Vatta's War Series, Books 1-4
Elizabeth Moon, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007
I've read the first four books in Moon's sci-fi series now, and they're each quite short, almost bite-size, but enjoyable. The premise is fairly straightforward: Kylara Vatta, daughter of a major trading family and military student, is thrown into leadership when her family is attacked and interstellar communication disrupted by unknown forces.
Trading in Danger/Marque and Reprisal: 4 Stars and 3 Stars, Respectively
I noticed that in the first book, the main character is barely described. What she's wearing is mentioned, as far as if it's a uniform or casual, but not what she looks like. And it doesn't hurt the book in the least. I only noticed because she thinks at one point, that another character is obviously (racially) from the same part of her world as she is. Much as I like Honor Harrington, (I've read the whole series and re-read On Basilisk Station a few months before reading these) Honor gets plenty of mentions of other characters noticing how striking she is, while she 'accepts that she's not beautiful', or something. Gag me. Honor looks downright whiny after following Kylara's struggle to pick herself up, and make a new life beyond what she had planned.
It also reminds me somewhat superficially, of The Warrior's Apprentice, by LMB. The main character gets denied their dream to serve in their planet's military, and proceeds to build themselves a military style life out of thin air. Moon's writing is much less fun than Bujold's, the tone is darker and more true sci-fi, no flirting with space opera here. The side effect of that style is that it does to some degree fall into the military fiction trap which considers all non military characters to be utterly useless and cowardly. Star Trek's constant problems with meddling bureaucrats is a good example of this trope.
Engaging the Enemy: 2 Stars
To be fair, it's been seven months since I read the first two books, but this book could have used a little more recap at the beginning. There are just a couple too many characters for me to naturally remember them all in context. Also it looks like Moon took a break before writing the third-fifth books, so the change in tone might not be in my faulty recollection. I feel like this book has less weight, emotionally, than the previous books. Also the ending is weak, the whole last act felt tacked on so they could have a battle.
Command Decision: 2 Stars
We finally get confirmation in this book of what I had suspected. Despite the appearance of the woman depicted on the cover of the book, Ky has "dusky" skin. It only comes up when they visit a station settled by a fringe racist group. While I find it more likely that should we venture into space, we'll bring our problems with us, it was nice to plausibly present racism as something completely unthinkable to society at large.
I feel like the books are wandering at this point, and I don't think I'll read the fifth book. I liked the first two, but they seem to be losing steam instead of building it. The more plot lines get fleshed out, the less time she has to spend on each. The result is more main characters but not enough time with any of them. The characters are sympathetic, but aren't quite gripping enough, the plots fine, but not quite intriguing enough.
I don't know whether I will change my mind and read the last one, but I still have plans to try Moon's fantasy at some point, as it comes highly recommended.
Next Week: The God of the Hive, Laurie R. King