In ‘Darkship Thieves’, space opera debut by Sarah A. Hoyt, Kit and Thena barely escape Earth. In the long awaited sequel, ‘Darkship Renegades’, they try their luck again. It’s not their choice as returning to Eden alive marks them as traitors. They face trial and the political machinations of a man who would rule Eden, a place that has, until this point, flourished without a ‘head of state’, resulting in a chain of events which culminate in another daring escape from Earth’s orbit. The mission: to retrieve and interpret the technology to grow powertrees, thus freeing Eden from the need to harvest powerpods from Earth’s trees. The complications: Multiple and varied.
Kit is seriously injured before the team of four can depart. Doc Bartholomew, one of the last surviving ‘mules’ (genetically enhanced men designed to rule Earth), performs a risky procedure to save him. The results are not wholly expected and complicate the mission. The ship assigned to the team begins to fall apart shortly after departure and while Thena and the fourth member of their crew, Zen, move from one repair to the other, Kit slowly recovers and changes. When they arrive on Earth, he is not himself.
The success of the mission depends on many factors and Thena has to solve puzzles and fight for her life and that of her husband before she can attempt to deliver Eden from a dictator-in-waiting.
Sarah Hoyt does a really nice job of reintroducing her characters and their world. Though it has been a number of years since I read ‘Darkship Thieves’, Kit and Thena quickly became familiar once more. The introduction of Kit’s ‘sister’, Zen, another clone of Jarl (another ‘mule’), was a nice twist. The complications of Kit’s recovery were truly disturbing and the examination of what it is to be human quite fascinating. The plot is concise and there are hints of further plots waiting in the wings, ideas and directions the author might explore in the next book.
I did have difficulty staying focused, however. The author clearly loves her characters and her world. Unfortunately, she indulges herself in expressing that love a little too often and in the wrong places. Naturally, there is a story behind the ‘mules’ and their relationship with humanity. This is explored and explained in the first novel and further examination is warranted in ‘Darkship Renegades’. It is relevant to the plot. The great swathes of exposition interjected between dialogue and action were distracting, sometimes overwhelming and often repetitive or redundant. I kept finding myself flipping ahead a few pages to get back to the action or conversation and then having to flip back to remind myself what a character had said earlier. A minor quibble as Thena’s voice is engaging. But at four hundred pages, ‘Darkship Renegades’ represents an investment of time. Four hundred pages can flow seamlessly or they can stop and stutter.
Regardless, I am interested in the continuing adventures of Kit and Thena. I’d like to see the fallout of the ‘little’ revolution on Earth and the future of Eden. The romantic within wants to know if they start a family. Of course, they’ve barely survived two trips to Earth, so it’s completely selfish of me to want them to attempt another. But that’s readers for you.
(pub: Baen. 400 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $ 9.33 (US) £ 9.45 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-45163-852-3)