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Embers of War #3

Light of Impossible Stars

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Award-winning author Gareth L. Powell delivers an explosive conclusion to his epic Embers of War trilogy.

Low on fuel and hunted by the Fleet of Knives, the sentient warship Trouble Dog follows a series of clues that lead her to the Intrusion--an area of space where reality itself becomes unstable. But with human civilisation crumbling, what difference can one battered old ship have against an invincible armada?

Meanwhile, Cordelia Pa and her step-brother eke out their existence salvaging artefacts from an alien city. But when Cordelia starts hearing the city's song in her head, strange things start happening around her. What extraordinary affinity does she have for this abandoned technology, and how can it possibly help the Trouble Dog?

Award-winning author Gareth L. Powell delivers an explosive conclusion to his epic Embers of War trilogy.

367 pages, Paperback

First published February 18, 2020

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About the author

Gareth L. Powell

52 books613 followers
Gareth L. Powell has won and been shortlisted for several major awards, and his Embers of War novels are currently being adapted for television.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 175 reviews
Profile Image for Claudia✨.
304 reviews44 followers
March 9, 2020
3,5 stars. The final book of the 'Embers of War' trilogy *throws confetti in the air*. I have to admit, the ideas in these books are quite 'big'. We have alien artefacts, parallel universes, void dragons, mysterious alien species, and a time/galaxy spanning human colonisation.

I really enjoyed the first two books (character and plot-wise), but this one felt a bit scripted. If I didn't see the chapter headers, I would've guessed it was all told from one perspective - the narrator. Every character has its drive, motivations, and events that have shaped who they are now. Told in first person, I expected the characters to be different - instead it all seemed as if it was told from the 'good guy's perspective'. Not to mention everything happened exactly when it was supposed to, the new characters showed up just in time, the galaxy was saved and even the bad guys realised the awful things they've done. A bit too scripted and unrealistic for me.

Also the internal monologues and 'flowery' thoughts that went through everyone's mind - let's be honest, on the brink of a battle you don't stop to look in the mirror and speak about yourself from a third person's point of view. All in all, I was able to put aside what I mentioned above, because the author came up with such interesting ideas (see artefacts, parallel universes) that I couldn't help guessing and speculating all the time. I really enjoy when that happens.

Overall I would recommend this trilogy, even if the last book is a bit shaky.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,249 reviews219 followers
September 27, 2021
The conclusion to an uneven series that doesn't really transcend what's wrong with the the previous two books. Probably also not helped by a deus ex machina solution to the problems raised in the previous book.
168 reviews1 follower
August 20, 2020
this book kinda killed the series for me.

Everything went pretty well til the last 5th of the book where the pacing and conclusion of multiple story lines led to poor pacing and an anticlimactic finish.

Sure. Perform a sex change operation in the middle of a battle. That might have had an impact if the character was more important than "bland unpleasant ancillary character" that was only introduced a handful of pages earlier.

Oh, now the MC has a romantic interest in that character? Ok, cool. 30 pages later that character decides to fuck off and you're left wondering why they were even included so late in the book.

The "Chosen one" decides to fight instead of fleeing. Dope. Wait. Ten pages later its a bad idea and she's fleeing the universe. Cool, plans change. Wait. They actually defeated the enemy? Sort of? There's no indication that the enemy is totally defeated and not just dealt a minor setback. Ok now they're still fleeing the universe without giving anyone a chance to stay despite the enemy being supposedly defeated.

The main villain is handed over without much in the way of resolution. A villain who had a pretty interesting character arc before she just went totally dark side.

