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Literature / Warchild Series

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A character driven space opera by Karin Lowachee. The series as of today consists of three books:

  • Warchild: The first book. It introduces the major characters and is told from the point of view of Joslyn Aaron Musey, a child survivor of a pirate attack on the starship he called home. He spends the next year in the custody of the pirate captain Falcone, abused in the name of molding him into a protégé. Finally, he is rescued, but not by anyone connected to his home or family. Instead, his rescuer is chief among the human sympathizers of the alien resistance. He is the Warboy, an infamous terrorist Jos has been brought up to hate. And his year in Falcone's care hasn't exactly left him in a trusting frame of mind. But the Warboy, or Niko as he prefers to be called, is patient and seemingly kind. And so over time, Jos grows to trust him.

    Niko brings him back to the alien world of the striivic-na, where he learns the war between the strivs and the humans isn't exactly what he thought. He assimilates into their culture, and grows to think of Niko as his family, only for the Warboy to return to his war. Jos continues training for years while Niko wages his resitence, and when his father-figure finally returns, their reunion is bittersweet. Yes, Niko wants to take Jos with him into the war, but only for Jos to serve as a spy aboard one of the EarthHub Naval carriers, Macedon. Jos wants nothing more than to stay with his mentor, but Niko stresses the importance of this mission. So once more, Jos finds himself isolated on an enemy ship under the command of Captain Cairo Azarcon. And once again, the lines of good and evil become blurred, as Jos suffers through revelations and betrayals that will shake and shape him...

  • Burndive: The second books switches viewpoints to that of Ryan Azarcon, son of the great military leader Cairo Azarcon. But Ryan is not a soldier or a military man. He's a college dropout, a sometime musician, Austro's Hottest Number One Bachelor, and a spoiled brat when he wants to be. He lives with his mother on a station far removed from the war in deep space. He's seen his father a handful of times throughout his life, and the war is just background noise on the Send. But his life changes when a pirate tries to assassinate him at a flash-house as a form of revenge for the murder of Vincenzo Falcone at the hands of one of Captain Azarcon's jets. Azarcon cannot let his son pay this debt with his life, so he scoops Ryan out of his safe little world and onto his ship. Things are in turmoil on Macedon, as Azarcon has unilaterally called for peace talks with Captain Niko and the striivic-na. Government officials from EarthHub aren't pleased with Azarcon's seeming dictatorship in deep space, and are even less happy about having peace talks shoved down their throats. Ryan initially agrees with him, but his perception begins to change the longer he remains out in the stars...

  • Cagebird: The third and as-of-now final book in the series, despite Lowachee's intentions of a series of at least eight. Again, it features a switch of narrators to Yuri Kirov, the pirate who tried to murder Ryan Azarcon in the second book. Like Jos, Yuri was once made a protégé of Vincenzo Falcone. But unlike Jos, Yuri didn't try to escape it. He willingly left his home and family behind to join Falcone's crew. He even found love on the pirate's ship. But all that is far removed from him now, in a jail cell because of his crimes against the Azarcon family. However, neither the pirates nor EarthHub black ops want him to remain incarcerated. The former would like to kill him before he spills any intel on their operation, while the latter would like to use him in their war against piracy...or maybe just for their own purposes. Either way, Yuri doesn't want to die, so he returns to the ship and crew he left behind as a spy for EarthHub. But the crimes he's committed and the abuse committed against him have left their scars, and Yuri is forced to deal with the past before he can face the future...

The series is notable for its use in changing viewpoint and narrative tone. The first book is told in a combination of second- and first-person-viewpoint to show the narrator's attempt to distance himself from the horror he lived through. It also changes from past to present tense. Subsequent novels are narrated by new characters either introduced or mentioned in the previous series. The result is a tapestry narrative of a galaxy at war and the way the war seeps into the lives of everyone.

Oh, and there are more than a fair amount of gay and bisexual characters, mostly men. Very good-looking, angsty men. But no one would read a series just for that, right?

