Karin Lowachee won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest with Warchild, she was recently nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and is a finalist for the Prix Aurora Award. It is easy to see why.
The Mukudori is a merchant spaceship under attack by enemy pirates. Eight-year-old Joslyn knows the drill; he has gone over it time and again with his parents. He is to hide in the secret place until the danger passes and his mother and father come and tell him it is okay for him to come out. Only it seems like he has been hiding quietly for far too long. He dares to come out of hiding and learns that the battle waged on the ship is not yet over.
Falcone, captain of the Gengis Khan, led the pirates on the raid, destroying the Mukudori, killing all of the adults and taking the children prisoner. Most of the children he sells as slaves to alien nations. For some reason, he decides to keep and train Jos. He is harsh and strict and violent, but Jos manages to survive a year in captivity. Not knowing what Falcone has in store for him when the two land at Chaos space station, Jos plans to escape.
A gunfight between the pirates and the alien Striviicc-na explodes. In the turmoil and confusion, Jos tries to run but is captured by one of the aliens and whisked away to their planet. Once again a prisoner, Jos is put under the tutelage of Nikolas-da, who works with him to teach him the Strit language, customs and how to fight. He is an assassin priest and expects Jos to follow suit.
As a well-trained and deadly assassin, Jos finds himself on a dangerous assignment but is slowed by the confusion growing inside his own head. Whom can he trust? Who is right and who is wrong? Truth is the answer to everything, but everyone has their own perception and interpretation of the word. It is up to Jos to sort through the piles of doubt in order to figure out who he is, what he believes and where he stands in flux of life.
Lowachee writes with precise clarity, eloquent prose and crisp dialogue, planting the reader in the future world she creates. Though the story starts strong and fast then falls a little flat for the next hundred pages or so as the relationship between Jos and Nikolas-da develops, all the action and excitement is right around the corner. Take a seat and a deep breath. Warchild is a wild and entertaining read.