Marque and Reprisal

by Elizabeth Moon

Review by Ann Cecil

Books by Elizabeth Moon are never dull, but with a term like Marque in the title - conjuring up images of privateers, piracy, space battles - you can confidently expect plenty of action. With Marque and Reprisal Moon does not disappoint!

Kylara Vatta is a young, pretty, inexperienced, and bloodthirsty member of an old and wealthy trading family. Having (in a previous book) flunked out of the Spaceship Academy, sent off in command of the spaceship equivalent of a tired tramp steamer, put down a mutiny, killed some bad guys, and made a profit on her misadventures, she is trying to decide whether her future really lies in the family business, or whether she should go find some mercenaries to join. While she thinks about that, she drags her ship into port to deliver its cargo, and discovers very rapidly and explosively that someone has declared war on the Vatta Trading Empire, and plans to take her out along with the rest of the family. Needless to say, she fights back.

Part of the fascination in this book is the expansion beyond Ky's point of view; we see what's happening to Vattas back in the corporate headquarters, as they are hit in a surprise attack, and on other planets where individual family members are stranded. Moon works in some keen observations about how character is formed, and what can happen in a strong family to deceive even the individual about their own strengths.

Of course the action never stops; Ky manages first to survive, and then to start the fight back. It turns out the title refers to our heroine: someone back on her home planet has sent her a 'letter of marque' (that's authorization to go play Sir Francis Drake and rob your enemies). I suspect there is a sequel in the offing, because the book ends with a number of threads still hanging loose, as Ky finally manages to get a ship that can get up some speed, and support some armament (you can't be a pirate - uh, privateer - in a garbage scow).

It's all great fun, if not particularly deep (though Moon is clearly working up to some kind of character revelation to balance her heroine's bloodthirstiness). A recommended fun read.

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