Skykeep by Joseph R. Lallo

Skykeep by Joseph R. LalloSkykeep is a sequel to Free Wrench in many ways, with the same cast and set in the same world, but it’s also an independent story. Rather than maintaining the same narrator, all the crew of the Wind Breaker are given a chance to hold the point of view, allowing us to get to know them a lot better. I’d expected from the blurb I read to find Nita driving the rescue, but that’s not the case. Without spoiling anything, I can say that each member of the crew, including Nita, had a part to play, even Wink and the newest addition, Nikita (another aye-aye), while despite being one of the captured, Nita doesn’t let a simple thing like being held in a secret, impregnable prison stand in her way.

The reasons I enjoyed the Wind Breaker and its crew in Free Wrench are very evident here. The crew is full of ingenuity, strong in the face of any odds, and even if they have momentary lapses, no matter what, they have faith it will all work out–somehow. The crew isn’t a collection of geniuses, nor do they have unique skills absent from any other crew. What they have is persistence, creative thinking, and the willingness to work hard and be flexible.

These characteristics are part of the reason they make friends wherever they go. The other reason being how they respect the strengths in others and do not dismiss any out of hand even when, for example, they know there are no good fuggers. Ultimately, it’s the last that makes them good people. The same actions could have made them villains but their motivations, and how they go about things, are always solid and understandable. Even better, they’re capable of seeing the motivations driving others, something that leads to forgiveness when hatred would not be out of place.

There are half a dozen places where a line made me laugh, where a turn of phrase captured a situation beautifully, or where a comment speaks to a much deeper understanding of how things work than might be expecting in what is a romp and adventure. I’m avoiding specifics because they come within context that would give things away, but there are more levels to this story than the overt ones, something I always appreciate.

I can give one example of their unconventional thinking from the very beginning though.

The Wind Breaker is one of the few ships able to do their own repairs, thanks to Nita. She’s training the rest of the crew, a rather difficult task when the only one with technical expertise is focused on blowing things up rather than stopping them from doing so. It’s with this background that they arrive at the only port willing to do business with them because it has no fear of offending the Fug people because everyone there has already been ostracized. Nita’s skill in repairs is one of the things the Wind Breaker has to offer, and Lil volunteers to assist. None of that made me laugh though. Rather, it was Lil’s logic as she states if she has to learn this fixing stuff, much better to do so on someone else’s equipment. It’s not a mean statement to her. It’s pure logic and a perfect demonstration of her character, something a far sight from heroic but more pragmatic than villainous.

Though I’d been looking forward to a continuation of Nita’s adventures, the broader focus on the whole crew was lovely and led to a strong novel without any risk of repetition. I am most definitely joining the chorus of those asking for more.

P.S. This is the final book from the Story Bundle I was in last month, but there’s little doubt these authors will be adding other titles to my to-be-read piles.

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