I’m not sure what drew me to this book, but I’m glad that I took a chance on it. It ended up being completely different from most of the space-faring adventures I have picked up in the past. This made it unique and appealing to someone like me, who only tends to read action packed science fiction with no-nonsense heroines who kick ass.
Ava is a teenage girl who has never been off her small deep space merchant ship, the Parastrata. In fact, her culture doesn’t let women off the ship very much at all. Only those who are high ranking or those who get special privilege are allowed off the ship at any point. This leaves her body much weaker than her mind and pretty much holds her hostage to her own ship or a similar ship.
Ava’s worldview is very limited. Though she enjoys fixing bits of the ship, deemed a male oriented task, she makes sure to do it in secret and only if it seems as though no one else would be tasked with it. Her goals in life are to marry and have children. Even with the crush she has on a boy she met once when his ship visited, he is not her top priority.
Now, I should probably mention, Ava’s merchant culture and all ships within that merchant culture, are polygamist. Ava is perfectly happy being someone’s third or fourth wife. This is just how she was raised. When it turns out that she is ready to be married, though, it turns out she will be sent to the other ship, the one with the boy she already has a crush on. This changes her goals and she starts to get excited and hope that the boy, Luck, who is of marrying age as well, will be her husband.
Luck also comes to the same conclusion, and in a night of passion before the marriage papers are signed, they are caught. They find out that instead of being meant for Luck, Ava was meant to be the wife of the captain, Luck’s father, who already had plenty of wives. Luck is beaten for his insubordination and Ava is sent back to her own ship in shame. On on her own ship, she is dressed in her funeral best and left near the airlock, to be thrown out into the void once the ship is away from the port they are currently using.
A childless widow, one of Ava’s dead mother’s friends, risks her life to get Ava off the ship and onto the space station. Ava, who already knew she had an aunt living on earth, is told of her location and to find her. Ava gets very lucky at this point, beseeching help from a woman who looked as though she’d seen her fair share of trouble. She is taken down to earth where the woman, Perpétue, and her daughter nurse Ava as she acclimates to the gravity.
Eventually, Ava is able to do small tasks around the household and in growing stronger, is taught how to fly the small spacecraft that is the family’s courier livelihood. Returning from one of these trips, they see that their island home is overrun by the ocean and a terrible storm. The young daughter, Miyole, is rescued, but Perpétue is lost in the process. Ava is thrust with the sudden burden of providing for a young child. So, she decides to go try and find her aunt in Mumbai.
The quest that unfolds tests Ava’s sense of self. She finds obstacles that test her world view and her capacity. Coming through the other side, she grows into a strong minded character with her own thoughts and desires. When given the chance to have everything she could have wanted at the book’s start, she finds that she’s advanced well past that stage and declines.
While the book is not full of the most exciting adventures, it does have its fair share of tense moments. It remains compelling despite this. Ava’s growth and discovery take center stage and keeping the plot moves at a great pace as she learns new things and encounters new people.