This series provides examples of:

  • Aliens Speaking English: Averted, the strivs have their own language and culture, the latter based loosely on Far Eastern traditions.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: How humans see the strivs, but not how they are in reality
  • Am I Just a Toy to You?: Yuri and Estienne. It doesn't help that it's Estienne's job to sleep with Yuri.
  • Badass Army: The Macedon is notorious for its tough crew.
  • Bishōnen: virtually every male character, but especially Jos, Yuri, Ryan, and Captain Azarcon. It's stated that Falcone specifically chose beautiful boys as his protégés.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality
  • Bodyguard Crush: Ryan's grandfather, Admiral Ashrafi, assigns a Marine as his bodyguard. Sid, said Marine, then falls for Ryan's mother.
  • Break the Cutie: Oh dear, where do we start.
  • Can't Act Perverted Toward a Love Interest: Ever since Yuri started to care about Finch, he didn't do anything to him.
  • The Captain: Captain Cairo Azarcon.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Played straight before being subverted Ryan doesn't like his fame, his paparazzi, nor the people who attempt against him because of his status as Azarcon's son. By the end of the book, he's using his popularity for a good cause
  • Character Development: Think of the book as a Coming of Age Story during war time. In space!
  • Child Soldiers: Jos, Evan, Yuri, and most of the jets on Macedon as well as the pirates started as this. Because of the tone of the series, expect this to be played for tragedy
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Falcone's tactic against Jos
  • Cool Starship: Macedon
  • Culture Clash: between EarthHub and the strivs. Interestingly, the aliens didn't have FTL space travel until we showed up on their moon (turning humans into the alien invaders). They had just managed to build a rocket from their planet to a nearby moon. Human symps gave the aliens designs for starships when it became clear the other humans were planning on wiping the aliens out to use their resources.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Yes, but try telling that to Ryan...
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Everyone got one.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Jos
  • Defusing The Tykebomb: Admiral Ashrafi manages to straighten Cairo Azarcon out...mostly.
  • Double Entendre: The jets' speech is full of this. Dorr seems to do it the most; in fact, he's almost a Handsome Lech, though he mostly flirts with guys.
  • Dysfunctional Family: the Azarcon family, crossing into Big, Screwed-Up Family territory
  • Dysfunction Junction
  • Enemy Mine:
    • The aliens and jets unite to fight the Space Pirates.
    • Azarcon and Niko team up to rescue hostages.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Or sometimes just gay!
  • Evil Mentor: Falcone to Yuri, as seen in Cagebird.
    • Falcone also attempted this with Cairo and Jos, though neither of them were willing to learn from him and both eventually escaped.
  • Fantastic Racism: Humans view strivs as cannibalistic and bestial, though to be fair, some of the strivs and their sympathizers don't think much more highly of humans
  • Fantastic Slurs: Striivic-na can be shortened to striv, but "strit" is an insult.
  • Freudian Excuse: Yuri's vileness and evil deeds can (largely) be traced back to his training and abuse at Falcone's hands. However, Cairo and Jos both suffered similar abuse by the same man, and they chose to run away from it. Jos even asks Yuri, "Why didn't you run?" So while the abuse might explain Yuri's behavior, it doesn't justify it.
  • "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Yuri, at the end of Cagebird
  • Going Native: Jos in the alien planet.
  • Good-Looking Privates: Jos makes mention that station women (and men) can't seem to resist the uniform.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Yuri says, "It wasn't that bad" as an excuse for him not running away.
  • Harmful to Minors: Pretty much everything that happens in the series to the main characters.
  • Hates Being Touched: Jos, because of the abuse he experienced at Falcone's hands.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: What the Mac crew probably thinks of Jos. Also, Yuri.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Captain Azarcon by the end of Burndive
  • High-Class Call Girl: Or sometimes, boy. The Hanamachi.
  • Honor Before Reason: Averted. Yuri kills his childhood friend when Falcone tells him to because either it'd be him, or both of them, and no third option is presented.
  • Humanoid Aliens: The strivs have the general shape of humans, but also have wings, a thinner build, and an absence of wrinkles or lines in their skin. They're described like statues where someone new the basic shape, but none of the fine details.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Yes they are. It's hard to find any example of a decent human being in the whole story. Even the hero commits cold-blooded murder at one point. Even famed Captain Azarcon is willing to torture to get information. Even noble resistance leader Niko will execute his own brother rather than give him a trial. And the bad guys? Well, the bad guys are pedophiles and rapists and murderers and much, much worse.
    • Also, the war started because humans tried to usurp control of the aliens' moon, and would have gone so far as wipe the aliens out completely if several humans hadn't changed sides
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Ryan
  • Innocence Lost
