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Literature / Revenger

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Revenger series is a series of novels set in the Solar System tens of millions of years in the future. The planets have long been scrapped for use in construction, and people live on Baby Planets (with black holes in their centers) or huge space stations. Interplanetary voyages are conducted with Space Sailing ships called sunjammers that must weather solar storms and attacks by Space Pirates.

Human civilization has expanded and collapsed several times. Each such expansion is called an Occupation, and at the time of the setting, the thirteenth is in full swing, although just coming out of a recession. It spans approximately 20,000 inhabited worlds called the Congregation.

One risky but lucrative line of work for a sunjammer crew is to find artifacts of previous Occupations, which usually fetch high prices on the market (or might provide utility right off the bat). Such items can be found in caches around the system, typically full of dangers and deathtraps.


The story starts off when two sisters, Adrana and Arafura Ness, become part of the crew of the Monetta's Mourn to explore the stars and earn money to offset their family's financial woes. They are recruited for their ability to "read bones", essentially allowing to patch into the Subspace Ansible network around the system to listen to information from other crews to find artifacts that could earn the crew a big payday. But trouble comes when their ship is attacked by Space Pirates led by the infamous Bosa Sennen ...

The series currently has three novels, Revenger, Shadow Captain and Bone Silence.


The series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Tackle knives which are knives made for cutting solar sails. Also, the Ghosties weapons.
  • Action Girl: Both of the Ness sisters. Also, Illyria in her role as Bosa Sennen.
  • Adventure-Friendly World: This is a universe with an on-going Age of Exploration and countless worlds full of Plunder, Solar Sail spaceships, and Adventure Archaeologists
  • Ambiguously Human: The characters consistently refer to their species as ‘monkey’. It’s never made entirely clear if this is literal and they are uplifted non-human primates of some kind, or possibly a human sub-species that turned themselves into something monkey like by genetic engineering in the long forgotten past, or intended to be an example of linguistic drift. It’s notable that the term ‘human’ is used only once in the three books (a reference to Paladin making a ‘very human show of flickering his lights’ in the second book) and, other than things like missing limbs, the characters’ physical appearances are not described. The reveal in the third book that the ‘aliens’ were genetically engineered from the same base as the ‘monkeys’ to serve as slave species in the scheme to fix the Sun, though they have forgotten their origins and adopted a fictional history tends to support the literal interpretation.
  • And I Must Scream: A literal example, when a lot of quoins are brought to close proximity with each other.. The crew moves to stop the screaming as fast as they can once it starts.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Arafura gets her lower left forearm amputated to remove the tracking device on her wrist. She gets a mechanical replacement, though it takes some time for her to get the 'feel' of it.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Thoroughly averted. All encountered A.I.s are downright helpful, Paladin being one such example. The only problems are in cases caused by conflicting orders if the AI considers several people to be the master.
  • Automatic Crossbows: Averted. Despite being far into the future and the main firearm, crossbows are actually a bit less advanced than modern ones of the 20th/21st century. So they're just single shot and new bolts must be hand-loaded each time. But at least they're not winch-based.
  • Ax-Crazy: Bosa Sennen
  • Baby Planet: Several. The Ness sisters are from Mazarile.
  • The Bait: Arafura and Prozor decide to lure Bosa to a trap using one. The Queen Crimson is the bait, without the crew knowing it.
  • Boarding Party: Monetta's Mourn gets boarded by one. Later on, Arafura makes her own and boards Bosa's ship.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Rackamore's daughter, Illyria Rackamore. Also attempted on Adrana, but Arafura manages to interrupt the process in time. See Legacy Immortality, below.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Literal armory. A cache of equipment from the Ghosties era is mentioned early on, as My Greatest Failure of Captain Rackamore. One guess on where the crew gets the gear they need for taking on Bosa Sennen and the crew of the Nightjammer.
  • Cool Big Sister: Adrana is this to Arafura. Arafura is a bit of a homebody wallflower where Adrana is passionate, loves to explore and takes the lead amongst the two of them. It's Adrana's actions that drag them into this adventure.
  • Cool Ship: The various sunjammers that sail the Empty on solar sails and ion drives, but the Dame Scarlett or Nightjammer (renamed Revenger after Arafura, Prozor and the surviving crew of the Queen Crimson capture it by the end of the first novel) takes the cake. According to crew talk, it's powerful enough to defeat several sunjammers at once and is uniquely stealth capable.
  • Driven to Suicide: Captain Rackamore does this once he realizes the current Bosa Sennen is his own daughter Illyria.
  • End of an Age: The system put in place by the humans when they left the Solar System to fix the Sun and ensure that the Solar System retains sentient life while the process is underway is breaking down. Occupations are becoming less and less frequent and not achieving the technological level of earlier Occupations, all the species have forgotten what their role in the system was intended to be and that there was ever such a system in the first place, the Quoins have been co-opted as currency and the starship that is supposed to reseed the Solar System with life every 22,500 years is nearly dead.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Arafura, after coming out of the hideout after the pirate attack on Monetta's Mourn. Subverted, as one of the crew has only been Faking the Dead.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Arafura and Prozor. Also, later, the crew of Queen Crimson.
