Pirate Sun

by Karl Schroeder

Cover image

Series: Virga #3
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: August 2008
ISBN: 0-7653-1545-9
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 318

Buy at Powell's Books

Pirate Sun is the third book of the Virga series and builds directly on the events of Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce. I don't recommend reading this book out of order. You miss out on too much character background and too many neat surprises.

Another book, another viewpoint shift. This time, we follow Chaison Fanning, who was a villain of sorts in Sun of Suns. Continuity shifts back to the battles that were the centerpiece of that first book as Chaison is imprisoned and interrogated by his captors until sprung free by an unknown ship. He and his companions are rescued by a member of the Virga Home Guard, the somewhat mysterious group responsible for defending Virga as a whole, but she's clearly not responsible for the prison break. The group ends up on the run through a totalitarian state, trying to find a way back to Slipstream.

Unfortunately given that she won me over completely in Queen of Candesce, Venera doesn't play much of a direct role in Pirate Sun (although her tracks are fairly easy to see, and the climax is excellent). That plus the move back to essentially the same setting as Sun of Suns is a mild letdown. Virga's world of wandering mini-suns, air-filled space, and spectacular spinning wooden towns is still compelling material for Schroeder's stunning set pieces, but it loses a bit of its thrill by using a setting that's not noticably different from Sun of Suns.

On the plus side, though, Chaison is considerably more interesting than Hayden, and Schroeder gets an opportunity to build a more complex character. Chaison has the committment to service of a military officer, which emerges at odd times and mixes him up in a few tricky battles, and throughout he plays a complex game of trust and deception with Antaea, the Home Guard member. Schroeder does a great job building the political climax with hints and rumors that make more sense to the reader, who knows the sort of thing Venera might be up to, than to Chaison. I think he lays the drama and the angst on a bit heavy in places, using a few writing techniques that bug me, but for the most part it works. I also liked his portrayal of the Slipstream Pilot. It's a good example of how to write a villain who isn't stupid.

The plot arc of the series in general also advances satisfyingly here, mostly through the Home Guard and their search for the key to Candesce. For the first time, we see advanced technology inside Virga and an explanation for how this world fits into the larger universe (an explanation that was interesting but which I hope was significantly simplified and somewhat deceptive). There are further signs of infiltration from the outside, ones which will be particularly chilling to those who have read Ventus and Lady of Mazes and which probably establish Virga in the same overall universe. Nothing is quite resolved here, but more and more glimmers of a deep and frightening overplot become visible.

I loved Queen of Candesce, and I think Pirate Sun is a bit of a step back, although still stronger than Sun of Suns. The writing is a bit choppier and the characters aren't quite as interesting. But Schroeder continues to be the master of sense of wonder and amazing set pieces, and the series plot is developing nicely. Definitely recommended if you've enjoyed the series to date, and I'm looking forward to the next book.

Followed by The Sunless Countries.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2008-09-06

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