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Marque and Reprisal by Elizabeth Moon
Review by Ernest Lilley
Del Rey / Random House HCVR  ISBN/ITEM#: 0345447581
Date: September 2004 List Price 24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In Trading in Danger, at the beginning of the series, Ky Vatta found herself drummed out of her planet's space academy and relegated to command of a worn out old freighter on its way to the scrapyard. Her shipping company family never much wanted a warrior in the family, so they weren't all that sorry things turned out this way, but by the end of the book Ky had established herself as a trader that could cut a sharp bargain as well as shoot straight...and had won back a lot of the self confidence that the academy debacle had cost her.

But though she's won a private battle, she's about to find out that a very public war is about to be waged, and the destruction of her family's home base, killing all but a few relatives, is the real first strike. If Ky has anything to say about it, Vatta Transport will rise again, and her family will be avenged.

During the course of the book she begins to acquire the tools she'll need to make that happen. First off, there's a "letter of marque" that arrives from her home world, courtesy of an instructor that appears to have considerably more than book knowledge when it comes to interstellar intrigue. With it, she's empowered to take the fight to any pirates she happens to come across, providing her creaking, unarmed freighter can best one. Then she acquires some worthy companions, as any hero needs to. Arriving with news and more from home is her vivacious cousin Stella, who turns out to be more than the pretty face that Ky's always lost to in social competition, an adolescent cousin who's even less ready to deal with the loss of his family that Ky, and a rakish lady killer named Rafe...who turns out to be something of a cross between James Bond and Han Solo, a highly placed covert agent working for the communications company that has a stranglehold on faster than light information transfer. All of which is especially handy since the comm net is down, and pirates appear to be the blame. If only Ky had a ship that could fight.

The action heats up in this second book, as the trading drops off. Personally, I miss the latter, as it adds real dimension to the otherwise fun but flat universe of space-swashbuckler. The story is moving more into the territory of Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy than Andre Norton's Solar Queen stories, but there's no question about Ms. Moon's ability to write about space combat. Marque and Reprisal stands on its own quite well, as does the plucky Ky, cut off from communication with home, but you might as well pick up both books and read them straight through for maximum fun.

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