Killing off the other carnivore ship and his captain might have seemed a bit more impactful if they had had more than a paragraph or two of character development or if the captains death had actually been necessary. Its pretty obvious that a human captain is only really necessary for the strategic parts of running a ship or coming up with a clever combat maneuver. Neither one was employed in their last stand

All in all it feels like the author crammed a bunch of fluff in the last bit of the book that they thought of after they finished writing the first draft. It brought a fairly cool concept for a scifi series to an awkward and unsatisfying end. If I had waited to review the entire series until now I'd probably give the two previous books lower ratings with the knowledge of where those characters would end up.
Profile Image for Mili.
346 reviews34 followers
May 25, 2020
Feeling off for nearly 2 months now so it is getting harder to concentrate. I started this read at the start in May and just now finished it. Not cause I don't like it, but I am not in a good headspace. We have loud new neighbours and they are not changing. I have yet to find a way to deal with it. We are now a week away in nature, and I finally managed to find room to read!

I really enjoyed this series, it is easy and fast to get through with a wonderful set of characters, new ones and plots colliding to a bigger picture. I love how everyone got introduced with their own storyline and enough attention to stand on their own in this story. There was an epic battle, but it doesn't get major attention. You mostly follow the characters and their choices and interactions in difficult situations. I like how it mellowed out the plot and yet there is this ominous change and enemy that needs to be faced. I really enjoyed the combination. Couldn't have picked out a better trilogy :)
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,067 reviews362 followers
November 27, 2020
Ahoy me mateys! Grab your grog! Here be book 3 of the 10th installment of the 3 Bells trilogy showcase where for 3 days straight I will be reviewing 3 books in a row. The catch is that the 3 books will showcase an entire trilogy. So throw your 3 sheets to the wind and get ready to celebrate with me. Grog optional . . .

Unpopular opinion time! I really did not like the last book of this trilogy. I still love Trouble Dog and Sal. But ultimately the story went places that I didn’t care about and found nonsensical. I liked the new character of Cordelia Pa. I am completely in love with Nod who went from being an okay character in book one to a delight. In fact the part the Druff played in this book ended up being one of me favorite parts.

The main problems in this book were two fold – dangling plot points and problematic character motivation. In terms of characters, Sal and Trouble Dog were the only ones that still kinda felt real in this installment. All the other characters seemed incidental or became two dimensional. Characters previously important in other books do nothing in this one (like Lucy or Preston). Other characters sacrifice themselves for no real purpose. Ona Sudak really was the most boring bad guy ever who twirls their bad guy mustache and has no real motivation. The “realization” moment by her at the end was just ludicrous.

As for dangling plot points. Well the ideas of reality quakes and plates were fascinating and never really explained. Both could have been used awesomely and weren’t. Cordelia is a fun character but kinda magics her way through the end of the book. The sci-fi feel of the book just went “poof!” And how she saved the world was lame. There is a trans character added in for no reason (okay as a random lust interest) who actually has a sex change operation in the MIDDLE of a battle. Then leaves abruptly at the end of the book. Michael goes on a salvage hunt that could have been cut out of the book with no substantive change to the plot. There is a memory switch that really adds nothing to the plot. The void creatures are never explained satisfactorily or actually dealt with. They really are magic space dragons. The loss of an eye side plot was so lacklustre. The fleet of knives lose and randomly go back to do what they could have done all along. And not to mention the deus ex machina savior thrown in at the end.

I could go on and on but who has time to that. On to a new adventure. This one walks the plank! Arrr!

Side note: I still be glad I met Trouble Dog.
Profile Image for Bee.
381 reviews3 followers
July 13, 2021
A pretty good ending to a pretty good series. A little rushed, timing felt a little off. Ending was a little rushed, and too many solutions were a little pat. But all in all i really enjoyed the TroubleDog's adventure.

3.5 stars for the book and the series.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
377 reviews25 followers
September 14, 2020
This provided a good end for our ship , her captain and crew. I wish it had been a little longer, I would have liked to spend more time learning about the Druff. And a little more set up for the plates and the incursion. That's me though and it was still a great adventure and I feel quite satisfied. This series surprised me and I can say that it is most recommended.
Profile Image for Naja.
120 reviews4 followers
January 20, 2022
yeah ok no.
This was somehow the worst one in the trilogy(?)
Just had weird stuff happening that seemed thrown in at the last second.

