Pirate Sun
Karl Schroeder
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Buy *Pirate Sun: Book Three of Virga* by Karl Schroeder

Pirate Sun: Book Three of Virga
Karl Schroeder
320 pages
August 2008
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The third book of Virga focuses on Admiral Chaison Fanning and his adventures after the events in the first book, Sun of Suns. Some of the characters from the second book, Queen of Candesce, make brief appearances.

After the ill-fated attack against the Falcon Formation, Chaison and a few of his men were taken captive. They are in a zero-gee prison where Chaison is being tortured for information. His wife, Venera Fanning, has vowed to release him, and the book starts when her plan is set into motion. Unfortunately, Chaison does not want to leave his men behind and so foils part of the escape plan. Even though the three men manage to leave the prison, they are now on their own as wanted criminals in enemy airspace without food.

Fortunately, they are soon discovered by a young woman, Antaea Argyre, who claims that she is behind the prison break. Chaison Fanning, young crewman Darius Martok, and former diplomat Richard Reiss really have no choice but to trust Antaea, at least to a point. After months in the weightless prison and without any resources, the three men are pretty helpless. Antaea helps them get to the nearest big city where they might blend among the crowds and work to get food. Police forces are looking for them, and the fact that another state has decided to invade the Falcon Formation doesn't help at all.

The three men are an interesting mixture. Admiral Chaison Fanning is a noble tactician; young Darius Martok was press-ganged into Fanning's ship as a boy, and the only life he really knows is war. Richard Reiss was an ambassador to another country for many years and learned to enjoy that opulent lifestyle before Chaison came along and essentially ruined Reiss's life. Now they have to rely on each other if they want to survive and eventually to return home. Even that might turn out to be difficult: according to rumors, Chaison is considered a traitor back home.

Chaison is the major point-of-view character, but there are glimpses of other points of view as well. The secondary POV character is Antaea Argyre, a member of the home guard whose job is to protect the whole known world of Virga against outside threats. The home guard are among the few people in the Virga who know that there is a larger, much stranger world outside the free-falling suns and wheeling cities of Virga. While Argyre does protect Chaison, she does it for her own reasons, which might bode ill for the Admiral. Through her, the reader gets some tantalizing glances at the larger science fiction world outside Virga.

The trust between these varied characters comes perhaps a little too easily, but they do need each other to survive. Reiss especially doesn't seem to be angry to Chaison even though he turned Reiss's life upside-down and is essentially responsible for Reiss being a prisoner in the first place. The circus strongman introduced later in the book is also an intriguing and complex character.

In this awe-inspiring steampunk setting, cities spin in order to make their own gravity; characters fly with artificial wings or jet bikes and use both guns and swords. The fast-paced plot features a couple of really large-scale three-dimensional battles. Most of the time, the four characters are on the run and don't have time to catch their breath. Each of the book's three parts - the Admiral, the Strongman, and the Pilot - is set in different wheel-cities, even though they continue the story seamlessly.

While the ending brings closure to the characters and the main plot, larger plot threads are left open for further exploration. The prologue to Pirate Sun can be read for free at Schroeder's website.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Mervi Hamalainen, 2009

Also by Karl Schroeder:

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