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Warchild    by Karin Lowachee order for
by Karin Lowachee
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2002 (2002)
Paperback, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Warchild is an impressive debut novel that reminded me of a C. J. Cherryh SF story crossed with a kung fu movie. It begins with a small (eight-year-old) boy, Joslyn Aaron Musey, on the merchant ship Mukudori as it is attacked by pirates from the Genghis Khan. Jos is captured, after managing to kill one of them, and kept close to their vicious leader, Falcone (the rest of the captured children are sold to other ships). Joslyn is abused, though he suppresses the memories, so that the details and extent are not clear. A year later, when the boy accompanies Falcone onto Chaos Station, he manages to escape during an alien attack, but is shot by Falcone.

Jos wakes up on a different ship, with the Warboy, a leader of sympathizers (symps) to the cause of an alien race, whom they believe to have been unjustly treated by humans. The Warboy, Nikolas-dan, gradually gains the child's trust as he takes him to the alien planet Aaian-na. There he teaches Jos the striviirc-na language and philosophy, and trains him as a ka-redan, a member of their caste of assassin priests. Eventually Niko asks Jos to take on an important mission. He has to infiltrate the EarthHub military carrier Macedon, captained by Cairo Azarcon, who has collected a crew of unwanted orphans, 'throwaways'.

Jos is accepted as a Macedon recruit, though its captain appears to have an unusual interest in his origins. While fighting symps and pirates, Jos also spies for the Warboy. His loyalties are torn when he discovers that symps have been in league with the pirates, helping them to enslave children. The action quickly escalates into multiple space battles and encounters with both Falcone and Niko, in which Jos's past is exposed, and he must make choices that affect his own future and that of the alien race that gave him refuge. We leave Jos fittingly 'standing, on a station between worlds' and I look forward to seeing what this exciting new author delivers next.

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