Dark Theory – Wick Welker (Dark Law #1)

This is book 1 of I don’t know how many in the Dark Law series, and it looks like we have an epic fantasy quest that had babies with a sci-fi space opera – so I’m instantly interested, of course!

Ingredients? We’ve got the galaxy slowly whirling towards destruction; everything around our protagonists chaotic and messy and dirty; a new warlord crushing the fiefdom in his fists; and everyone suffering.

We’ve got the young rogue, Miree, seeking one last heist off of which to live out the rest of her days on a pile of gold, hiding from the world.

We’ve got the robot, Beetro, following Prime Directive: Find Creator, but with no memory of who that is – or of anything else, for that matter.

So, obviously, these two meet and eventually decide to pull off the best heist ever (steal a sliver of the most valuable matter in the world).

But all this, of course, is just the foreground. In the background is an unraveling galaxy, with only Beetro and his Very Special Powers able to prevent it – or quietly nudge it off the cliff and walk away.

So like I said: epic fantasy space opera, featuring queer people, and I am totally here for it!

First up – the prologue is great. No notes. Nice job.

Sadly, our protagonists don’t make the most promising start.

Miree is a grouch. She wants to make her score and retire from the world, because she hates everyone (except her scrapper friend, Lucindi). To eat, they need scrap, and if they can get a fusion core out of a scrapped robot that’ll sell for a lot. Unfortunately, she gets a living, self-aware robot instead. And those don’t sell at all.

Beetro is very sweet, very cute. With no memory except “find Galiaro”, he’s curious about everything, and his questions annoy Miree no end. Her scrapper friend, Lucindi, likes him though, and he winds up tagging along, happily helping them out for nothing in return. And if your brain, like mine, has gone “well that’s suspicious as anything”, then you have some great surprises coming your way.

Lucindi is much more relaxed and welcoming. She doesn’t shut herself off from the world, and she shares the little they have with the street rats and the town drunk. She used to be a street kid after all.

Life in Korthe is hard and getting harder. Living will soon become impossible. They live in a cave they dug out of a mound of dirt, planting bushes at its mouth for camouflage. Miree grouches about Lucindi sharing with the street kids (one of whom is named Ribcage), but Lucindi does it anyway.

I want to note some things here about the content. We are told that Lucindi is dark in colour. Miree? Her colour isn’t mentioned. Ditto other characters throughout. So we’re faced with the all-too-common ‘default white’ scenario, which is a shame. Especially when the gender-essentialism rears its head from an old white guy…

While I’m on this, there’s also a fair bit of ableist language in the character dialogue, so be aware of that.

I don’t think any of these things are a conscious bias on the part of the author, though I think he could learn to do better. So I settled it in my head by highlighting certain passages, adding a middle finger emoji as a note, then moving on.

And I’ll also give a content warning that the book contains violence which includes imprisonment, murder and torture. It’s never a huge section, but it does crop up a few times.

It’s a big book (see above, re: epic fantasy space opera), with unexpected hints of magic and queerness (really, it’s SO rare to find, and here it is, written well and everything!).

If you like epic fantasy and space opera, robots and world-ending catastrophe, terrible science and street rats with knives – then this is a book for you! And I look forward to the sequel.

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