BooksOfTheMoon

Prime Deceptions

By Valerie Valdes

Rating: 4 stars

The second book in the adventures of Captain Eva Innocente picks up about six months after the first, with the crew of La Sirena Negra now picking up missions from Eva’s sister, Mari, to harass The Fridge, the organised crime ring that Eva thought had kidnapped Mari and forced her to work for them to pay her ransom in the first book. Now the group that Mari works for offers them a mission to find a missing scientist (and also, coincidentally, the brother of new engineer Sue, who was also kidnapped by The Fridge). Unfortunately, the trail leads Eva to the site of her greatest failure, and something she’s been running from for years.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s fast-paced, full of action, and a lot of fun. Eva is a great protagonist: hot-headed, always preferring to look after she leaps, and full of enough angst to satisfy a gaggle of emos. The rest of the crew are still not as well-developed, although there was a slightly delightful geek romance going on (which self-absorbed Eva obviously didn’t catch on to until way later than she should have). I was disappointed that although Leroy made an appearance, it was more a cameo than anything else. He had a really interesting background that I would have loved to see explored in more detail.

I was also a bit disappointed that the amorous emperor from the first book pretty much disappeared in this one, hand-waved away with a one-line explanation. After his return at the end of the last one, I thought he’d play more of a part here. Oh well, that still left plenty for the crew to get their teeth into.

In the last book, we had a pop-culture reference in the shape of Portal guns. Valdes goes one better here, by introducing evil Pok√©mon (there’s another one later one, but given the glee I felt when I figured it out [much later than I should have!], I’ll not spoil it for viewers at home).

This is a really fun series. I don’t speak Spanish at all, but I’m happy to treat the Spanish language stuff as set dressing, something that adds atmosphere without necessarily needing to go into it in great detail (at least I hope not, since I rarely reached for Google Translate). There’s another book in the series coming, and I look forward to spending more time with Eva, Vakar and the rest of the crew of La Sirena Negra.

Book details

ISBN: 9780356514437
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 2020

Chilling Effect

By Valerie Valdes

Rating: 4 stars

Eva Innocente is the captain of the small freighter La Sirena Negra (or The Black Mermaid for those of us who don’t speak Spanish). After some dodgy stuff in her past, she’s trying to go straight, and then she discovers that her sister has been kidnapped by the ruthless organised crime organisation known as The Fridge. Eva will do whatever she has to to free her sister, and if that means giving up her crew and the life she’s built, then so be it.

This was a fun, if fairly episodic, space opera, with Eva dashing between assignments for The Fridge, inevitably getting into trouble at each stop, and trying to keep everything from her crew for as long as possible. There’s a creepy guy who makes a pass at her at one of these who Eva turns down. Except that he turns out to be an emperor who won’t take no for an answer, and keeps popping up after that with his fleet, trying to add her to his harem. Oh, and there’s psychic cats.

Apart from Eva, the crew of La Sirena Negra don’t get much characterisation, which is a shame, since there’s a lot of potential there, especially for Leroy, who spent years as a “meat-puppet soldier”, with his body being piloted remotely in some unknown war, and who now has PTSD. There’s also Pink, the ship’s medic, who also served with Eva in her shady past, and Min, the pilot, who spends more time linked to the ship than her own body. And then there’s Vakar, the new engineer. He’s the only non-human (other than the cats) on the ship and I don’t think he was really described very much, other than having “pangolin-like” skin and “face-palps”. I’m struggling to picture him at all. His most interesting feature is that his scent changes depending on his mood, something that makes it very hard for him to lie, if you can understand the scents.

Valdes has created an interesting world. As is more usual these days, humans in this universe are johnny-come-latelys, not kings of the hill, and are currently in the process of applying to the current galactic federation (the amusingly named BOFA), not that Eva has much time for politics, between trying to keep her crew afloat and trying to save her sister.

The episodic nature of the story does sometimes feel a bit like going through computer game levels (something only heightened when they come across what can only be described as Portal-guns, although that made me laugh out loud when I figured out what they were).

Despite those minor complaints, there’s some decent twists, and Eva is a lot of fun, with her Mysterious Past and her found-family crew. I’m definitely looking forward to the second book in the series.

Book details

ISBN: 9780356514420

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