  • Hard Head: Prozor survives getting her head smashed in with a crossbow stock because she has a tin(!!!) plate in her skull.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
    • Captain Trusco uses a Ghostie gun to blow a hole in the hull of the Queen Crimson in a bid to kill Bosa Sennen. It did not kill her as she was blown back to the Nightjammer but she ended up impaled on the bow of her own ship instead.
    • Garval does this, sacrificing herself to save Arafura from Bosa Sennen by pretending to be the other Bone Reader Rackamore recruited. She winds up dead near the end of the first novel and became Nightjammer's figurehead after extended torture by Bosa Sennen.
  • Invisibility Cloak: More or less Invisibility Powered Armor. Long-lost Ghosties technology.
  • Magnetic Weapons: Sunjammers use coil guns for self defense purposes. They have a fantastic rate of fire but will quickly overheat and blow through ammo supplies, so most sunjammers use them sparringly.
  • Mercy Kill: Begged for by the AI maintaining security systems of the cache at the end of Shadow Captain.
  • Legacy Immortality: Bosa Sennen. Most captains think that anyone claiming to be Bosa Sennen is just using The Dreaded status associated with the name as the original must have died a long time ago. They are only partially right, as each new Bosa has the same motivations and goals as the original. So far, there were at least twenty-three Bosa Sennens' before Illyria was turned into the current Bosa Sennen, and Adrana almost joins the list.
  • Long-Lived: Despite being millions of years in the future, humans can barely scrape past 100. This is one reason why Bosa Sennen is so legendary, she's been active for over a century.
  • Lost Technology: Lots of high end technology are no longer capable of being manufactured, but most glaring are solar sails. Sailmakers actually don't make new sails, instead they take bits of ruined sails and sew them into a working sail.
  • Older Than They Look: Downplayed, the Ness sisters look a little bit younger than their actual ages despite being given medication that retards their maturation by family physician Doctor Morcenx. That's because they were put on the medication only recently.
  • Precursors: Various alien civilizations had come before humanity's maturation and they've left countless relics, including many artificial planets to dig up. Most notable are the Ghosties who have since become legend.
  • Psychometry: Bone Readers are capable of reading old memories from bones including alien ones. It's this ability that puts the business of an Adventure Archaeologist onto another level. The Ness sisters are a rare set of Bone Readers which is especially valuable because prolonged bone reading takes its toll mentally.
  • Riches to Rags: The Nesses immigrate to Mazarile for a better life and initially it was working and they're in the upper crust of Mazarile society. But disaster struck that sent the family fortunes reeling and it's compounded by a recent poor investment. One reason why the Ness sisters want to be Bone Readers to earn back wealth for their father.
  • Reactionless Drive: Ion drives, used when it is not possible to use sails.
  • Schizo Tech: This is a future where there's artificial planets, solar-sail spaceships, robots, Magnetic Weapons, but for space suits - the crew of the Monetta's Mourn use wooden-stock crossbows - they're not even Automatic Crossbows and early 20th century brass diving suits for environmental suits.
  • Starship Luxurious: The passenger liner that Arafura and Quindar travel on after the latter captures the former to return her to Mazarile.
  • Space Sailing: Standard propulsion in the setting. The orbital mechanics and operations of sailing are highly detailed. For example, you cannot use tacking since there is nothing to tack against. Instead, getting to inner orbits requires slowing down the ship and adjusting the reflecting surfaces correctly.
  • Solar Flare Disaster: Zigzagged. In Shadow Captain, the solar flare causes lots of false alarms in the ship's systems. This allows pursuers to do a radar scan undetected - it's thought to be part of the storm
  • Solar Sail: On every ship, given the setting. Ion drives act as backups and are used near ports.
  • Space Pirates: As stated by Word of God, Reynolds wanted to make Wooden Ships and Iron Men but in SPACE!. With appropriate levels of sci-fi hardness, of course.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Both of the Ness sisters over the course of the two first novels. Also, the crew of the Queen Crimson.
  • Weird Currency: Uncovering the true nature of the Quoins drives the plot of the second and third books in the series.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Bosa Sennen turns out to be this, after explaining the motivations to the Ness sisters. The currency everyone is using, quoins, is apparently sentient - remains of a long-lost alien race that used Brain Uploading to save their souls from an enemy alien race but is now traded by humanity to the various alien races who sell it to said enemy who apparently intends to finish the job.
    • Though it turns out she was misinformed or lying. The Quoins are actually nodes in a sentient cosmic engineering machine which mostly exists in higher dimensional space the purpose of which was to reengineer the Sun which is starting to turn into a red giant - the books are set a very long time in the future. The ‘aliens’ who run the banks have encouraged their use as currency by the monkeys so they can collect them for selling to other ‘aliens’ who are using them as weapons in a distant interstellar war.
  • World Shapes: There are many forms of artificial planets in the series, a Ring World Planet is merely one example.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: The Ness sisters. After their father dies of a heart attack during Arafura's escape from home, there is really nothing left on Mazarile for either of them to return to.