Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


“All those sightings of the ship. It’s no ghost. It’s real, and it’s going to lead us to the Red Palace.”

Twenty years ago, the Askensel and its crew vanished. With the ship taken by pirates and the crew presumed dead, it was the inciting incident that led to war, pitting the military and merchant ships against the Li pirates. Now, there’s a new generation of pirates as Li Xhing, daughter of the old pirate king, has taken over his empire. Her ships are more clever and tenacious, but not yet ready to take on a powerful navy the way her father did. She’s subtle, safe in her stronghold, the Red Palace. Perhaps things would have continued on their path, with Li Xhing’s ships poking and prodding at merchant ships, testing borders, and harassing small traders. But sometimes all it takes is the flap of a butterfly’s wings …

While shopping on a space station, Jha Ishir sees something that shouldn’t, by rights, exist. A jacket from the Askensel, complete with the name and badges of the man who once wore it. For Ishir, the jacket isn’t just an anomaly, it’s hope. Hope that somewhere the crew of the Askensel are still alive, that his father might still be alive.

It’s a wild goose chase, a hunt for a ghost ship that will probably end in nothing more than pain and loss. Ishir knows it, but he has to take the chance. He has to. And Finn, former Marine, knows his husband all too well. When Ishir tries to sneak away, Finn sighs and ambles after him, because where Ishir goes, he goes, come hell or high water.

Palace Ghosts is a space adventure that will scratch all those Star Trek itches. It’s sleek ships, and clever and brave men and women who use intellect and teamwork to solve difficult puzzles. It’s diplomacy and disarming smiles, redemption and friendship, along with slave revolts, gun battles, and high-pressure hostage negotiations. It’s fun, it’s quick, and it’s a standalone. (Though if the author chooses to make this a series, I’ll be standing in line for book two.)

Ishir is a proud man, and knowing he’s doing something stupid, he tries to leave his husband out of it. It’s one thing for him to wander off into the dark edges of space chasing a dream, it’s another to bring Finn along with him. But Finn isn’t going to let his flighty, high-strung, and quick to anger husband go haring off on an adventure without him. After all, it’s why they left the military, so they could be together. Ishir thinking he can go alone and leave Finn behind? Not happening.

Finn has a veneer of lackadaisical good-nature, but he’s colder and more focused than he lets people believe. Always keeping an eye on the exit, tracking where people are and who may or may not be armed is a habit from his time in the Marines, but it’s one he still keeps up. Knowing how to to command people is a skill both he and Ishir have, but Finn is better at using them, convincing them to do things his way.

The book isn’t focused so much on the characters as it is the plot, which is the strength of this book. While some points do get explained a bit more than needed, everything was delivered clearly and always through the eyes of a character. There were never lengthy info dumps, just skillful world building. I do think that the book missed me by a hair simply because there were no real character moments where I could see Ishir and Finn and their relationship, the bond they’ve built up over the years. Weeks and months went by within pages, but it never felt like the characters lived that time.

Still, this is a nice book to scratch a sci-fi itch. The writing is very easy to read, the pace is a bit on the fast side, moving from plot point to plot point, but it also made it easy to finish it in one sitting. I’m going to keep an eye on this author, and hope you give this book a chance.