Ithaka Rising by L.J. Cohen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Disclosures: I received a copy via Netgalley for independent review. I know the author on social media, and she has beta-read for me in the past.
I very much enjoyed the first Halcyone Space novel, Derelict, and looked forward to this one with slight trepidation that it might not measure up. Although I didn't love it quite as much as the first, it's still a fine second book in the series, and a hopeful sign of good things to come.
I mentioned that I enjoyed it slightly less than the previous one, and the main reason is that I felt the plot of the first progressed reliably and logically from point to point, while this book's plot relied on a helpful coincidence (and on a character jumping to a correct conclusion on, I felt, too little evidence.)
(view spoiler)[One of the characters is taken to the hidden planet Ithaka, and the other characters, at just the right time, discover a way to get there and correctly conclude that that's where he is, for no really good reason. (hide spoiler)]
Apart from that, the plot was sound, the character relationships and their development were well handled and satisfying, and the prose shows clear improvement over previous books (which were already above average). The challenges the characters face are political and interpersonal, without the action-based challenges of the first book, but they're none the worse for that. And I did appreciate the realistic depiction of long-term consequences from physical injury. (Since the author used to work as a physical therapist, and is married to a doctor, this is a great example of "write what you know".)
I was surprised to see, when I went to post my review, that the book is 400 pages long. It didn't feel long, which is an excellent sign.
I look forward to future entries in this space opera with a brain and a heart.
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