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Marque and Reprisal    by Elizabeth Moon order for
Marque and Reprisal
by Elizabeth Moon
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Elizabeth Moon can always be counted on for stirring space adventure, with well-delineated, engaging characters and plenty of intrigue and action. She delivers that again in Marque and Reprisal, the sequel to Trading in Danger, starring competent young starship captain Kylara Vatta.

As this episode opens, Ky's family and their interstellar shipping business come under attack at their home base of Slotter Key. Many close to her die and the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. Luckily, Aunt Gracie (whose chequered past makes her much more than the 'scrawny, pestiferous old woman' she appears) takes a hand, sending more of her 'least edible but most valuable fruitcakes in the universe' with Ky's outcast cousin Stella. Along the way, Stella picks up Toby, a young family member whom chance made the sole survivor of a Vatta spaceship blown up at dock. They're helped to escape by Rafe, a charming old flame of Stella's, who has surprising links to InterStellar Communications (a Vatta ally suffering treachery from within) and unusual talents.

Ky survives several assassination attempts, takes on an ex-Spaceforce security chief, Gordon Martin, a young stowaway, and a stray dog. After receiving a 'letter of marque' from Slotter Key, she wonders what she can do to save her family with only the ancient, slow, unarmed tradeship Gary Tobai, and without communication (ansibles are down everywhere, halting the flow of money and trade). Ky also worries about the pleasure she feels in killing her enemies, not something she feels her family would approve. After Stella and company show up, Ky makes a deal with Mackensee mercenaries and sets out to do what she can. Though her ship's first engagement in the war (with an old enemy of her father's) is almost its last, Ky's killer instincts pull her crew through.

Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series has turned into a rollercoaster of thrills and military adventure in Marque and Reprisal - I'm anxious to see how Ky copes next time in Engaging the Enemy, and hope that my favorite character, the engaging aunt Gracie, has a starring role.

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