One big thing that irked me was the handling of the trans side character in this. Especially around usage of pronouns as they kept using the female pronouns until he got gender confirming surgery. I wish Powell had done more research and talked to actual trans people because while I am not trans myself I sure as fuck know that your gender identity and what pronouns you use does not at all depend on your body or how that body is perceived by others. So waiting until he had surgery to make the characters (who knew and were acknowledged to not have a problem with it, so it can't be oh it's the character and not the author) acknowledge his pronouns and gender was just weird and uncomfortable.
Profile Image for MadProfessah.
364 reviews161 followers
April 12, 2020
This is the third and final book of the Embers Of War trilogy by Gareth L. Powell. A nice feature of the series is that although each book advances the overarching story, they are also readable on their own with each having self-contained plots. They should definitely be read in order (because Powell is ruthless about killing off major characters): Embers Of War, Fleet of Knives and The Light of Impossible Stars.

In the third book we are introduced to a new major character, Cordelia Pa, and her brother Michael Pa (among others). It’s an interesting choice to have the third book in a trilogy revolve around a new character that didn’t appear in the first two books. Happily, Cordelia is a great character so it’s fun to spend lots of time with her.

The central character of the trilogy as a whole is Trouble Dog, the sentient spaceship which is used to transport the other main characters: Sal Konstantz (the captain of the ship) and Druff (the many-limbed alien who is the primary engineer/mechanic on the ship) among others. The other main character is Ona Sundak (a former space ship captain who ended an interstellar war by committing a horrific act of genocide).

The primary narrative tension in the books is between Sundak’s vision of the future and Konstanz’s (and Trouble Dog’s) opposition. It takes awhile but eventually we find out what role Cordelia Pa plays in resolving the conflict.

Another feature of the books in the trilogy which is also readily apparent in this one is that they are fast-paced and action-packed. They are fun to read and great diversions, exactly what good science fiction should do.
Additionally, Powell is able to include a diverse cast of characters and present thought-provoking situations for the reader to consider.

Overall I would strongly recommend the series as a whole, but I don’t think the last book is the strongest entry in the trilogy. That said, The Light of Impossible Stars is a fun and exciting read in its own right.

Profile Image for Kate.
1,626 reviews322 followers
March 21, 2020
Very entertaining and exciting conclusion to the hugely enjoyable Embers of War trilogy. The starship, Trouble Dog, part human, part dog, part machine, is such a fantastic creation and it was good to spend more time with her and her crew, especially Nod. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.
Profile Image for Denise.
349 reviews32 followers
December 21, 2020
3.5 for interesting ideas and some thoughts about loss and growing a conscience and trying to make ethical decisions in war (which I guess is a thing and one I’m glad I never have to consider).

The writing was uneven and the author maybe added a few extra twists towards the end that made it busy. The first two books of the trilogy worked better. Still a satisfying end to the series.
Profile Image for John.
1,594 reviews50 followers
March 30, 2020
A predictable, phoned in conclusion, with about a novelette’s worth of plot, a massively powerful deus ex machina to take care of the bad guys, and endless swathes of pointless explication, dreams, descriptions, and side plots. Just read the dialog and skim the rest...you won’t miss anything significant and will have several hours of your life free to get into something better.
Profile Image for Martta.
106 reviews12 followers
January 13, 2022
This series was a MESS, the author tried to do too many things and didn't properly develop any of them. Especially toward the end, plots points and devices kept just popping up out of nowhere and used without proper payoff.

My favourite character was Trouble Dog and she had so much potential for being a really interesting and complex character, I think I already mentioned that in my review of book 1, but like everything else in the series, she wasn't developed properly. Other characters also had a lot going on but simply didn't get enough page time for their arcs to be developed.

