James's Reviews > Engaging the Enemy

Engaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon
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Jun 21, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: sff-2000s, sff-series-kylara-vatta, read-and-reviewed

Nebula Award-winning author Elizabeth Moon continues her interstellar “Vatta’s War” saga with Engaging the Enemy, the third book in the series. Those who have read the previous books in the series will welcome the return of Captain Kylara Vatta, the young, self-doubting, yet determined heroine who seems prone to difficulties and disaster even when she makes the right decisions. It is precisely this quirk in Ky’s luck that endears her to science fiction fans everywhere. During her earlier exploits, we learned a little about Ky, her family, and her family business, Vatta Transport. We watched as she faced the dangers wrought by the destruction of ISC communications assets, dealings with pirates and mercenaries, assassination attempts, hand-to-hand combat, and the vengeful spite of the family’s black sheep, Osman Vatta. Put your helmets on and buckle up, because that was only the beginning.

In Engaging the Enemy, Moon treats her fans with a much closer look at Ky’s Aunt Grace, a remarkable woman with a great deal more about her than her outward appearance would suggest. Aunt Grace struggles to preserve the lives and livelihood of the Vatta family on Slotter Key, Vatta Transport’s corporate home world. The cunning Vatta matriarch finds she has both enemies and allies as she battles on cut off from communications with all off-world assets and working with tremendously reduced Vatta resources. Meanwhile, Kylara, now captaining the Fair Kaleen — a well-armed pirate vessel she captured from Osman — as her privateer flagship, begins her earnest quest to avenge the near-total annihilation of the Vatta family and to restore the family business. Trailing behind her in the Gary Tobai is Stella, Ky’s cousin and ally in the undeclared Vatta’s War. While catching up to Kylara as she hops from one star system to another, Stella finds reason to doubt Kylara’s motivations and intent, but nothing can prepare either of them for the shocking truth they discover during the trial of Captain Furman, one of Vatta’s most senior merchant captains.

Moon continues to chronicle the events of Kylara Vatta’s life as a young, star-faring merchant-captain-turned-privateer in Engaging the Enemy. For veteran readers of the “Vatta’s War” series there are answers to be found in Moon’s latest space opera aria. Unfortunately, since this is but a single volume of the series, readers who are new to this continuing story will finish with far more questions than answers. The author’s writing style and skillfully placed redundancies allow this book to be enjoyed without reference to her earlier works, Trading in Danger and Marque and Reprisal. However, readers who have not read these earlier works are depriving themselves of valuable insights and background information, not to mention the pleasure of more of Elizabeth Moon’s entertaining writing. Whenever the physical action slows, the internal struggles and interaction of the various characters ensure there is no lull in the book’s overall pace. The author has placed great emphasis on character development — personality traits and motivations — and it is this particular aspect of Moon’s writing that ultimately keeps her audience enthralled.

Moon’s ability to pen a sweeping tale of science fiction has never been in doubt, but if ever it were, her “Vatta’s War” series would surely lay those doubts to rest. If you haven’t had your share of interstellar adventure this week, Engaging the Enemy is only a bookstore away.

Elizabeth Moon maintains a website at http://www.elizabethmoon.com/
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