Rats, rats and flying rats. She was majorly doomed.
Trading in Danger opens as we meet Cadet Kylara Vatta, thrust into a situation where she has been summoned to the Commandante’s office at her academy and a seemingly unfair call for her resignation being foist upon her, which we become instantly aware that it’s one of the worst things that could happen to the character.
Ms. Moon garners instant sympathy for Vatta as her chastising appears unjust to the reader, but still makes perfect sense in military terms. This is reinforced by Vatta herself not fighting the charge, but accepting it, which has a secondary effect of solidifying her as a strong military woman. We also learn a little bit about societal structures in religious sect breakdowns for some background to the world, all within the first couple of pages.
I don’t think I’d have the discipline to accept an order to resign for personal reasons like that. I’d make a stink immediately. But, this is why I wouldn’t last in the military at the same time. Later in the chapter, Vatta plays this off as the shock of the situation, but I think the discipline is an inherent part of the character’s desire to be a good military cadet.
The two primary foils of the chapter are a commandant and a military officer MacRobert, the latter of whom we don’t learn a terrible amount about. The Commandant is a quizzing, scared for his job and the type that would do anything to avoid undue attention on his safe position. It’s unfortunate that he takes his hard stance making Vatta to be the sacrificial lamb, but it is the driving factor of our adventure at the same time. MacRobert seems hostile and very similar character-wise to the Commandant but he delivers a cryptic message “you have friends here” foreshadowing a potential return to the academy/military later on, revealing there is more to him.
We meet Vatta’s father via comm, who seems to be Vatta’s ally, someone she trusts far more than her mother, who she dreads talking to about what’s transpired here. She has her father send someone to pick her up, and her father complies without questioning her, signifying the trust in their relationship. Her uncle’s the one to pick her up, and we learn of a little bit of negotiation turmoil within her family business, the trading business she avoided by going into the military. We find out that Vatta is on top of that as well, extremely knowledgable, leading the reader to wonder why she was off playing cadet in the first place.
That’s a familiar place for an Elizabeth Moon space opera to start. a strong, intelligent young woman who’s out of place in the military, with some sort of wealthy/noble background. It reminds me a bit of Esmay from her other Space Opera series, who has left her noble home for a military career. However, Vatta seems much more pragmatic, willing to accept orders than Esmay. There’s not enough information background wise on the world to strike too many comparisons or contrasts to the Familias’ world at this point, however.
The first chapter is an in depth character look, throwing the reader into a relatable situation. We don’t have a ton of world building, though there’s hints here and there. In any event, the average reader would be hooked as the character is defined, we’re given reason to like her, and we’re given reason to hate the injustice happening to her. We’ll see what happens in chapter 2!