Intrasolar cadet Tom Raines helps bring the Insignia trilogy to an appropriately explosive conclusion.
As the book opens, Tom is feeling the consequences of the stunt with which he closed Vortex (2013), a spectacular thumbing of the nose directed at the oligarchs who control Earth’s resources and governments. A crackdown at the Pentagonal Spire sees a newly installed commander exerting tight-fisted, military control over the nominally civilian cadets. Kincaid raises the stakes with abandon, introducing a midnovel calamity that strains credulity—but so sure is her control over her protagonist’s character arc and so sincere her commitment to good, old-fashioned science-fiction ideals that it works. Tom’s Spire nemesis, Lt. Blackburn, is close to thwarting Joseph Vengerov, the magnate who seems poised to realize his dreams of total world domination, but a twist that’s both chilling and heartbreaking stretches Tom to his limits. Despair and hope, memory and oblivion, love and hate all come together in a climax that employs the trilogy’s greatest strength—the friendships forged among Tom and his fellow cadets—as the key to victory. Kincaid’s trademark spectacular action sequences and affectionate banter make room for Tom’s coming-of-age without compromising what readers have come to love.
An unabashedly optimistic denouement is the perfect ending for this series that’s unafraid to ask readers to grapple with big ideas—it’s the joyful flip side of Feed. (Science fiction. 12 & up)