Top critical review
A mixed blessing
Reviewed in the United States on March 25, 2021
I enjoyed the first series. The author's portrayal of space battles was very well done. His time in the Navy shown through.
His world-building was top notch.
If you enjoyed those elements then this book will also scratch those itches. Now, Blackjack gets to fight new alien species with new tactics and approaches.
** Very minor spoilers follow **
You do not really find out much about the "Enigma" race. They remain true to their name. We see a couple of their colonies. They are made to prize privacy above all else.
Some of the logic for the race is a bit of a stretch. While humans are characterized as curious and social, which ultimately led the Earthlings to reach for the stars, the Enigma race is said to be non-curious and pathologically private. Some of the bit characters in the novel actually break the fourth wall, ask the question that the readers are wondering, "how does a race with these characteristics reach for the stars?" The answer is unsatisfying and a little disappointing given the top flight world-building in the previous series.
Some things started to wear thin by the end of the first series. For example, the cat fighting between Mrs. Blackjack and "that woman" got old, and I skipped two of the books in the series based on reviews indicating that that conflict was a major part of the book.
Alas, in a highly improbable turn of events, the co-president loses her election, and is sent with the fleet as an envoy.
Then, as improbable builds to incredulous, the first planet the fleet visits happens to be the POW installation where her husband has been held captive for years and years. Really?!? Yes.
The previous romantic involvement between the co-president and Blackjack is played up, and then, more or less just deflates without resolution.
If you did not enjoy the extensive recaps by the end of the first series then sorry, you are going to see lots and lots of recaps in this book too.
Blackjack becomes more erratic in this book too. Blackjack's actions border on, or actual broach, recklessness.
The attacks that he makes in the former Syndic world to release the prisoners seems excessive and hardly justified.
Mrs. Blackjack and Blackjack end up assigned to the same ship, and, while they cannot co-habitate, Mrs. Blackjack can natter at him while on duty like a married couple of forty years might on a porch. That whole scenario seems illogical in the extreme. Really, the Fleet seems to have rules on rules on rules about everything. In the centuries of existence the Fleet must have developed regulations about not allowing married couples to be in the chain of command. She should have left in Alliance space in command of a defense force, not out with her husband on his same ship with him in command of her.
I bought this book and the next in the series in one fell swoop, before I read this one.
That said, even though I own it, I am not sure if I will read the next one.