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Restless Lightning: Breaker of Empires #2    by Richard Baker order for
Restless Lightning
by Richard Baker
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2018 (2018)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Richard Baker's Valiant Dust introduced readers to a new SF military thriller hero, Lieutenant Sikander Singh North. He is Kashmiri royalty, his home system a client state to Aquila, far behind in both technology and industrial development. A younger son, Sikander entered military service in the Commonwealth Navy, accompanied by his valet/minder Darvesh Reza.

In the first episode, he saved the day in an interplanetary conflict, but disobeyed a superior's order to do so. This has left his career in question, some wanting a court martial while others see him as a hero. Now, as Restless Lightning opens, he's been assigned to the Helix Station as the squadron's Intelligence Officer, interacting with the alien Tzoru Empire, that controls over a hundred planets. His new commanding officer is Commodore William Abernathy.

On an official visit in the capital with the Commodore and his Deputy, Francine Reyes (who takes every opportunity to criticize Sikander), they are attacked by a warumzi agu mob. The warumzi agu object to the influence of growing trade with the Commonwealth. There is unrest in the Empire, and a high level resignation of a moderate - 'a bolt from the blue.'

Sikay takes the opportunity to catch up with a close friend (and romantic interest), Dr. Lara Dunstan, in nearby Durzinzer. Of course, he gets himself into trouble, but saves Lara from another angry mob. Matters escalate; all foreign embassies in the capital are threatened; space battles commence; and Sikander is blamed for the Intel failure. He redeems himself by proposing a dangerous mission, leads it, and once more saves the day.

This hero has been compared to C.S. Forrester's Horatio Hornblower and David Weber's Honor Harrington. Elizabeth Moon's Kylara Vatta also comes to mind. Highly recommended!

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