Alastair Reynolds: “Revenger” (c) 2016; & “Shadow Captain” (c) 2019.
The Revenger series is a thrilling, dramatic and exciting epic space opera set in the far far future, a tale of two spacefarers, the sisters Adrana and Arafura Ness, as they journey through their home galaxy, the Congregation.
“Revenger” ( Book 1) is narrated by Arafura Ness,
and “Shadow Captain” (Book 2) is narrated by Adrana Ness.
Note: Book 3, the final book in the series: “Bone Silence” (c) 2020.
“Revenger” won the 2017 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book and was a finalist for the 2018 Philip K. Dick Award.
Summary of “Revenger” and “Shadow Captain”
18-year old Adrana and her younger sister Arafura Ness grow up on Mazarile, their home planet in the Congregation galaxy.
The Congregation consists of millions of worlds built from the rubble of eight old worlds, including Old Earth, and set in concentric orbitals around the Old Sun. There are both human and alien civilizations. There have been many Occupations in the past – settlements, expansions, decline; the galaxy is currently in its Thirteenth Occupation.
Adrana and Arafura are gifted Bone Readers:
Bones are ancient alien skulls with neural technology. Bone Readers are able to receive and transmit signals through the Skull, communicating with other bone readers on ships and worlds. Messages are like whispers; sometimes mere fragments; a word – perhaps significant or not.
The two sisters are hired by Captain Pol Rackamore as apprentice Bone Readers aboard his spaceship Monetta’s Mourn, a sunjammer, with ion drives and sails driven by solar photon winds.
The galaxy’s economy, its shipping, and commerce are based on a lucrative market for artifacts from the earlier occupations, including spacesuits and weapons. Ancient relics and other treasures are often hidden in “baubles” or rocky spheres protected by field shields that open at intervals. Baubles also attract space pirates who will jump unsuspecting ships or steal from opened baubles.
Monetta’s Mourn is attacked near a bauble, by the notorious and infamous space pirate Bosa Sennen of the Nightjammer, its black hull and black sails make it virtually undetectable. Bosa Sennen is on a search for a new Bone Reader, and she captures Adrana Ness.
Arafura evades capture. She is determined to rescue Adrana from a very perilous and dangerous fate:
Bosa Sennen is actually a succession of women pirates through the centuries. Each Bosa Sennen in her time imprints her skills, mind, emotions on the next Bosa Sennen. The current Bosa Sennen plans to turn Adrana into the next Bosa Sennen.
Arafura lures Bosa Sennen into a trap, and rescues Adrana. She captures the Nightjammer, and Bosa Sennen dies.
The Sequel: Book 2: “Shadow Captain”
The Ness sisters have captured Bosa Sennen’s pirate spaceship The Nightjammer.
For them to survive, they must avoid all associations with Bosa Sennen. They rename the ship, the Revenger. They disguise the black sails as best as they can with canvas solar sails, but the ship still looks very much like a pirate ship with its formidable weaponry.
Both Adrana and Arafura recognize they have been changed in dramatic ways by the terrifying and horrific encounter with Bosa Sennen. It affects their trust; they have doubts and qualms about each other.
Bosa Sennen had already started to condition Adrana to become the next Bosa Sennen. How much of an imprint had Bosa left on Adrana?. Adrana herself is alert to the intrusion of Bosa on her thoughts and emotions but she is able to fight back.
Aboard the Revenger Arafura finds a book about the history of the Occupations and hints of the existence of “Shadow Occupations”. She pores over Bosa’s logs and journals, the details of Bosa’s plunder, and in particular a bauble said to contain an unimaginable quantity of Quoins
Quoins are used as currency throughout the Congregation. Quoins are of unknown origin. They are metal bars of different weights, their value determined by the number of scored lines.
The Revenger has a badly injured crew member on board, and their first stop is at Wheel Strizzardy a world on the outer reaches of the Congregation. While on Wheel Strizzardy, they learn there is a bounty for the capture of the Nightjammer. There are suspicions the Revenger maybe Bosa Sennen’s ship, and there is a bounty for whoever is now the Captain.
The suspense in the story intensifies as Arafura and Adrana escape from Wheel Strizzardy. Knowing they are being pursued they head out to the empty reaches of the galaxy, to The Miser, a bauble holding Bosa’s cache of quoins.
The two sisters find common grounds in their quest, to explore the mystery of the far reaches of the Congregation and beyond. Arafura is curious about how the Congregation orbitals work. Adrana is curious about the origins of the congregation and the “Shadow Occupations.”