Jul 032024

Publishers Weekly: This swashbuckling, planet-hopping riff on The Count of Monte Cristo from Palumbo (Skin Thief) follows Virika Sameroo, who, having emigrated as a child from the Exterran Antilles to Invicta, the capital planet of the Æerbot Empire, is determined to break through the poverty and prejudice that centuries of colonization have inflicted on her people. She becomes the first Exterran Antillean commissioned to an Æerbot spaceship, the Oestra—but as a woman and an Exterran, Virika is not trusted by her crew, and one officer in particular, Lieutenant Lyric, despises her for refusing his sexual advances. When Oestra’s captain falls ill and puts Virika in command, she brings the ship home to visit her mother and her lover. Their reunion is cut short when the captain dies—and Virika is arrested for his murder. Wrongfully sentenced to life in prison, she plots revenge against the empire. After escaping, briefly joining a band of pirates, and taking on the sobriquet the Countess, she leads the Antilleans into a rebellion against Invicta. Palumbo’s post-colonial space opera take on Dumas’s novel moves at a whiplash-inducing pace. Evocative descriptions, especially of food, add texture, though a late twist disappoints. It’s not perfect, but fans of speculative revamps of classics will find plenty to enjoy.