Shattermoon by Dominic Dulley
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Publication date: 14 June 2018
Genre: Adult science fiction
Page count: 448 pages
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Welcome to my stop on the Shattermoon blog tour! I’m so excited to bring you a review for this fast-paced space opera from a debut novelist.
You all know I love a good heist novel, and while I’ve read a fair few fantasy heist books, I don’t think I’ve ever found a science fiction book that fits in this category. You can only imagine how excited I was to hear about Shattermoon.
An inexperienced grifter. An obsolete spaceship. And against them, the might of the Grand Fleet. Orry might just be in over her head.
Orry’s father is the best conman in the quadrant, targeting the decadent ruling families of the Ascendancy, running elaborate heists with Orry and her brother Ethan before disappearing without a trace. This time should be no different.
But then Orry goes off-script and everything falls apart. Less than an hour later the Count’s spoiled grandson is dead and Orry’s on the run, accused of a murder she didn’t commit.
Turns out, the pendant Orry stole was crafted by the Departed, the ancient civilisation who left this universe aeons ago, taking most of their secrets with them. But she’s not the only one who wants it. It doesn’t take ruthless space pirate Morven Dyas long to track her down, or to threaten her with her worst fear, and when she’s unexpectedly rescued by loner Jurgen Mender and his ageing spaceship, the Dainty Jane, Orry knows there’s only one thing left to do.
It will take all of Orry’s powers of persuasion to get Mender to agree to her plan, especially when even she can see the madness of pitting an inexperienced young grifter, a space-dog long past his best and an obsolete spaceship against the Imperial Fleet, the worst of the space-pirates – and the alien Kadiran, who are getting bored with the long, uneasy truce with humankind . . .
But what other choice does she have?
I really liked the world of Shattermoon. I tend to prefer my sci-fi to be gritty and dark, with a clear indication that technology doesn’t make our lives shiny and perfect, and this is exactly what the world Dulley creates is like. The setting reminded me in many ways of Firefly, a show I absolutely love. We learn enough about the world to have a good understanding of what’s going on, but are left wanting to explore more. For me, this is the best strategy for world-building because the reader’s imagination can run wild. The setting that stands out most to me is, unsurprisingly, Shattermoon itself. What a cool concept! I really love the way Dulley creates his little area of occupied space. The colourful, inventive planets, cities, and ports, along with the startling difference between the wealthy aristocratic class and, well, everyone else, really stood out. In fact, it is this class difference that really helped make sense of what fuels Orry’s actions and prejudices.
Shattermoon is very much a plot-driven novel rather than a character driven one, which tends to not be my preference. This book is incredibly fast paced — it move at breakneck speed and doesn’t let up. The plot is essentially action sequence after action sequence, and all the in-between bits have been trimmed from the novel. I think this will work for some readers but not for others. The pace is truly relentless and there’s no breathing room. While this style took awhile to adjust to, I do appreciate the speed at which the plot moved. It makes it a very fast and compelling read, however it does sacrifice some of the character building and world building you get in those ‘cooling off’ moments.
While there is a reasonably sized cast, our two main characters truly stand out. We spend most of our time with Orry, the protagonist of the story, and I really enjoyed her character. She’s smart and sassy, but also incredibly clever and good at what she does — she’s not just a one-note heroine that we can sometimes get in these kinds of stories. She proves again and again that she’s not only good at what she does, she’s an incredibly capable woman. She has depth and she is flawed, and you really can’t help but love her. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with Mender and her brother.
Mender is the other character who really stands out in this book. I love characters like him — the gruff, grumpy, often older hermit-types who just want to be left alone but are dragged into other people’s messes. It took me a little while to warm to Mender, which I think is the point, but I really ended up enjoying his story arc in the book.
The characterization for the more secondary characters like Dyas, Harry, and Ethan felt a little flat. I’d love to have seen more back story and personality from them, particularly Harry, but again that’s because I tend to prefer character driven books. I think that they function well enough within the story, and I’m hoping to learn more about each of them as the series progresses.
Overall, I really enjoyed Shattermoon. Although I wish we had stronger character arcs and more fleshed out secondary characters, this was balanced out by good world-building and main characters that you can’t help but root for. Shattermoon is a fun and fast-paced heist novel with shades of Firefly that would be a perfect summer read. I’ll definitely be continuing on with this series.
CW: some graphic violence and attempted/threatened sexual assault
Want to give Shattermoon a try? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):
About the Author
Dominic Dulley is a software developer with a passion for SF. His short fiction has been published widely, in books, journals and magazines. Shattermoon is his first novel, and the start of the fast-moving space opera The Long Game. He lives with his wife and family in Warwick.
I loved participating in this tour — many thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for inviting me to join! Keep an eye out for more stops on the Shattermoon blog tour for more reviews and other content!