Victory Conditions (Vatta’s War V) – Elizabeth Moon

This book concludes the Vatta’s War series. Moon rather predictably ties up the loose threads and (not really a spoiler) the good guys win.

I enjoyed reading it, but nothing really surprising jumped up at me. While the series is worthwhile entertainment, it will never be remembered as groundbreaking or fantastic. The universe Moon has crafted is a bit too cute, a bit too orderly. The idiosyncrasies of the various cultures are a bit too manufactured and corny and the series suffers from it. There is little real societal tension. All of a sudden the great big enemy pops up, seemingly out of nowhere without any real reason for doing so (apart from stereotypical lust for power) and bam! Big fight. Good guys win. The crowd goes wild. It’s a fun adventure series, but it is lacking in depth.

Command Decision (Vatta’s War IV) – Elizabeth Moon

In the fourth book of Vatta’s War, Ky proves her worth as a commander, defeating a pirate flotilla with the helper of newly developed tactics made possible by shipboard ansibles. As a consequence, the Slotter Key government decides to put its large fleet of privateers under her direct command. Cousin Stella successfully gets the Vatta trading concern back up on its feet, and is able to start producing hardware vital to the war effort

After the somewhat disappointing “Engaging the Enemy“, this book sees a resurgence in action. The story starts moving decisively forward at a decent pace, leading up towards the conclusion.

Engaging the Enemy (Vatta’s War III) – Elizabeth Moon

The third book in the Vatta’s War series suffers from a bit of “middle-book-itis”. There is no decisive action, just a skirmish tacked on at the end. Ky’s cousin Stella is angry with her. Then they reconcile. The possible romance with roguish Rafe goes nowhere. A least by the end Ky is set up as a privateer.

It’s not a bad novel. It’s just a bit more dull than it’s predecessors. Trading in Danger could stand on its own. Engaging the Enemy cannot.

Marque and Reprisal (Vatta’s War II) – Elizabeth Moon

The second book in the “Vatta’s War” series starts off exactly where Trading in Danger ends. After the initial tentative volley, the war on the interstellar status quo begins in earnest. Ansibles, used to communicate instantly between stars, are sabotaged and destroyed in a successful attempt to destabilize and weaken trade. Vatta Transport becomes the target of a concerted attack, and most of Ky’s family is killed. Ky herself encounters the black sheep of the family, and (as borne out in the title) becomes a privateer.

The tone of this novel is quite similar to the first. In fact, the books feel not so much like a series as volumes of the same narrative. The characters, especially Ky, continue to develop in both expected and unexpected ways, as Moon builds an intricate web of relationships backed by skillfully described internal thought processes. The action contained in this installment ensures it doesn’t really feel like an interim book.

Trading in Danger (Vatta’s War I) – Elizabeth Moon

This is the first book in the “Vatta’s War” series. Kylara Vatta is a scion of the Vatta shipping dynasty. Despite this, she decides to make a career in the military. The book sstarts with her being thrown out of the academy after ill-advisedly helping a fellow cadet with a personal matter. Her father and uncle then send her off as Captain of an old ship on its last journey, to the scrapheap. But of course she can’t just do that. She decides to prove that she can be a successful trader. Exciting adventures ensue.

This is pure space opera. While the the fictional physics are mostly adhered to, they are there purely to support the story. Thankfully, Kylara Vatta is a very engaging and intriguing character. She is very young but very capable; her father’s girl but with a mind of her own; a trader needing to prove herself but also a captain for a great shipping line. While not quite a page turner, the book does keep serving up surprises until the end. However without Kylara the book would be nothing. She makes the story. Moon has been writing this stuff for a while now so it’s all nicely polished. I recommend this if you are into adventure SciFi with complex protagonists.