There was a trans character who was about to get surgery and gene replacement therapy when civilisation fell apart, and that would have been a plot line that I'd be very invested in. Instead, that was immediately handwaved away, like on the next page, and to top it off he got misgendered until he got his treatment. It was a minor thing compared to all the weirdly handled stuff, but it made me wonder if the author wanted to write this arc or not, and if not, why it was left in at all.

The ending left me very dissatisfied too. I really don't feel like the main conflict/threat/disaster was solved at all, and yet it was treated as if it was. The books were entertaining, but went downhill as the series went on, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Stephen Richter.
753 reviews22 followers
March 7, 2021
Gareth L. Powell got a shout out from one of the Expanse writers on a James S.A. Corey tweet that stated that Embers of War was one of the best book he had read that year. So when I saw that my Audible Plus included the first two titles in the series for free, I jumped at the chance. The series revolves around the Trouble Dog, an AI battle ship. The shape of the universe is a bit messed up. The crew of the Trouble Dog is on the run and trying to figure out the next step. New character are introduced and for a bit I was a bit confused how it all fits together. Gareth did a great job keeping me guessing how all the treads come together. This series had a lot of concepts executed well in the story . AI ships, its devoted shipmates and mysterious ancient aliens in a plot that has great pacing and enough twists to keep the reader a bit on the anxious side. The Audio version was performed by multiple narrators, Nicol Zanzarella , Amy Landon , Joe Hempel , Natasha Soudek , Soneela Nankani , Andrew Eiden , and Emily Lawrence all took turns on each POV chapter to make this a super enjoyable experience.
Profile Image for Alejandro González.
267 reviews2 followers
July 24, 2022
Ok, si esta interesante la narración, pero de plano no es lo mio, igual es que se centra demasiado en algo que ya es cliche y como es que la inteligencia artificial va a cortar camino al determinar que es más fácil matar a la raza humana para prevenir todas las guerras.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Michael.
996 reviews38 followers
March 5, 2020
This is the third book in the Embers of War series by Gareth L. Powell. In this one the sentient warship "Trouble Dog" and crew are searching for a way to combat the Fleet of Knives. Meanwhile Cordelia Pa is approached by strangers in a battered spaceship owned by her estranged father. She soon finds out that she is very special indeed. It may very well fall upon her shoulders to save humankind from the spacial dragons. She will need, however, to help the Trouble Dog and crew stop the Fleet of Knives first. A great finish to this trilogy and a must read for fans of Space Opera.
Profile Image for Lola.
3 reviews
February 22, 2022
Ok. Fully honesty. I did not realize this book was the third in a series until I was about 1/3 of the way through. I ended up reading the entire thing, but some of my review will definitely be swayed by the fact I had much less attachment to the story than other readers.

That being said… I found the plot suspiciously easy to understand for someone entering on book three. I understand that this is my personal preference but I prefer richly built worlds to ones with predictable characters, civilizations, and even more predictable plot lines. The world building showed a great deal of potential, but I think I should have been MUCH more confused than I was, having not read the prior two books.

I also found the writing to be very up and down. There were certain portions I really enjoyed reading, but most of it missed the mark. For example, the more times a character says “dearie” the harder it is to continue reading. Another example, a character (unironically?) orders coffee “black as her soul”…. so yeah didn’t love that. I did actually like the writing of Nod, and found that to be a really great idea, so it wasn’t all bad. Just not my cup of tea.

The book was also written in first person… I personally think it’s a very hard perspective to write in, and rarely find it pleasant to read. (Some successful examples being the Murderbot, and Imperial Ranch series). When not done well, it dulls the characters voice, and makes it VERY HARD to follow a plot when you have multiple character perspectives. I think this book could have benefited immensely from the third person. It would have shown off individual characteristics that got buried in the writing, as well as made it easier to separate the plot lines. I think the only truly distinctive character was Cordelia, and that’s because she kept thinking about her own appearance.

