Bitter Angels was written by Sarah Zettel (isfdb) under pseudonym. It’s a military science fiction of sorts with a central murder mystery. And I liked it much more than Kingdom of Cages, which put me off from her, seems I was wrong.
The Erasmus System is a sprawling realm of slavery, smugglers, spies—and constant, creeping decrepitude. Here everyone who is not part of the ruling Four Families is a slave of one kind or another. But the Guardians, a special-forces branch inside the United World Government for Earth, have deemed Erasmus a “hot spot.” Somehow, it is believed, this failing colony intends to launch a war upon the solar system.
Ex-Field Commander Terese Drajeske, now a mother of three, has been called back to active duty and sent to Erasmus, ostensibly to investigate the murder of her colleague—and friend—Bianca Fayette. At first blush, the death defies explanation: Bianca was immortal. But beneath that single murder lies a twisted foundation of deceptions. Suddenly Terese is plunged into a vortex of shattered lives, endemic deceit, and one dreadful secret. In this society without hope, someone has put into motion a plan that will cast humanity into chaos. And Terese, who has given up her family and her sanity to prevent war, may be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice….
Bitter Angels is a story about hope and the belief that you might end all conflicts without killing. It is not an especially military science fiction if you with that mean soldiers, technology and battles.
It is a story about friendship. Bianca was Terese Drajeske’s best friend and mentor and when she dies under mysterious circumstances Bianca leaves her husband David and her three daughters to find her killers and stop the threatening war that she was trying to uncover. But it’s not a blind friendship, Terese soon find reasons to doubt Bianca’s motives.
It is also about the bound between three survivors from Oblivion, one a pilot in the security forces, one a doctor and one a renegade smuggler. And how that bound affect the fate of a whole system.
It is about how peace keepers sometimes keeps a morally wrong status quo for fear of something worse. The Blood family keep the Erasmus system in slavery and economic depression. Trying to remove them might lead to war so the Guardians don’t.
I liked the mystery part, but it took a bit too long to get to when it started to make sense, around page 300. I wouldn’t mind if the author made faster work of that. It left only 150 pages for the real action and the characters to grow.
Now and then I felt it was too much talks, meetings and dead ends that didn’t bring the story forward, but I might have missed a point or so. It slowed it down from excellent to good in my mind. Bitter Angels is a good mystery-spy science fiction and if you like that it’s a book for you.