Heaven’s Queen heralds our return to the universe of Devi Morris, Rachel Bach’s spunky spitfire hero from Paradox. It is the third in the whirlwind Paradox series that started with last year’s Fortune’s Pawn, and brings Devi’s story to a rollicking conclusion.
Bach, the pen name of fantasy author Rachel Aaron, excels at universe building. Devi’s universe is richly detailed, and populated by a slew of interesting characters, questionable motives, and terrifying enemies. While the books are ostensibly military sci-fi, and are filled with all the trappings you’d expect from them, the stories are heavily character driven, and Bach has taken great pains to give the people who populate her stories some depth.
No one in these stories is ever quite who they seem to be. Devi isn’t just a marine turned mercenary looking for a quick buck and a fast kill. Rupert isn’t just the dashing love interest prone to brooding and violence. The Phantoms aren’t just the mindless “big bad” that get gloriously destroyed in a cliché action story takedown. There are layers to be peeled away here, some expected, and some surprising.
In the end, Bach has offered up a swashbuckling space opera that can easily stand up to the genre’s stand outs. But the appeal of the series, beyond it’s taut writing and a storyline that only occasionally goes a little haywire, is the strong, female main character. Devi Morris is no sexpot action hero like Lara Croft, and she knows it, frequently engaging in thoughts and actions of self denigration. Still, the character manages to rise to great heights despite her very human desires and failings.
Bach was thoughtful about how to make her hero extraordinary. She pits Devi against some pretty powerful enemies, after all, including a race of invisible, ethereal giants that can kill you with just a single touch. In Devi’s case, her power comes from her armor. Literally. Devi’s power armor, Lady Gray, is almost as much of a character as the heroine herself. As Bach once explained, using the idea of power armor to to fortify Devi in her fights against the unknown was the best way to go.
“I wanted Devi’s powers to be something she something she had to pay for and could only use at great personal risk,” Bach writes in a post on her publisher’s site, “because the person who has the guts to willingly put their neck on the line for the power to achieve their goals is also the person who can function without it. Take Superman’s powers away and he becomes a whiny embarrassment sulking in his Fortress of Solitude. Take Batman’s money and gadgets away and he’s still freaking Batman.”
If you’re looking for an exciting and accessible intro to science fiction reading, or are interested in diving into an expansive universe populated with just the right balance of action, romance, and suspense liberally sprinkled with all the techno-goodies that make sci-fi so much fun, then Rachel Bach’s Paradox Trilogy just might be for you.