Orbit: Hachette. (Nova Vita Protocol, Bk. 1). Nov. 2019. 560p. ISBN 9780316453998. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316454001. SF
Scorpia Kaiser—a bit reckless and, at times, more than a bit drunk—is heir to her mother’s smuggling operation, thanks to her older brother Corvus taking off to fight in a war on his home planet. The cargo ship Fortuna may be rundown, but it is the only place the space-born Scorpia can call home. When her mother’s last deal takes them right to Titan, the planet where Corvus has been fighting, he is ready to return and take up the reins. But Scorpia and her other siblings discover this deal will take the war off-world, with deadly results. Now the Kaiser siblings must decide if they should blow the secret plans wide open, even if it means being in more trouble than ever before. Family issues bring humor to the heavier themes of xenophobic planets and war crimes, and alternating chapters between Scorpia’s and Corvus’s points of view provide a broader perspective on this fascinating galaxy.
VERDICT Merbeth’s space opera takes off in new directions after her previous postapocalyptic books (Bite; Raid). High energy, high stakes, and lots of high notes will give readers who enjoy Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera a new volume on which to crash-land.

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