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Engaging the Enemy    by Elizabeth Moon order for
Engaging the Enemy
by Elizabeth Moon
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Engaging the Enemy follows Trading in Danger and Marque and Reprisal as the third (but thankfully not last) in a series starring Kylara Vatta, scion of a powerful interstellar trading clan. The series opened with its young heroine sent under a cloud on an interstellar shipping milk run. Of course, it ended up as nothing of the sort, embroiling the green young captain in mutiny and war. In the second episode the Vattas came under sudden attack at their home base of Slotter Key, at the same time as most interstellar communication ansibles were destroyed. Aunt Gracie, who survived, sent Ky's cousin Stella to her with orders and her father's implant. Ky subsequently fought and defeated a rogue family member, Osman Vatta.

Now, holding a Slotter Key letter of marque, Ky captains Osman's ship, the Fair Kaleen. She wonders how to fulfill her mission, to save what's left of the family and its once thriving business, 'with no allies and too few assets'. She does have the tactical advantage of shipboard ansibles, thanks to Stella's old flame, the charming Rafe, whose primary loyalty is to InterStellar Communications. Ky puts Stella in charge of the ancient, unarmed tradeship Gary Tobai and, to Stella's dismay, travels ahead of her to Rosvirein, hoping to change her ship's current identification, and pick up needed crew. When the station comes under attack, she moves on to Sallyon, where there is news of pirates waging war against Bissonet.

Learning more about what led to the attack on her family, Ky realizes that a large fleet of pirates was behind the destruction of ansibles, and is now taking over governments. She concludes that she needs to pull together an equivalent fleet of privateers to defend legitimate planetary governments and interstellar shipping. Ejected from Sallyon for rabblerousing, Ky heads to the Moscoe Confederation, where her old nemesis, Captain Furman, causes trouble, and a furious Stella finally catches up with her. Ky evolves as a leader in this episode, with inspiring lines such as 'I don't intend survival. I intend victory.' And, after initial problems, she does take the beginnings of a privateer fleet into action against the enemy.

I was delighted to see more in this episode of scrawny, ancient (often underestimated) Aunt Grace (Gracie Lane Vatta), who gets more up close and personal action this time than Ky does. She spies on, and intimidates, the corrupt President of Slotter Key, finds a new ally in Spaceforce Academy Master Sergeant MacRobert, and saves surviving Vatta children from assassins. Elizabeth Moon, one of my favorite military SF authors, can always be relied upon for stirring space adventure and an entertaining read, and she provides both in Engaging the Enemy. Though it starts slowly, it moves on to a rousing finale, and I look forward to more of Vatta's War.

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