Light of Impossible Stars

By Gareth L. Powell

Rating: 3 stars

The final book in the Embers of War trilogy sees the sentient former warship Trouble Dog battle-scarred and on the run from the Fleet of Knives. Along with her last remaining sibling, her brother Adalwolf, she and her crew make for the area of space known as the Intrusion, where our universe intersects with another, which the Fleet seems to avoid, as do the dragons which, it turns out, are real and haunt the hypervoid.

This book introduces another new PoV character, Cordelia Pa, who lives on the flat plates that hover near the Intrusion, inexplicable artefacts left behind by the Hearthers, the same species that created the Fleet of Knives and which disappeared over five thousand years ago. Cordelia should be an interesting character, but I didn’t really get much of a feel for her. She was plucked from her home as a teenager, four years ago by the crew of her father’s ship – a father she didn’t know she had at that point. We pick up with her four years later, after being put through flight school and then she’s thrust into a leadership position on her father’s spaceship when he disappears unexpectedly, so there’s a lot going on for her, but that doesn’t really come through for me in the writing. If she’d been introduced more slowly, maybe in the previous book, with more time to get to know her and what’s strange about her, then it might have worked better.

We don’t see as much of Ona Sudak in this book, but what do see of leaves me sort of puzzled. She’s someone who seemed to be growing as a person in the first book, but when given the opportunity in the second book, fell back into old patterns, repeating her previous mistake on a potentially much bigger scale. Here, Captain Konstanz gives her several opportunities to reflect on what she’s done but she just doubles down, and tragedy follows. I’m not really sure what to make of her, other than to wish that the firing squad had had their way with her at the start of the previous book.

It’s lovely to see the bond between Trouble Dog and Konstanz deepen in this book, even if it is through shared loss. At the start of the story, Trouble Dog was conditioned to not be more than mildly sorry by death and loss. She’s overcome that and is coming into full-scale grief here, growing in a way that Sudak never did.

[spoilers removed]

I didn’t think that the conflict with the dragons was hugely satisfying. You’ve got Cordelia moving from a position of “we can fight” to “run awayyyyyy” within the space of a chapter with little explanation; the Scourers retreating with no explanation; and then there’s the throwaway line about them being intelligent, but no attempt at dialogue or negotiation ever being attempted.

There’s a lot of big ideas here, and I loved the found family. Lots of little niggles though mean that although the series started well, there were issues as it went on.

I’ve been pretty negative in this review, but I enjoyed spending time with Trouble Dog, Sal and the others. I just wonder if it could have done with more attention from the editor.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785655241

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