Trading in Danger (Vatta's War, #1)Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came to this from a first chapter included at the end of the kindle edition of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. This is a different sort of space opera from Ancillary Justice, but the opening chapter was so gripping that I immediately ordered a copy so that I could read the rest of it.

The universe it is set in is sort of recognisable as a fast forward on our current one. The initial setting is in a naval academy that would be recognisable to anyone with military experience (and the author served in the USMC, no doubt she drew on that). That’s just the starting point for the story though, and most of the action takes place on board an interstellar freighter.

The story is told mostly by the main character (Ky Vatta), although there are a couple of short switches of viewpoint to her father. This limited omniscience drives the story well, although the only character that is well developed is Ky herself. That said, she is a very interesting character, she knows she has flaws and tries hard to come to terms with them. The pace of the story is very good, and it kept me reading to find out what happened next, even getting to the end of the chapter wasn’t enough to stop and I found myself reading it when I was walking along the train platform at the end of my commute!

In outline, Ky is kicked out of the local naval academy for helping the wrong guy. Her family run their own merchant shipping line and they send her off with an experienced crew in a ship destined for the breakers yard at the end of the trip. She succumbs to the Vatta instinct for ‘trade and profit’ and decides to make a side trip to fill a need for agricultural supplies at her first port of call. This takes her to another system. On the way in her ship’s hyperspace drive fails, and while she’s trying to scrape up funding for both the repairs and the tractor parts a war starts.

From there it becomes a very interesting sequence of events in dealing with the crisis and its fallout. Ky’s ship ends up being used to intern the captains and senior officers of the other ships in the system, largely because it has no working hyperspace engine. This causes another set of interesting twists and turns in the story. Throughout the background to this we see a few glimpses of other things happening in other parts of the universe, which cleverly expands the background and lets the reader join some of the dots before Ky does it.

Overall an enjoyable and compelling read.

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