Pirate Sun by karl Schroeder
I only re-read this one because I realized I hadn't written a review of it. I remembered it as the worst of the series.
Boy was I wrong. And I'm glad I re-read it.
The story picks up after the events of Queen of Candesce, and it moves at a rapid pace. Admiral Fanning is about to be tortured again by Falcon Formation, when he is freed in a jail break arranged by his wife. Unfortunately, his sense of duty leads him back into the cells to rescue a crew man. There, the jail break goes completely off the rails as he rescues Martor (the gofer and cabin boy from The Sun of Suns) and Richard Reis, the former ambassador to Gehellen (again from The Sun of Suns). The three make it out and to a Falcon Formation refinery where they are almost captured again only to be rescued by Antea Argyre, Virga Homeguard scout, who takes credit for the rescue and the jailbreak.
Karl Schroeder describes the book as The Three Musketeers meets the Odyssey. Its not a bad comparison, though I think it might be better described as The Three Musketeers meets Candide. Or maybe Swift.
The main viewpoint characters are Admiral Chaison Fanning and Antea Argyre. The entire group is intent on returning to Slipstream and Rush, but with different motivations. Fanning to find out what happened to Venera and what's going on because rumors seem to indicate something is happening because of his attack on Falcon Formation. Antea Argyre has a motive as well - to save her sister from a rogue faction of the Homeguard that has taken her hostage for information about the Key of Candesce. A faction she has sympathies with about improving the technology available within Virga. And, oh yes, she's to find out the source of the Rights Currency that keeps turning up and causing trouble for local governments.
The trip takes them deeper into Falcon Formation and onto the edge of a war between the confucian bureacracy of Falcon Formation and the fairy tale based dictatorship of the Gretels. Yes, I wrote fairy tale based. The war is weird. Floods are used weapons, as are cities and their populations. And the only hope of once Falcon city is a clown and circus performer...
I won't reveal any more about the plot. I will say we get an anti-hero pursuing our quartet of fugitives. We also get a better view of free fall combat by Antea Argyre (there is a reason she wears six inch stiletto heels). There is a monster truly worthy of the name as well. We get a peek into the Homeguard and its resources, but not much of one. Perhaps even a hint into what the purpose of Virga was before it was taken over and the technology damping field went up.
I liked the book. The characters are interesting, human, strong and flawed by terms. The setting is neat and makes you think and it makes me wonder about it as well. Also, Schroeder leaves you wanting more stories about the characters and Virga as a whole.