Second entry in Moon’s latest spacefaring saga (Trading in Danger, 2003)—and it’s a corker.
After her adventures in the inaugural volume, young ex-military Captain Kylara Vatta, child of a powerful space-trading family, now struggles to get her ancient, creaky ship spaceworthy, working, trading, and making money. Assisted by Aunt Gracie’s diamond-stuffed fruitcake, Ky hires mercenaries to protect her and other independent ships as they attempt to reach planet Lastway, incommunicado since the attack that crippled most of the spaceways’ ansibles (instantaneous communicators). Meanwhile, unknown to Ky, a devastating assault on planet Slotter Key destroys Vatta HQ and kills most of her family; more ansibles are attacked or jammed, so it’s not clear whether the target is ISC, owner and operator of the ansibles, Vatta, or both—since Vatta supported ISC’s benevolent monopoly. When Ky learns the dreadful news, she vows to survive, assist other Vatta survivors, discover who the enemy is and why they attacked, and destroy them. She considers piracy, but the mercenaries won’t contract with pirates. She picks up two Vatta survivors, agent Stella and ship’s apprentice Toby, and gets the assistance of the roguish and dangerously charming Rafe Madeston, a renegade ISC scion and secret agent. The group encounters, possibly by chance, another ship registered to Vatta. But who’s aboard? Friend or foe? Family or conspirators? Ky’s life, and that of her ship and crew, depends on her finding the right answers.
Excellent plotting and characters support the utterly realistic action sequences: swift, jolting, confusing, and merciless. Equally significant, Moon doesn’t neglect violence’s aftermath.