Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell – A Book Review

Embers of War


The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can.

Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating and saving the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing ship, whatever the cost. In order to do this, he must reach out to the only person he considers a friend, even if he s not sure she can be trusted. What Childe doesn’t know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be.

Quickly, what appears to be a straightforward rescue mission turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe, find themselves at the centre of a potential new conflict that could engulf not just mankind but the entire galaxy.

If she is to survive and save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight.

Author: Gareth L. Powell

Publisher: Titan Books 

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 416

Release Date: 20/02/2018

My Chosen Format: Kindle

My Rating of ‘Embers of War: 3 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon, Audible


Seeing as how I’m caught up on The Expanse, and how that particular series is finishing this year, I was looking for my next sci-fi series fix. Sadly, space opera’s aren’t the kind of things you can get excited for based on the cover alone. There’s only so much ‘oh, look, a generic space ship on a space backdrop’ a reader can get excited for (admittedly, this cover is better than most I’ve seen). So I had to do a bit of digging to find my next gem. I feel, perhaps, I need to keep on digging.

Embers of War wasn’t a bad book by any means. It was easy-reading and, aided by the short chapters, felt like it was rolling on at a good pace. It was just painfully simple with little going on other than the main story to make me feel too invested or, indeed, like there was even a universe for the author to play in.

The characters are mostly female in this one and I was looking forward to a more female-driven dynamic. Sadly, they’re only really female in name. Absolutely nothing about their POV chapters or the way they’re presented screams female. It kind of just feels like everyone is genderless and, to a degree, characterless. 

When a book is written in first person perspective, it gives a wonderful chance to really get into that character’s mind and get a true feeling for who they are. Sadly, where Embers of War is concerned, none of the POV chapters really felt like they had their own stamp on it (other than the alien POV chapters … which is just as well, as an alien should not feel human). I feel this really let the book down as I just kind of found myself asking ‘what’s the point of breaking into different POVs, and having them as first person POVs at that, if they were all just going to feel exactly the same as one another’. It made caring for any of the characters feel nearly impossible.

Another downside with the first person narrative was that there was so many POVs but zero explanation as to why the story was being told or how. Was it taken from memoirs? Was it taken from reports made by the people involved? Was it just that the author has no other reason other than he really likes writing in first person POV? For me, there has to be a reason as to why it’s being told, otherwise it loses believability to me as a reader. But, I fully admit, I could just be being incredibly cruel with that personal feeling.

I also like my books to make me feel like the characters aren’t perfect. Even when they’re struggling, it never really feels like they are. Again, that’s just personal preference and, judging by the array of positivity in the reviews I’ve read, I’m a bit of a loner in this and my previous point.

That being said, the fact I had those issues means, although I sped through the book and found it easy to read, I didn’t find it to be something I could see myself carrying on with. Places were mentioned but none of the info dumps or shoe-horned ‘let me tell you about this’ stories were ever truly used to expand upon the universe as a whole. When alien races were seen or mentioned, I had no clue who they were as I don’t think they were ever really explained until ‘oh, there’s a so and so’. More needed to be done on the world-building front than was done in this, and that will be the major factor that keeps me from pushing on.

12 thoughts on “Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell – A Book Review

  1. You could always reread the Expanse. I’m not sure you’re going to find anything else that lives up to its entirely unreasonable expectations.

    On a side note, you seem to be recovering from your reading slump quite nicely! Luckily, I’ve decided to take your place:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, I’m getting through a fair bit. I’m sure I’ll hit a slump again. Can’t keep it up forever.

      Ah, it sucks. But, I kind of enjoyed it a little bit. Like an enforced break.

      Nah, I can’t re-read so soon. I have to have forgotten a fair bit of something before I can fully immerse myself

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed this book and the entire series. I devoured it. I, too, read it after having finished reading The Expanse. Maybe you were still too caught up in that world to truly enjoy Mr. Powell’s creation.

    Liked by 1 person

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