  • Insignia Ripoff Ritual: Invoked in the first book when Dorr tells Jos to remove his tattoo. Jets don't have insignia to rip off but the ship's tat is sacred to them.
  • From Bad to Worse: Everyone's story, but mostly Yuri's.
  • The Infiltration: The plot for the second half of Warchild
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Subverted, to Ryan's astonishment, when he asks Evan if all the entertainment the Mac crew seeks is pornography.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Captain Azarcon admits to torturing pirates and war criminals if he needs the information
  • Left Hanging:
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Ryan.
  • Made a Slave: Jos, Evan, Cairo Azarcon, to name a few.
  • Malicious Slander: Used against Azarcon to undermine the peace talks.
  • Military Brat: Ryan
  • Morality Chain: Finch to Yuri. Finch doesn't exactly inspire him to be good, but he tries to lessen the damages.
  • Most Writers Are Human: Played with in that half of the first novel is from the POV of an alien sympathizer, and striivic-na culture comes out looking much better than humans. Future books were planned with Niko and his mother as protagonists, but no word on that.
  • New Meat: Jos is considered a "sprig" when he first joins Macedon's crew, and indeed several of his fellow sprigs die to give him something to angst over. Because of Jos's training at Niko's hands (something the Mac jets obviously don't know about), he's not really New Meat at all.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Trying to stop the war or sympathizing with the striv point of view immediately earns anyone the label of 'terrorist'.
  • Orphan's Ordeal
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Yuri's cutting scars serve to illustrate just how broken he is by everything that's happened to him.
  • Prison Rape: Poor Finch.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Played straight AND subverted magnificently, as each book follows one character's POV and only by reading them together we're able to understand what's truly going on. As there were eight books planned, we still might not be getting the full picture.
  • The Quiet One: Jos doesn't say much.
  • Rape as Drama: And quite frequently so.
  • Red Herring Mole: Evan
  • Revenge: the ultimate motive behind Jos killing Falcone
  • Sarcastic Devotee: Dorr.
  • Second-Person Narration: Jos, in the first part of Warchild.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Falcone was arrested once, but his friends in power got him out.
  • Sex Equals Love: Subverted oh so much.
  • Show Within a Show: The Battlemech Bear. The show is a Running Gag, mentioned at least once per book. It's a nod to the anime and manga subculture.
  • Space Marine: the series has "jets," shortened from "soljets" who at one point derived from Marines. But the military itself is based on the Navy, culminating in an Admiral, and the jets have nothing but scorn for dirt-based Marines
  • Space Pirates: self-explanatory, really. Falcone is the closest thing to a Big Bad the series has, even after (nay, especially after) he dies
  • The Spartan Way: Falcone's method of training his protégés. Of course, nobody thought to tell him that murdering his protégé's families and then abusing them might not make them very loyal.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Subverted. Yuri's first kill made him so happy he had to go and tell his best friend the news.
  • The Talk: Incredibly creepy, since it's Falcone showing Jos porn. And saying people'd like to do that to him. Oh, and Jos was eight at that time.
  • Theme Naming: It's revealed that Captain Azarcon and his brothers were all named after cities on Earth: Bern, Cairo and Paris.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Ryan's only met his father four times in his life, and Cairo is known for his stoicism. So upon finding himself on his father's starship, Ryan implores several people to tell him about the captain. Some pass down stories, but those with more intimate knowledge of the captain's secrets tell Ryan the captain will have to confide in him when he's ready
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Yuri and Andreas first meeting, in a certain way.
    Yuri: You can cuff me again if you want.
    Andreas: No. You might like it.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Jos doesn't remember he was raped by Falcone. His POV avoids this like the plague.
    • Or, Alternate Character Interpretation, Jos was actively avoiding his memories of his time with Falcone because they were too traumatic. Several instances in the books show that he remembers all too well what happened, but just doesn't want to think or tell anyone about it.
  • Tyke-Bomb: Falcone's protégés
  • Unreliable Narrator: Everything is skewed or influenced by the different characters' perceptions of their environment.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Evan/Jos. It's canon one-sided on Evan's part, but Jos is too damaged to try anything, though several scenes make it clear he's considering it.
  • Welcome Back, Traitor: Averted. Jos is seen with suspicion through the entire series.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ash
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Mostly because home has been destroyed
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Jos is a symp and Yuri, a pirate. They both are considered traitors. It's vital for some plot points that they're to be believed.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters
  • War for Fun and Profit

Alternative Title(s): Warchild, Burndive, Cagebird