SPEAKING OF CORDELIA. OH MY GOD. Enough about Cordelias eyes!!! Literally there is no reason for, or evidence to support her being an outsider due to mismatched eyes?? She just KEPT mentioning it?? Why??? (I swear, you could take a shot every time she brings it up and have quite a fun drinking game.) And when she appears in other characters chapters, they don’t even bring it up!! It just felt like a very “quirky/ obnoxious ya protagonist” detail.

My final complaint would be the way the author wrote the trans character, Okonkwo . Even after coming out to Sal, who is fully aware of how uncomfortable Okonkwo is at being perceived as a woman, Sal unflinchingly misgenders him. This doesn’t stop until Okonkwo medically transitions and all of a sudden is referred to with he/him?? It was downright insulting to both the character and the reader, pushing the idea that a person MUST medically transition to be viewed as a different gender. Like wtf was that.

So yeah… this book had a lot of potential… it just kept missing the mark
Profile Image for Tim Hardie.
Author 4 books47 followers
March 8, 2022
Light of Impossible Stars concludes Powell’s Embers of War sci-fi trilogy. I loved the first two books in the series, so I was really looking forward to seeing how everything was wrapped up in this final instalment. Whilst this was an enjoyable read I did have a few issues with this novel, although to explain why will involve some spoilers … You’ve been warned.

I think this novel suffers because the previously established characters struggle to get page time alongside various new arrivals – namely the crew of the space freighter Gigolo Aunt and the residents of the mysterious artificial ‘Plate’ worlds. I enjoyed their storyline up to the midpoint of the novel and Powell doesn’t pull any punches. There are some great twists and turns and some fantastic, descriptive writing on display that brings this universe to life.

The stakes are high in this novel and you do feel like anyone can die – mainly because that’s what starts to happen. In the context of the plot, where we’re in the middle of an interstellar war, this makes sense. However, because the established characters are squeezed out by the various newcomers much of the impact of their sacrifice is lost.

Riley Addison is criminally underused. Her intense battle for survival alongside Johnny Schultz was the cornerstone of Fleet of Knives. However, within a few chapters Johnny has been blown to smithereens in a space battle and Addison is relegated to the role of grieving woman. She plays virtually no other part in the story.

The number of loose ends are also frustrating. What happens to Addison on the other side of The Intrusion? We’re never told. Was Cordelia Pa reunited with her father? Their growing relationship was key to Cordelia’s story and yet we never find out. Does her step-brother Michael manage to get extracted from the hive mind of the Plates? Mere details. Perhaps the point was he deserved to suffer for abandoning his sister? She doesn’t seem all that bothered but he was a viewpoint character, so as the reader I was invested in him and what ultimately happened to him.

And what is the fate of war criminal Ona Sudak, who plays such a pivotal role throughout the series? She’s help decimate half the galaxy, leaving interstellar civilisation on the brink of starvation. We’re not even told – Konstanz doesn’t care and so, apparently, we’re not supposed to either. She was a key character for the whole series and this resolution of her character arc feels incomplete.

In the middle of the intense battle for survival against the Fleet of Knives, Captain Konstanz begins to feel unrequited love for another member of her crew – someone she’s only just met. When her feelings are denied the impact is totally lost when in the conclusion a few pages later we’re told it’s OK. She got together with someone else in the end – someone we’ve never heard of or see on the pages at all.

So, yes, there were lots of things that didn’t work for me. However, there is still much to enjoy in Light of Impossible Stars. The spaceship Trouble Dog remains a standout character, her redemption arc handled in a satisfying way as she embraces a new future and, ultimately, a new universe. The Druff alien engineer Nod is also brilliantly written. His chapters, with his unique stream of consciousness viewpoint, create a convincing otherness to him. He’s not human but you can still relate to him and I thought his chapters were often the most revealing and moving, despite these never covering more than a page and a half. It was a treat that Powell took us to the well-realised Druff homeworld before the grand finale.

