It’s not easy to tread lightly
wearing steel-toed boots.
Sirantha Jax isn’t known for diplomatic finesse. As a “Jumper” who navigates ships through grimspace, she’s used to kicking ass first and taking names later—much later. Not exactly the obvious
choice to sell the Conglomerate to the Ithtorians, a people whose opinions of humans are as hard as their exoskeletons.
And Ithiss-Tor council meetings aren’t the only place where
Ambassador Jax needs to maneuver carefully. Her lover, March,
is frozen in permanent “kill” mode, and his hair-trigger threatens to sabotage the talks—not to mention their relationship.
But Jax won’t give up on the man or the mission. With the Outskirts beleaguered by raiders, pirates, and the flesh-eating Morgut, an alliance with Ithiss-Tor may be humanity’s only hope.
Which has Jax wondering why a notorious troublemaker like her was given the job…
I’ve had this one since it was published at the end of last September, but somehow it took me until now to get to it. (Thank you, Carl, for your Sci-Fi Experience, which focussed me on getting some long-waiting science fiction read in the first months of the year.)
It was way back in October 2008 that I read Wanderlust, the previous book in the series, so it had been a long time since I’d been hanging out with Jax and friends. To be honest, I couldn’t remember all that much of the storyline. I knew they’d been running around the Clan planet and that things had gone wrong with March and he was now both dangerous and pretty much emotionless. Oh yeah, and that Jax was supposed to be going to Vel’s planet as an ambassador. But that was pretty much all.
All that meant I was a bit nervous about how easy or hard it might be to get back into the series, especially since it is written in first person present test, and it tends to take me a little bit of time to adjust to it.
I was happily surprised by how easily I slipped back into Jax’s company and her world. I actually remembered enough to get by, even if I was missing some particular details.
A lot was made, in the blurb and at the beginning of the book, of the fact that Jax isn’t the kind of person to be an ambassador. She’s loud, brash and far from diplomatic. The thing is, I didn’t feel this was fair. Sure, the Jax we met at the beginning of Grimspace was all those things. But Jax has been through a lot since then and she’s learned a lot and grown a lot. She’s much better suited for the mission than anyone might think. And those who expect her to fail are likely to be quite surprised.
Sure, this book is about the diplomatic mission and how it progresses. Jax and her companions don’t dare let on just how desperate they are for this alliance to go through, and it soon becomes clear that there are two factions on Ithiss-Tor, each of which has pretty much already made up its mind already on how they are going to vote. The result is important and the reader is never going to be fully distracted from that by the other themes of the book, but those themes are very important too.
Because even more than being about the alliance, I found this book to be about Jax, her growth and especially her relationships with her friends. She comes to Ithiss-Tor unsure about how her relationship with Vel stands here on his home planet and learns a lot about herself, and even more about him, his past and his relationship to his own species.
An even stronger indication of how much Jax has changed is shown in her determination not to give up on Marsh. Traumatised by what he felt he had to do in the last book, he’s seriously psychologically damaged and has withdrawn inside himself. The old Jax would most likely have considered him too much work and cut him loose. The Jax we know now is willing and able to acknowledge that she loves him and isn’t prepared to let him go. She has no idea how to heal him, but she’s determined to try. And I thought Aguirre’s solution to the problem was brilliant. There was no way Jax was going to be able to repeat what Mair had originally done for March, and instead she comes to her own, wild and unexpected answer.
I had been a little concerned that the ending of the book might become sort of squashed as both the emotional and dramatic stories came to their conclusions, but I shouldn’t have worried. Aguirre wrapped things up nicely and effectively, with events flowing from plot point to plot point and I particularly liked the final rescue and resolution.
Then, on the last page, it all went to hell. Of course. All ready for the next book.
Happily, Ann Aguirre has announced that her publisher has bought the next (and last) two Jax books, meaning she will be able to finish up the story as she planned. Personally, I’d rather have a story with a beginning, middle and end, whether that is over one book or several, so I’m delighted with this news as the story will reach an organic end, rather than just rambling on and on.
And to finish, look at the beautiful cover for the fourth book, Killbox, which will be published this September.
Sirantha Jax, Book 3
Read: 2-2-10 to 11-2-10