Review: Sailor to a Siren

If you like your space opera fast and violent, this book is for you. The story centres on two brothers, Connor and Logan: Connor is the (relatively) responsible one, and worries for his feckless brother – especially when Logan rekindles a old relationship with a dangerous woman. Both of them are neck-deep in gang politics on a world rich with alien races and old feuds.

Although this is my kind of tale, I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy Sailor to a Siren as much as I hoped. I’ve no problem with frequent fights, ambushes and arguments – action and conflict are good, and they’re well described – but sometimes I found myself wondering exactly why, beyond the general level of violence, a particular bust-up was occurring. I also found it hard to get a handle on the characters; again, I’ve no problem with unlikeable characters, but beyond the basic emotional drives of love, lust, greed and fear I couldn’t always grasp their overall motivations or intentions, and I did find some characters hard to tell apart, due in part to some of them being known by different names to different people. The book contains a potentially game-changing McGuffin whose appearance had me pricking my ears up, as it could have taken the book beyond the relentless street violence, but it was not fully utilised.

The author makes some interesting world-building choices by including elements of current-day-UK culture such as pubs, cigarettes, even whist and kebabs, and the overarching galactic culture is French. These are brave choices, but I found them somewhat implausible. I get the impression this is a complex and interesting universe and it would have been nice if we’d had some more vivid glimpses into the wider galactic culture, beyond the odd discussion about factions an allegiances in a story set almost entirely in streets, bars, flophouses and warehouse battlegrounds.

I did like the way magic works but it’s not dissimilar to ideas I’ve played with, so I would. The physical manifestation of magic use was one strong image I will take away.

Much of the above comes down to personal taste, and there’s plenty to like in this rich, violent sensory overload of a story, including some snappy dialogue and great turns of phrase, especially in the first half. Whilst not everything came together for me, I’m interested to see where Ms Sumra goes next, as despite my misgivings about this particular book, she’s one to watch.

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