Ultimately, this novel still maintained my interest and I eagerly read through to the end. It’s a good book but, for me, it doesn’t quite manage to hit the heights of Embers of War or Fleet of Knives. All in all, this novel felt a little rushed and that’s a real pity. As a whole this is a series I’d still definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys space opera, unpredictable sci-fi and sassy, intelligent spaceships.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
252 reviews
April 20, 2021
Tried to catch thoughts as I went. I actually fell asleep five minutes from the end, but I don’t think I missed anything.

- while Cordelia is an interesting character, there’s way too much of her at the beginning.
- the plates concept feels as if it’s part of a different book entirely.
- the two previous novels were right in the space opera mode. Not planet bound at all, space so understood as needing no explanation.
- I feel I’ve fallen into a YA world: what it’s like at a space station combined with going to space to save the world on my summer vacation
- I wish the author had wrapped up the Embers of War from the Trouble Dog perspective and then had separately written about the plates. I realize that Cordelia is needed for the magic conclusion.
- I am a bit confused by the time frame. We just jumped 4 years in Cordelia world "you’ve been in flight school for 4 years..." so what time is it in Sal Konstanz world?
- "I’m due leave" says Moriarty. Leave? From what?
- one of the crew of the Gigolo Ant (huh?) is wearing a wool cap. Where, I wonder as so often in space opera, do they keep the sheep? Where are the spinning factories? The knitters?
- "Hey, dude" Really? What century are we supposed to be in?
- I think part of the issue with the sections narrated by Cordelia is that there’s an origin story aspect that is entirely missing from the rest of the trilogy. The author could have skipped the entire initial section, starting with the day she appears on the bridge, filling in little by little as with all the other characters. So the pace and tone are out of sync with the rest.
- there’s something like bad detective/mystery stories about Nod and Johnny ignoring the "we are cousins". Did Trouble Dog not hear that conversation? Why not? If she had, would she not have asked Sal Konstanz about it?
- I see the use of the human eye thing, but it’s both far more specifically brutal than much of the rest and heavy handed (see the Druff are cousins thing)
- this book is very talky. I’m about a third in and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED! Talk, talk, talk. At least in the Trouble Dog world. More has happened in Cordelia-land. (Plus, I don’t like the voices chosen by the narrator of that section for the male characters.)
- and now Cordelia's brother becomes a PV character? Nearly halfway through?
- "Nick" - I will have fulfilled my purpose? You have another brother. Plus Moriarty as a name is very strongly resonant with Sherlock Holmes. In a not great way.
- I hate this section of the narrative.
- artifacts? WTF? What world are we in? Leakage from Murderbot and Alien tech?
- I helped the intrusion BUILD YOU? Again, WTF? ENGINEER MY SPERM? Crammed my testicles with DNA? I don’t think it works that way.
- this would have been better as a separate novella - Life on the Plates. All the back story, all the Pa family, where the plates came from, etc. It could be on a completely different timeline than what used to be the primary story. Instead, we slog through a lot of characters I don’t much care about and a lot of exposition. We could still have Cordelia saves the world with unanticipated powers, but, like the Gallery, the powers could be unexplained.
- unfortunately, I don’t care about any of the people in Cordelia world. Lewis is an unknown, Spider is a jerk, Lomax is another unknown, all of them seem to have wandered in from a wants-to-be-hard-boiled-gangster story from the 50s.
- I was actually hoping the author would go in a completely different direction. That the fleet of knives takes on the worldview of the human in charge of them. (Attached to them?) That Sudak's view of violence for the greater good stimulated the ships' actions. That a human (or sentient being) with a different view would have lead them down a different path.
- is anything ever going to happen? I’m 3/4 through.
- why didn’t the trans character (Ogunkwo? I’m listening so spelling is a challenge) present with the correct pronouns all along? The recognition of being trans had happened long before arriving on Trouble Dog, the reassignment surgery is kind of not part of that decision. And, I think the speed of the surgery is kind of weird.
- the sexual attraction Sal is feeling is kind of out of the blue. There’s been almost no sexual awareness among any characters in any of the books. This feels unsupported by the story.
- why, after the discussion of their decision is Sal still calling Ogunkwo she/her? Body does not equal gender.
- Jesus is a swear word, but Christmas is not remembered? Or only remembered on the plates? Why?
- Sudak's conversion was too abrupt.

