This week I decided to review Her Brother's Keeper by Mike Kupari.
The story starts with Catherine Blackwood, captain of the privateer Andromeda meeting with her father. The two have been estranged ever since her father supported the law that ended her military career by forbidding women from serving on warships. However, her brother Cecil is now being held captive on Zanzibar, a chaotic world that never recovered from the damage it had suffered in the early days of humanity's first war with another species more than a century earlier. Their father wishes to hire the Andromeda to retrieve Cecil dead or alive whether peacefully or by force, and Catherine agrees to the job.
On the world of New Austin, Marshal Marcus Winchester, needing more money after his wife discovers she is pregnant, and his partner Wade Bishop, sign on when Andromeda starts recruiting mercenaries in case a strike team is needed to retrieve Cecil. But he is soon joined by his daughter Annie, who wants to be a spacer when she's older and is offered the chance to serve on Andromeda rather than spend a year in juvenile detention after Annie attacked and badly injured a girl who had drugged Annie's horse to death.
Meanwhile Cecil is being forced by the Zanzabarian warlord Aristotle Lang to hunt for artifacts belonging to the long dead species that was native to the planet so Lang can sell them to purchase weapons to seize control of the said planet, and perhaps find out what happened millions of years earlier that removed its magnetosphere, dissipated most of the planet's atmosphere, vaporized its oceans, and halted its tectonic activity thus dooming its native civilization, as well as why the Maggots, Humanity's enemies in the Second Interstellar War and the only space-faring non-humans mankind has encountered, showed more restraint when attacking Zanzibar compared to most of the human worlds they targeted.
Andromeda begins the journey from New Austin to Zanzibar, finding an ancient exploration ship belonging to the Second Federation, humanity's most advanced civilization before it fell during a civil war between humans and the post-humanist movement which worshiped and served a malfunctioning AI. But the ship still has ancient lurking dangers, so Andromeda flags the location to sell to salvagers later. Then, at the Orlov Combine, a police state where everyone is guilty of some crime even if its just thinking something not approved by the government, the ship is stopped by an internal security officer who offers them a deal. He will allow them to continue their journey if they rescue his daughter, wanted for treason, and take her to a settlement of Orlov expatriates on Zanzibar. Catherine agrees and succeeds in the mission, narrowly evading the system's defenses to escape.
After arriving at Zanzibar, Lang offers to release Cecil if the Andromeda smuggles the artifacts Cecil's team has discovered out, purchase weapons for Lang and brings them back, releasing the rest of Cecil's team as a gesture of goodwill. Catherine refuses to become a weapon smuggler, though, and launches a rescue mission that succeeds in retrieving both Cecil and his Zanzabarian lover Bianca, who takes a bullet for him during the rescue. But Andromeda still needs to be resupplied before she can make the long journey home and with the vengeful forces of Lang closing on the ground and a warship from the Orlov Combine the ship and its crew will face a desperate struggle for survival.
I give the book 9.5 out of 10. It has a great variety of action sequences throughout, some great characters, and a wide array of hooks for possible prequels and sequels. The only problems I have with it are very minor. A few sections I feel could have been trimmed or removed without effecting the story and a couple of points where I feel the actions of characters or the order they take some actions in don't entirely make sense.