A girl. A saucepan. A plan to conquer the universe.
Aleta Dinesen doesn’t see the point of hanging around home, not when she can cook a mean paella. But her plan to conquer the universe one meal at a time runs afoul of her overprotective father, commander of a tough mercenary company. And when he puts his foot down, he’s got the firepower to back it up.
Undeterred, Aleta escapes the dreadnaught she calls home one step ahead of the gorgeous, highly disapproving Lieutenant Park, the unlucky young officer tasked with hauling her back. But the universe isn’t the safe place she thought it was. Stranded in a dangerous mining community, she clings to survival by her fingernails. Only by working with someone she can’t stand will she have a chance to escape, proving to everyone that a teenage cook can be the most dangerous force in the universe.
Company Daughter is a hell of a lot of fun.
After a brief stumble on the first page – I went in knowing the book was SF but ‘ogre’ said ‘Fantasy’ and there was a moment of cognitive dissonance before I figured it out – I was drawn in to Aleta’s story.
Aleta is a charming protagonist. She’s smart, capable, and incredibly stubborn, and though she’s rash and impulsive like most teenagers, her drive and her earnestness made me root for her right away. Many of the secondary characters (Rodriguez, Greery, Mike) are wonderfully vibrant. By contrast, Joe Park felt a bit underdeveloped, even after he takes on a greater role in the plot. That meant I wasn’t quite sold on the romance (though I saw it coming right from the beginning), though I hope to be convinced in further sequels.
The author is wonderfully creative, to the point where there are so many world elements that some I was really curious about aren’t fully explained – there just isn’t the space. But I appreciated the worldbuilidng’s originality, as well as the story’s nontraditional focus. (Cooking!)
The real strength of the book is its plot. Author Callan Primer did an excellent job of keeping me on my toes, keeping the pace quick and the monkey wrenches coming. She knew just how to make Aleta’s life more difficult, in ways that felt surprising and exciting while still making sense in the context of the book’s world. My only complaint is the author’s unfortunate habit of undercutting the tension. For example, at one point toward the end of a chapter Aleta is led to believe that she is about to escape Boxtown. Then the chapter finishes with “But he was wrong…There would be no passage out — not for Joe, not for Mike, not for me. Not for any of us.” This effectively gives away the emotional beat of the next chapter and drops the tension. And it’s a device used often – I noted four or five instances while reading.
Aside from that overused device and a few places where the exposition feels a bit clumsy, the writing is very good. I’m not sure if the author hired an editor or not, but regardless the quality is high (and the book is free of the grammatical and punctuation errors I so often see in self-published work).
All in all, Company Daughter was a great read, with well-drawn characters, an exciting plot, and some really interesting worldbuilding. Highly recommended.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.