So you’ve successfully saved a fleet of soldiers from an intergalactic peril while simultaneously becoming the reluctant commander of a budding resistance movement. Now what? That's the dilemma facing Adequin Rake, captain of the spacecraft Argus. Unluckily for her—but luckily for readers—the excitement doesn’t ebb for even a moment in The Exiled Fleet.
As J.S. Dewe’s rousing follow-up to The Last Watch opens, Rake and her patchwork crew have survived the expanding calamity known as the Divide only to enter a new predicament. Without a warp core to travel to a safe part of the solar system, they’re dead in the water, and food and patience among the corps is growing scarce. Rake must rely on her team of trusted crewmembers to figure out how to retrofit the Argus and jump to safety. Along the way, they’ll encounter ancient civilizations, criminal enterprises and more than a few mechanical difficulties, all while trying to evade the evil Mercer Empire. Strap in—it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
But the bumpy ride is why we’re all here, right? One of the best parts about The Last Watch was how a cobbled-together, rag-tag assemblage of characters and technology still eked out a victory. I’m happy to report that the same white-knuckle, skin-of-their-teeth excitement is here from the very first page. So, too, are many of the characters that made the first installment great, as well as some welcome new arrivals.
Since The Exiled Fleet wastes very little time getting back into the action, it’s definitely recommended that readers tackle the first book before turning to this one. It’ll be completely worth it, because Fleet does a superlative job of expanding on everything that was interesting in Dewes’ debut—and this book is even more engaging and often, more personal. As Rake and her crew search for solutions, Dewes explores more of her complex universe and reveals more about the characters’ pasts. One character in particular has to come face-to-face with some ugly truths about his own family in a tense, painful, scary and oh-so-satisfying scene. Dewes has an aptitude both for excellent naval-inspired action sequences as well as for quieter interludes between characters. The amount of time she gives her characters to simply speak to one another makes the bonds they forge that much more believable.
In my review of The Last Watch, I mentioned that everyone should get ready to go back to the Divide in the next installment. But in The Exiled Fleet, Dewes goes far beyond the Divide to points of space as of yet unseen. Here’s hoping the next book in this excellent series keeps propelling us even further into the stars.