Almost a year ago now (!), I made a post about the BSFA shortlist. I wanted to read and review all the books before the winner announcement but well, I read all the books but I kind of failed with the reviewing part. So here we are, months later, with my opinions about the two novels I didn’t get to review sooner.
Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell (Embers of War #1)
The sentient warship Trouble Dog was built for violence, yet following a brutal war, she is disgusted by her role in a genocide. Stripped of her weaponry and seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. When a civilian ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, are sent on a rescue mission.
Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing spaceship. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. A straightforward rescue turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe find themselves at the centre of a conflict that could engulf the entire galaxy. If she is to save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight…
This book has been on my radar since its release, it was very hyped up by everyone and a lot of bloggers that I follow love the series so I was definitely curious. It also helps that it’s a space opera following multiple characters including a sentient ship! I’m always here for sentient ships, they’re almost always my favorite characters in books (Ancillary Justice, Revenant Gun, Artificial Condition are good examples of stories with great sentient ships). All the elements that I usually like were reunited. I did enjoy the book immensely while reading it: the characters were interesting, the intrigue was fascinating, each time I finished a chapter, I wanted to start another one.
However, as much as I really enjoyed the book while I was reading it, it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I read it a few months ago and I completely forgot about it, I couldn’t tell you how it ended, how many POVs there were or a single thing about the plot. It had to read four reviews in order to remember the overall plot.
Is it a bad thing? Well no, I really liked my reading experience, I had a great time and I think I would still recommend this book today. However, I can’t say that it is one of my favorite reads of this year even if, when I finished it, I thought it was. It’s just not memorable enough if the only thing I can tell you about the book is: “it has sentient ships yay!”.
So, in the end, I’m pretty surprised that it won the 2018 BSFA award for Best Novel, especially considering the other nominees. In fact, I would have been happier if the winner had been any of the other four nominated books (Revenant Gun, Rosewater, Before Mars, Europe at Dawn).
It was a nice read for sure, I don’t want to seem like I didn’t like the book because I definitely did. It was just a bit forgettable so I can’t really stand by my original 4.5 rating? If I had to give a rating now, it would probably be 3 or 3.5 stars.
Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson (The Fracture Europe Sequence #4)
Alice works at the Scottish Embassy in Tallinn in Estonia as a member of the Cultural Section. When two men bring her the jewelled skull of a Scottish saint her world gets turned on its head, and she becomes the latest recruit to Les Coureurs des Bois.
On a Greek island Benno is just one of hundreds of refuges dreaming of a new life in Continental Europe. After hatching an audacious escape plan, he may just get his dream, but at the price of serving some powerful mysterious new masters.
Rudi and Rupert, the seasoned Coureur and the scientist in exile from a pocket universe, discover that someone they thought long dead is very much still alive. Not only that, but the now defunct Line – the railway that once bisected the European continent – may be being used for nefarious means.
On a completely different note, I very much enjoyed Europe at Dawn while I was reading it and I like it even more now that I’m thinking about it again. If you have been following the blog for any length of time, you know I absolutely adore Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Sequence and Europe at Dawn was a fascinating conclusion to the quartet.
Though it is not my favorite addition to the series (the 1st and 3rd books remain my faves), it adds new elements that weren’t explored at in the other books. I won’t say too much but I loved how Hutchinson discussed the treatment of refugees in this universe. Benno, a new character introduced in this book as a child living with other refugees on an island which doesn’t belong to any country, almost dethroned Rudy as my favorite character in the series. This is no small feat since I absolutely love Rudy.
I’m truly in awe of Hutchinson’s craft, the world he created is so clever and so (sadly) realistic. I know I will be re-reading this series multiple times in the future. I originally gave this 4 stars but now that I’m thinking about it more, it’s a five stars book for sure, I really loved everything about it. It sadly didn’t win the BFSA but the entire series is wonderful. If you like spy stories, alternate realites and discussions about current issues, I couldn’t recommend this series enough.
What are your thoughts on those books ? Have you read any of them ?