I was disappointed in this book. Uneven pacing, with nothing much happening, then whoosh, Cordelia saves humanity. A lot of characters I didn’t care about, very little about the ones I did.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Raj.
1,375 reviews29 followers
November 13, 2021
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.

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.
Profile Image for Mike Finn.
1,153 reviews32 followers
February 25, 2020
"Light of Impossible Stars" is a deeply satisfying read that does something very rare: it ends a trilogy in a way that not only doesn't disappoint but excites and surprises.

I loved the first two books in this trilogy, "Embers Of War" and "Fleet of Knives" so I'd pre-ordered the final book and dived into it as soon as it arrived.

Like it's predecessors, it was a fast-paced, page-turning, epic science fiction story, crammed with original ideas and strong world-building, yet what kept me reading were the characters in the book and the empathy and humour of the writing.

All of the books have followed multiple storylines that slowly reveal the big picture. The strength of the characterisation, especially in this final book, keeps those storylines intimate and relevant.

I'd say it kept the book human but some of the main characters are not human and part of the strength of the book comes from how clearly their thoughts and hopes are articulated,

Gareth Powell is very good at letting his characters be themselves, without judgement or apology, where the character is a genocidal psychopathic poet, a warship who has grown a conscience and resigned her commission, a non-human engineer who believes in work and rest and the world tree, a young woman trying to discover who or what she is or an ex-military officer looking for redemption through service.

I like the fact that, in this world, actions have consequences: not everyone survives, those that do survive are often damaged and neither the pain nor the occasional love is glossed over. I like that some characters fail to learn and are doomed to repeat their mistakes while others grow, develop and find new mistakes to make and some just get by day to day as best they can.

I admire the truly epic scale of the plot and the depth of the world-building and that, despite how strong the plot and SF ideas are, they never push the characters out of the way.
Now that I've read all three books, I want to go back and read them again, so that I can take in the grandeur of the big picture and spend more time with characters I've grown to know well.

Finally, I have to say that I am, as I'm sure I'm supposed to be, deeply attached to Trouble Dog and I hope to hear more of what happens to her now the trilogy is over.

"Light Of Impossible Stars" works very well as an audiobook with different narrators presenting chapters written from the point of view of the main characters. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.
Profile Image for Alan Dell.
Author 3 books11 followers
September 9, 2022
Light of Impossible Stars continues on from where we left the Trouble Dog and her crew at the end of Fleet of Knives: in the midst of cataclysm. And just like in the previous two books, we also start off with a completely separate viewpoint for a new set of characters the crew of the Trouble Dog are destined to meet at some point later on as the storylines converge. It’s a winning formula. And it was interesting to me to notice this as a stylistic thing. Some authors will keep all the characters together from start to finish and keep to a singular POV; other authors like to start off with all the characters together and then have them go off in different directions further along in the story, shifting POV as necessary (I do this in From the Grave of the Gods); and still others - like Gareth has done in the Embers of War trilogy - will start with separated groups and have them meet for the first time later on. It really depends what serves the given story best, and here, it’s served very well.

