Fantastic space Fantasy
by Stina Leicht
Stina Leicht, Persephone Station
Hugo award-nominated author Stina Leicht has created a take on space opera for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop in this high-stakes adventure.
Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit.
Rosie—owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner—caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them.
Angel—ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing—is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will affect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.
Persephone Station by Stina Leicht is a dark space opera that will appeal to Firefly fans. The story has that same sort of found family/mercenaries type vibe. Stina Leicht, known for her short story work and The Fey and the Fallen and the series The Malrum Gates, brings us her first full science fiction novel in Persephone Station.
“Why do you think, bitch?” His accent was pure West Brynner. A local. That could mean many things. “If you’re here for a robbery, you picked the wrong damned apartment, asshole. Drop the knife.”
The story stars Angel de la Reza, an ex-marine thrice revived head of a band of criminals for hire. Reza is a deep and sympathetic character. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there are certain Firefly tones to this story. Angel reminds me a bit like Malcolm Reynolds. She is gruff, gritty, with a complicated backstory, who once adopts you into her motley crew, you become family. Angel and her team take a job and are framed for an assassination that they don’t do. They may steal from you, kill you if you look at them wrong, but assassination something they won’t do.
Angel, as well as her crew, are forced to flee the station. Rosie, a sympathetic crime lord, has a different idea for them. Protect the planet from another from the Serrao-Orlov corporation that is a front for another crime lord. Things get complicated as they meet the indigenous people of the planet and find out that this isn’t just a protection job, but they will have to fight an army of mechs, drones, and other ships. There are quite a few shooting, explosions, and battle scenes to balance the dialog and quieter moments.
“The question was rhetorical. They knew why it had been done. Intimidation. But they had a powerful need to verbalize even a small piece of outrage. It was like puking up the tiniest bit of poison. The end was inevitable—the toxin had done its work, but the impulse was unstoppable nonetheless.”
This book is full of wonderful space opera moments. The plot is very character-driven. The cast of characters is almost entirely female, non-binary, or gender-neutral. As someone who reads a ton of space opera, I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to see BIPOC or non-binary individuals as strong characters.
The world-building in Persephone Station is unique. It has the feel of an old west frontier but in space. There is an outlaw type feel over all of the descriptions. The planet that Angel’s team works to protect seems very Earth-like; however, the indigenous people and creatures are very imaginative. Especially the aliens and how they communicate. It reminded me a bit like Adrian Tchaikovski’s Children of Time series, where the spiders rely heavily on scent as a means of communication.
“Rage, pride, and avarice, Rosie thought. Three of the seven deadly sins. A great fall after such an auspicious start.”
My only small complaint was that the story was slightly uneven. The beginning of the story had some exciting fight scenes. They were exceptionally well done, with a little bit of gore. However, the pacing slowed down a bit. The middle portion of the story seemed to be holding its breath before the big finale. But, once you got to the last part of the book, everything came together beautifully. The different characters’ perspectives made sense, and the ending had an unexpected twist, which was fun.
Persephone Station was a great read. From beginning to end, even with the plot slowing down a touch, I still couldn’t put the book down. The characters are dynamic, the found family trope is always excellent, and that cover was gorgeous. If that cover doesn’t make you want to read this book, the opening two chapters will.
If you are looking for a space opera with BIPOC and queer representation, this is your book. Check it out!
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Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: Goodreads / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter