cover image Winds of Marque

Winds of Marque

Bennett R. Coles. Harper Voyager, $16.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-282035-8

His Imperial Majesty’s solar sailors take on space pirates in this fizzy, unstable mix of retro and future naval adventures. Liam Blackwood is an experienced second-in-command frustrated at being passed over for a promotion to captain of an interstellar vessel powered by solar sails. He must mediate between a competent but distant new captain and a crew excited by the prospect of prize money for taking down pirates. Tasked with an unorthodox, undercover mission to root out a hidden pirate base that threatens to interfere with a possible war against the buglike Sectoids, Blackwood needs to please his commander, Lady Sophia Riverton, and keep her hastily assembled crew—including his former commander’s privileged protégé, Cadet James Highcastle—on task. His affection for sailor Amelia Virtue, whom he promoted to petty officer, also complicates his precarious position. Coles’s setting is a mishmash of sails on towering masts that are manipulated by hand, pistols in braces, and artificial gravity; in mixed-gender crews, lacy-sleeved officers receive forehead-knuckle salutes from the common swabbies. Science fiction fans of the Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin sailing sagas will likely thrill as the cannons are run out for battles in space. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Morhaim Literary. (Apr.)