cover image The Shattered Skies

The Shattered Skies

John Birmingham. Del Rey, $28.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-984820-55-6

Birmingham follows The Cruel Stars with more heart-pounding, breakneck action in the fight for survival between factions with differing views on humanity. The crew of the Defiant, led by Lucinda Hardy, managed to survive an attack from the Sturm Empire intended to destroy all humans with cybernetic enhancements. They were also able to rescue Princess Alessia Szu Suri sur Montanblanc, the sole surviving heir of a multi-planet-ruling corporate monarchy. Now, with the help of war hero Adm. Frazer McLennan; his acerbic AI companion, Herodotus; and Lucinda’s childhood friend turned pirate, Sephina L’trel, they secure a Sturm-occupied station and set off in search of fellow survivors. While Sephina hunts down secret digital backups of Alessia’s family so that the rulers can be reborn, Lucinda and the Defiant make the difficult choice to ally with their former enemies, the Javan Empire. With distrust and secret dealings on both sides, the shaky alliance prepares for a major assault from the Sturm. By shifting perspectives between factions, Birmingham allows his charismatic characters, especially bored tween Alessia and sassy Herodotus, to shine, adding humanity to the relentless and sweeping battle scenes. Fans of epic, military space opera with lots of last minute reversals will gobble this up. Agent: Russel Galen, Scovil Galen Gosh Literary. (Jan.)