Plot and worldbuilding-wise, we not only get satisfying answers to all the mysteries set up in the previous two books, but it also goes off in ways I didn’t expect. Light of Impossible Stars was a thrilling ride from start to finish with plenty to stoke the imagination. Gareth doesn’t just let the worldbuilding settle from the previous two books either. I was very impressed with the inclusion of technologies I hadn’t seen before - particularly the Plates. There’s been a lot of thinking around different types of worlds throughout SF over the last century; we’ve had O’Neill cylinders, Ringworlds, Dyson Spheres, and a whole host of other great space habitats. Gareth’s Plates are a refreshing and interesting take on that kind of concept.

Going off on a bit of a tangent here, I’m envious of the way in which Gareth has unashamedly made one of the main antagonistic forces work. Many years ago, when I was first thinking through concepts that would become the Augment Saga, I had an idea for a series-ending antagonist that was similar to the creatures in Fleet of Knives and Light of Impossible Stars. And I thoroughly dismissed it as something that I could not make work at all. I felt like it would be seen as too ridiculous, like a “jumping the shark” moment. Indeed, it no longer fits the direction I eventually chose for my series, but I was completely wrong about the concept not working, because it absolutely works here, one hundred percent. I loved it. Bravo, Gareth!

This series has given me some of my favourite ever characters in fiction: Nod and Trouble Dog in particular. And the pairing of Trouble Dog with Sal Konstanz is brilliant, I love their dynamic throughout the series. Nod though… Man, Nod. What a great character! It starts off as a bit weird in Embers of War but the little hand-faced engineer really grows on you. The characters in the book are exceptionally well-written and you end up caring for all of them. I enjoyed Cordelia’s segments, and her version of a misfit crew provides a great contrast to the misfit crew of the Trouble Dog. On the negative side, there were a couple of moments that fell a bit flat for me, mainly towards the end involving Ona Sudak, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.Overall, I would highly recommend this trilogy, it really does represent some of the best of modern SF. Whether you’re just getting into SF or looking for more recent additions to the genre, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this series.
Author 2 books3 followers
April 14, 2020
The perfect end to an amazing series of books.

As with the other two books, I read the book and listened to the amazing Audible version. The voice actors across the whole series have been pure brilliant.

I love the expression, "Hound of Difficulty." There is so much clear visualisation in this book and the previous ones.

When Cordelia Pa came into the mix, I thought, what? Where's she come from? And this late in the game (of the story)? But no, Gareth has introduced her exactly where she was needed; of course!

In the fabric of the Embers Universe, Gareth is the master weaver of storytelling and this book delivers over and over.

The story has a very satisfactory conclusion but has Gareth laid the seed for a future project in this (or that) universe?


Thak you.
Profile Image for Marco Landi.
271 reviews14 followers
December 29, 2022
Libro conclusivo di alto livello come tutta questa trilogia.. personaggi irriverenti, scorretti e divertenti.. avventura dinamica, trama adrenalinica, scontri al fulmicotone.. il difetto più grande è che per tutta la quantità di tranne e sottotrame aperte, dettagli e misteri da rivelare, ci sarebbero volute molte più pagine.. soprattutto verso la fine è tutto troppo frettoloso e lapidario, si sente che manca qualcosa, come se l autore avesse obbligatoriamente dovuto concludere... Comunque resta una fantascienza tosta e geniale tra navi senzienti e draghi spaziali, altri universi e razze strane..
Profile Image for Mark Ford.
379 reviews27 followers
July 30, 2022
Finished "Light of Impossible Stars" by Gareth L. Powell.

Fast paced space opera that does come across a bit Y.A.

Just didn't stick the landing imo, could see a few of the conclusions way ahead and so many plot holes and actions that were plainly illogical and these were pointed out by some of the characters, as if the author was trying to lessen any criticism of the plot.

Disappointed is all I can say, the journey was interesting enough but the destination was a bit 'meh'

3 out of 5.
Profile Image for AJW.
330 reviews12 followers
February 10, 2022
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. As well as an exciting epic sci-fi story, it is a thoughtful exploration of human nature looking at subjects such as war, grief and love.
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