliens are not usually for me. (Not sure if there are aliens in here or not.)
    I don’t mind the name Rupert — a guy named Rupert must have a British accent, right?

    Jen @ YA Romantics
    Jen @ YA Romantics recently posted…Freebie Friday! My Favorite Books of 2013: Historical and Contemporary

    • Wendy Darling

      Ahh, I hear you, Jen. I do like actiony scifi somtimes the way I like mindless action movies, but this one is a SMART action-based book in that genre.

      There are aliens in this book, but they are very different from the typical “alien” feel–they all feel very natural/organic to the story and society. I didn’t expect to like some of them, but they all really grew on me!

  8. Sandy Williams

    lol I winced at the name Rupert, as well, but it and he completely grew on me! I think I love him more for it. Of course, I married someone named Herbert Eugene. In comparison, Rupert doesn’t sound so bad. ;-)

    Your right about the characters in this book. I thought I was going to hate the bird, but he grew on me. So did the crazy, hippy roommate.

    Fantastic review! I’m going to share because I really, really want the world to read and fall in love with this book.

    • Wendy Darling

      Sandy! This is so weird, because I originally had a line in this review saying that I hadn’t been as excited about an adult crossover novel since Written in Red and The Shadow Reader, and if people trusted me on those they should trust me on this! And now I feel like an idiot because you loved this book too, hah.

      I feel really bad about the name thing, but I had such a wincing reaction to it whenever it came up that I had to mention it. I REALLY liked him too (and I don’t even dislike the name, per se)–I just had a hard time swooning over a character wit that name. But yeah, it’s shallow of me and I know I’m being ridiculous about it.

      And thanks! So glad you stopped by. :)

  9. Giselle

    I don’t even think I’d heard of this one before! It sounds so different and I love the sounds of Devi already! Snark and smarts – can’t go wrong there. And you’re right adult books in this genre are usually so serious. Not that Ive read that many but >.< Great review, Wendy! I love it when there are ANY twists I don't guess or at least am satisfied the author went in an awesome direction with it. I'll have to check this one out!!

    • Wendy Darling

      This is SO much fun, Giselle–I think you’d like Deviana a lot. It’s funny, because I read a bunch of reviews of this book today and a lot of them referred to this as a space opera, and I dunno–I wonder if the implied downgrading from “real sci fi” would have happened if this were a male character written by a male author, with the exact same story. I like the book’s irreverent tone, I’m so tired of books that take themselves so seriously, regardless of the genre.

      Let me know what you think when you get around to it!

  10. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    This one sounds pretty awesome, Wendy! I love fantasy and sci-fi, and if it has the particular kind of snark I so love in my UF stories, this is sure to be a win for me as well. You got me at strong female character who can assess a situation and who is unapologetic in her choices. We need more of those female MCs for sure.

    Great review, thanks for sharing :)
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Tangling with the CEO – Annie Seaton

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh yeah, she is snarky and just plain FUN. Similarly take-charge type of UF heroine, except better equipped, better judgment, and just…better. I bet you’d enjoy it. And I agree, I’d love to see more heroines like this! The author’s agent (who is an author herself) was telling me on Twitter that she loves the heroine in Rachel Bach’s fantasy series as well. I have a hit or miss relationship with fantasy, but if it’s coming from the same person who wrote this particular character, that is very promising.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yesssss, please read it, Mary! It is awesome.

      And yeah….I’m glad I’m not the only one who is having a hard time getting on board with Rupert. Poor guy, he really is great, his name just doesn’t do him justice.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah. It’s so superficial, but I had a hard time getting past that name, hah.

      I AM A HUGE BSG and ALIEN fan. Not a surprise to me that you are, too. And I would bet good money that you’d love this author.

        • Wendy Darling

          It’s terrible, because I really DO like him a lot–and there is a lot of chemistry, physical and verbal, between them. I hate that I am so hung up on this, but I really think the name is what’s causing this mental block. “Oh, Ruperrrrrt” does not come to mind when you’re thinking of sexy times with some guy…

          Not as bad as Eugene, though.

  11. Candace

    Yeah, the name Rupert doesn’t work so well for me either. I hadn’t heard of this book before but it sounds great. I agree that it’s sometimes nice to pick up books we hadn’t heard of because we have no expectations and we’re more easily pleased (I suppose). I totally get what you mean about the UF comparison and that definitely REALLY appeals to me. That description right there is enough for me to add this one to the WL. I’m all over it!
    Candace recently posted…Adult Review: Must Love Otters by Eliza Gordon

    • Wendy Darling

      I often don’t reread synopses of books before I start them because I want to be surprised–that’s really helped me recently with books like MORE THAN THIS by Patrick Ness, but in the end the writing and plot and characters still carry the most weight.

      I’m glad the UF tone in this scifi book appeals to you! I hope we see more of this sort of style in the future.

