From the versatile author of military-SF yarns and, most recently, The Speed of Dark (Jan. 2003), the kickoff to a new spacefaring/coming-of-age saga.
Drummed out of planet Slotter Key’s space academy for helping a colleague who then betrayed her, Kylara Vatta returns home to face her father. Rather surprisingly, Gerard, CFO of the huge and powerful spacegoing Vatta Transport, gives Ky the captaincy of a ship. There are, of course, drawbacks: the ship is creaky and superannuated, destined to be sold for scrap. Ky, however, will have the assistance of the doughty, tough, and experienced Quincy Robin as crew chief and Gary Tobin as loadmaster. She’s reluctant to scrap a serviceable vessel—but how to obtain the huge sums necessary to pay for upgrades and repairs? Planet Belinta needs agricultural machinery and will pay well to get it; and said machinery is available in the Sabine system. During the voyage, though, the ship’s star drive goes down, and the crew arrives on the brink of a war between Sabine Prime and Secundus. Someone destroys the system’s ansibles (instantaneous communicators), so Kylara can’t contact her father for funds or advice. Unable to make repairs, she casts off from the orbital station—it might be attacked next—and moves away on in-system drive. Soon, however, mercenaries hired by Secundus intercept and board the ship. Ky has no choice but to play along in a situation where the slightest mistake could get her crew killed or her ship destroyed.
A passable setup, with absorbing, fairly low-key complications and agreeable character development: an auspicious series opener.