Fleet Inquisitor (Under Jurisdiction)
by Susan R. Matthews
Cover Artist: Kurt Miller
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476781945
Date: 04 October 2016 List Price $17.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Power and control are the basis of rule. Some forms of governance are benevolent; others bask in control and go to great measure to avoid being contested. Truth comes out in many ways. Inquisitors use the power of defined torture to bring truth and render decisions. Fleet Inquisitor is the combination of the first three novels in the Under Jurisdiction series first published in the late 1990's.
Andrej Koscuisko is the scion of a powerful family. He wants one thing, his father another. A great neurosurgeon, he is forced to train to be an Inquisitor. The first novel is the story of his training. It introduces this dark and disturbing world. His fellow trainee, Mergau Noycannir, was also sent to learn the art. She sees a competitor one who might outshine her, he doesn't see the seriousness of the journey. They must go through the various levels proving their skills and knowledge.
Kuscuisko continues to be the main Character in the second of the three tales. His relationships and abilities continue to be explored as well as the depths he is willing to explore as he seeks and finds truth.
In the third volume, Kuscuisko is no longer the primary character, but he does make an appearance. The focus switches to Bench Investigator Garol Vogel. He must unwind the mystery of a series of attacks or a whole people will be condemned to torture and subservience.
This is a dark universe. The worlds are governed by an authority which is willing to use any means to stay in power. Slavery is legal and torture a tool. Readers are thrust into this universe unprepared for the brutality and dehumanization which is reality. Part of the story is to sink into the mind of Kuscuisko whose very empathy allows him to make great leaps, but also to take joy in the search of truth through the violence of torture.
I struggled to get into this compilation. The darkness was hard to push through, but once I got into the flow, I found it hard to put down. This is not a series with good and bad guys, the characters are both formed by the system they live in.
I found myself somewhat disappointed that the Kuscuisko wasn't explored a little better. He has a lot of back story left unexplored, which may come in future novels. He is haunted by his demons and this is the hope which may underlie his flawed character.
The shift to a new main character in the third volume was also off-putting. In truth, Garol Vogel, is a much more sympathetic character following a more typical path. Although he is part of the system, he does not find joy in its application.
The setting is one of the main highlights of the series. Readers are slowly allowed to see the brutal system which rules the interactions between the various species as repressive. The question is how much does it come into play for the average person. In some cases, the system allows for brutality beyond imagination.
This series is not for everyone. The casual brutality, slavery, and wanton torture will cause issues for some readers. Additionally, the intimate scenes were made awkward by the terminology used and the dubious consent which is always a part of slave and master relations.