  12. Alise

    This one is totally new to me so I can definitely understand your skepticism! But wow, you have sold me. I really need some GOOD sci-fi, and this sounds like a winner. The best books are the ones that surprise you!
    Alise recently posted…Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

    • Wendy Darling

      This is very, very, very good scifi. And I totally agree, books that surprise you are the best! Particularly since we bloggers read so much.

  13. Valerie

    This sounds AMAZING. I love sci-fi that reads… not like sci-fi. That does sound bad, doesn’t it? But I know exactly what you mean; Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace series was like that for me. I need to give this book a shot when it comes out. I’m almost positive I’ll like it.

    By the way, has TMG started always reviewed the odd adult book? I like it. A lot!

    Lastly, am I the only one who kinda sees Jamie Campbell Bower in the face on the cover? I had a hard time realizing it was depicting a woman because I thought it was him with big lips.
    Valerie recently posted…Worldbuilding

    • Wendy Darling

      I know what you mean, too–sometimes the tone of adult scifi novels can seem really monotonous or flat, and I like a more entertaining narrative. I need to try Grimspace sometime, I hear such good things about that series! I really liked her YA series, so it’s likely I’ll like her adult one, too.

      We have always occasionally reviewed adult crossover titles, but we don’t do it that often. I’ve read more adult fiction this year, though, and I’m not sure if you read romance at all, but we’ll have an announcement soon on something else we’re working on.

      And now that you mention it, it DOES look like JCB with Restylane lips!

      • Valerie

        Given how you premised that, I am VERY excited for what you are announcing soon. I do read romance, though not as much as I’d like because I’m not sure where to start. *crosses fingers*
        Valerie recently posted…Worldbuilding

        • Wendy Darling

          Ah, I hope you’ll be interested in what we’re doing soon, Valerie, because I have the same problem–I really enjoy romance novels, but it’s hard to find the good ones. It’s also not a genre that gets too much respect, so…we’re aiming to change that in our own small way.

    • Wendy Darling

      Maybe it’s like a digitized photograph? Similar to the way THESE BROKEN STARS actually was based on a photo shoot but then clearly turned into a drawing somehow?

      Believe it–it’s Ellen freaking Ripley, but way snarkier. And minus the hanger-on kid and cat. (Ripley would be an AWESOME name for a kid!)

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah, III know! I was saying to someone earlier that it’s a perfectly fine name, it’s just not a sexy name.

      And yeah, the way a lot of scifi is narrated kind of loses me, so it’s great to have a lively, engaging POV. I hope you like it when you get around to it!

  14. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    Wendy, I love discovering an amazing new book, so this is going straight onto my TBR. It’s a shame you aren’t fully involved with the romance as yet, but that’s such a small bump on a smooth road. This book is right up my alley, so thanks for putting it on my radar, Wendy – fantastic review as always! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I am really interested in what you think of this one, Keertana–I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it. The romance actually is very well done–it’s gradually built up, I like them both separately and together, and there’s definitely a lot of chemistry. I think I really do just have trouble with the name Rupert, hah. So awful of me!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, awesome! If you like action that is really smart and well choreographed, you’ll appreciate what she did here. Scifi can be so much fun when it’s done well, I’m glad you’re going to give this one a chance.

  15. Melliane

    Oh it sounds really nice and I’m glad you liked it but I don’t think it’s for me… I really have a problem about space book…

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah–on the one hand I think you might like it because it’s written a lot like UF, Melliane, but if you’re not into space, it might not work for you. I hear she also has a fantasy series, though!

  16. Lucy

    Whoa, Wendy this was not on my radar at all but it sounds fabulous! Yay for happy surprises. I like a book with some good snark and snappy dialogue, and Devi sounds like an awesome character. I’m definitely intrigued!

    • Wendy Darling

      I know, this wasn’t on my radar at all either! Thank goodness for publicists who know you better than you know yourself, hah. Please do give this a chance, Lucy! It’s fantastic.

  17. Jenny @ Supernatural Snark

    Rupert is kind of a tricky name to get past Wendy, I can’t blame you for that in the least! I love when a book I have absolutely no expectations for just blows me away, it’s always the best feeling. You had me sold at snarky attitude and the Ripley comparison, so I will be checking this one out for sure. Thanks for the recommendation!

    PS – It’s been a while since I’ve been here, I LOVE your header so much! It’s absolutely gorgeous:)

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah, well–Rupert is a perfectly respectable name, it’s just not a very sexy name, if you see what I mean. He’s a very appealing character, though, and I really do think my block with the romance has a lot to do with the name! Oh, well.

      I LOVED this book, I hope you do too, Jenny. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ooops! I knew I was going to get in trouble for saying that. :P

      You should definitely read this one, Kate–it’s very science-y science fiction, which I know you will appreciate. Plus, SPACE.

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