To understand the plot and characters, the world building has to come first for this one. Humans set out a few centuries ago from Earth after global warming makes it an almost uninhabitable wasteland. There were some people left behind, those who were too sick, or too poor to get aboard one of the generation ships that set off into space.
The humans were having a rough time of it when the least expected thing happened – a race of unicorns showed up to try and save them. They wanted to offer assistance in building their new home away from home. But, of course, it ends up with a war instead that lasted for 100 years. The unicorns belong to the Bala races, races that humanity is familiar with through myth and legend. Turns out fairies, elves, dwarves, unicorns, tree spirits, etc were all real, they were just aliens that came to visit and left.
Despite their setbacks, the humans eventually started dominating certain areas of space that previously belonged to the Bala, and the coalition of humans called themselves Reason, and live by the code of “manifest destiny”. It’s left the Bala races in ruins as they were bombed out of their homes and now they are started to be imprisoned and harvested for their magical parts – unicorns, in particular, have it bad since their horns can power spaceships and their blood can heal almost any wound. They are saught after relentlessly in the search for more power for spaceships. The humans have been too vigorous in their hunting of unicorns, however, and with the supply of horn depleted, shipping lanes and interstellar travel are getting more difficult and expensive.
Enter Gary, the half unicorn and half human dude who just spent 10 years in a prison for a murder. Now, he did commit the murder but it wasn’t under normal circumstances, Gary feels terrible about it and it haunts him throughout the whole novel. He was just released from prison, and in less than an hour, he’s trying to find a way off the planet and as far away from Reason space as possible. The problem is, his stone ship (which is like an asteroid with a living ecosystem inside) is currently in the hands of a woman known as Ricky, and she’s not in the mind to give it up. Ricky is known for her gambling games, and how they’re always rigged. Ricky tells him that she’ll give him back his ship if he completes three challenges, despite knowing it’s a trap, Gary doesn’t know what else to do other than to agree. The challenges are brutal, lethal, and psychologically damaging – one of the challenges was to stare into the eyes of a parrot that makes you live your own death. If you die drowning, you feel yourself choking, if you die getting run through with a knife you feel that too. Gary watches/lives his own death, eats something that should kill him, then moves onto the last challenge to “take off his hat”. That sounds like a simple request until you realize that if he takes off his hat, he’ll reveal his unicorn horn stub, and be the instant prize to everyone in the bar. There’s no one on that planet that wouldn’t capture or murder him to sell off his parts. Long story short, the bar burns down and Gary flees the planet with a few other people who make his escape a deeply awkward experience.
On the ship with him now are Jenny, the person who tortured him for 2 years trying to extract as much horn from him as possible. Jim, whose wife was the one Gary killed and ate, and Ricky, the person who just made him almost kill himself trying to get his own ship back. To make matters worse, Gary isn’t even the ships captain anymore, and he’s subjected to other peoples rules and regulations. From here a lot of hijinks ensue and it’s basically nonstop action all the way through, there’s always something going on.
I liked Gary, he just keeps getting himself into bad situations even though his intentions are always to do the right thing. Despite not getting off on the right foot with Jenny, I began to like her too as the book went on. You do get POV’s from Jenny and you come to understand why she did what she did, she was the best friend of the woman that Gary killed and it was still very raw when everything happened. Although these two should hate each other and treat each other like shit, they were surprisingly kind to one another, especially Gary.
There was a LOT of fantasy stuff in here so I think it’s accurate to call this a science-fantasy. Dwarves live inside the stone ship and keep it maintained, and they have an undying loyalty to Gary. Unicorns have to eat chitinous or bone material to grow their horns, typically they eat space-beetles but that doesn’t mean they can’t eat a person.
Overall I liked this more than I thought I would, it took a while to get going for me, the first 18% of the book is Gary getting out of jail and getting his ship back so it started a bit slower. Then once they get off the planet things really started to speed up and I read it all in one sitting.
- non human povs
- immortal povs
- elves, dwarves, faires in space
- lots of action/fast paced (after first 1/5)
- LGBT character
- character in a wheelchair
- Plot: 12.5/15
- Character: 12.5/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 13.5/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10