A bit of non-pony science fiction today. The second book in a series that I only kind of liked the first one. Spoiler warning, I liked the first one better then this one despite the quality of the writing. That was a spoiler warning for the review, not the book, obviously.
This story is a textbook example of a Mary Sue. The author is a good writing, but the point remains. This is the second book in the series and it was somewhat noticeable in the first one, but it got overwhelming here. The main character is hard working, smart enough to excel at studying subjects far above his level of training, can diagnose the details of someone’s physical and mental injuries in about twenty minutes of casual conversation, is so handsome he makes every woman he passes by swoon dramatically during the second half of the book, he makes perfect trading choices in each port, and his only flaws are being humble, getting embarrassed when the plot demands it, and having no friends when he was growing up. Lots of no strings attached sex with women while growing up, but no real friends.
The universe itself also seems like the author’s idealized wish-fulfillment fantasy world. We don’t get any ideas of how the ships work or how society interacts on various worlds or with space travel or anything. There is basically no worldbuilding whatsoever in this space trader story. Not even any exotic products to trade. We get leather belts, metal buckles, rolls of wool and silk, polished stones, hand-knitted shawls and scarves. No mention of anything like books, media, exotic food or spices or even industrial equipment or materials. The entire universe seems to be a simplified old-time ocean trading fantasy world with all the bad bits removed, all the interesting bits filed off, and a Mary Sue as the main character.
The writing is good. If the lack of worldbuilding and near perfect protagonist don’t drive you off you’ll probably enjoy this story. I know someone who has pretty good taste in stories who devoured the whole 6 book series back to back in about two weeks she enjoyed them so much. So it’s certainly not a bad set of books. Just shallow in all the specific areas I really want depth and complexity in when reading a story. This is a good example of how the ease of self-publishing leads to fan fiction quality writing getting sold as professional literature. Anyone who reads a lot of poor to bad fan fiction would probably recognize fairly common cliched mistakes here. Though, as mentioned, the general quality level of the writing is quite high outside of those particular bits.