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November 24, 2022

The Red Scholar's Wake by Aliette de Bodard ~ a Review

by MK French


Tech scavenger Xích Si is captured by pirates of the Red Banner, and their leader, Rice Fish, surprisingly offers Xích Si marriage. Both would benefit from the deal: Xích Si needs protection and Rice Fish needs a technical expert to investigate the death of her first wife, the Red Scholar. That should have been all to the arrangement, but feelings develop as the war against piracy continues and their own investigation reveals more than they bargained for. Their business arrangement has evolved into something much more personal.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of space opera The Red Scholar's Wake by Aliette de Bodard
November 2022; JABberwocky Literary Agency
ebook (329 pages); space opera

The Red Scholar's Wake
 is a romance within the Xuya universe, gleefully described as pirate lesbians in space. The Xuya universe involves interstellar Vietnamese empires, mindships that use small bots to manifest a physical avatar, augmented reality overlays, and the classical trappings of space opera. Each book is more or less independent of the others, so it's not necessary to have read all the others before this one. Is it fun to do so? Absolutely, and you won't regret it.

Here, Xích Si is reluctant to believe that Rice Fish could possibly want her around in a positive way, or that she won't be abused by pirates. There are different banners, and Rice Fish doesn't thrive with unchecked violence. The death of her wife, the Red Scholar, leaves the Red banner in a tailspin. The mindship and the scavenger aren't exactly enemies at first, but they're not friends at the start, either. We slowly develop trust over time, as well as the glimmers of attraction. It's fun to see the enemies-to-lovers trope play out as well as the investigation into the Red Scholar's death. In addition to the power plays of pirates vs the establishment, our heroines learn to let go of their prior fears and see that a relationship is worth fighting for. And fight it is, as anything on the edge of space will be messy and complicated. Love isn't everything, but it does push people where they otherwise won't want to go. I enjoyed this book, both from the romance aspect and the space opera aspect.

Buy The Red Scholar's Wake at Amazon


Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.



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