Some women in science fiction tend to scream a lot when they’re in trouble, hoping to be rescued by a dashing hero. Athena Hera Sinistra, the main character in Sarah A. Hoyt‘s wonderful book, Darkship Thieves, tends to destroy anything and everyone when she gets cornered or in trouble. I like her.
Let me reiterate: I really like her.
I got lost in this book the moment I opened it, with Hoyt’s expansive universe enveloping me at the outset. Athena is the only daughter of Patrician Milton Alexander Sinistra, who is one of the members of the ruling council of Earth. Athena awakens to find an intruder in her cabin on a spaceship. Confused but unafraid, she waits for him to get closer before she makes her move. Her move, surprisingly enough, is to jump out of bed and attack her attacker. Caught off guard, the attacked is dropped and Athena makes her escape. But that’s when the problems really begin…
Athena knows she has to get off the ship, so she makes her way to the launch bay, where the escape pods wait. She manages to sneak aboard and jettison out into the wilds of space, heading towards the vast powertrees that were her only chance at escaping. However, once inside she realizes that she is not alone in her hiding out in the powertrees orbiting Earth: a Darkship Thief is there as well, watching her.
The Darkship Thieves are legends on Earth, former slaves of the terrifying old rulers of Earth. They killed babies, kidnapped elderly and stole anything not bolted down were just a few of the popular stories about them. They also stole the power from the vast powertrees that Earth received electricity from, which would make them public enemy number one: if anyone believed they really existed anymore.
Athena is brought aboard the ship and, for a minute there, I was worried that Sarah had pulled the typical “male hero on board, they fall in love and live happily ever after” trope. Thank God that Ms. Hoyt read a lot of Heinlein in her lifetime, because what she has Athena do instead made me cheer. The terrified, scared and cornered “socialite” attacks the humanoid inside the spaceship once she’s on board. Not “fists flailing and crying” attack, but a cold, calculated and nearly lethal attack instead. However, the man inside the ship is slightly faster and stronger than she is, the first such person she had met in her entire life.
That is the first inkling that something strange was going on in this book…
I don’t know how else to say this: go buy this book. It is an amazing piece of work, and Ms. Hoyt can really spin a good yarn. There are almost no points in the book where the scene drags out and makes you want to kill somebody, and the characters are so believable that you actually feel bad when you realize that Athena has done something stupid (once again). She is so believable that I could swear I’d met Athena somewhere before. Her captor/rescuer, Kit, is just as “real”, with his own faults, secrets and personal depression over the past. The setting is amazing, and the planetoid Eden is stunning in both its’ simplicity and complexity.
The conclusion of the book is startling. The big secret is revealed, and it’s up to Athena and Kit to make things right once more. And right doesn’t always means that the ending is happy…
Go and read this book. It’s amazing. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.
—Reviewed by Jason