The Exiled Fleet by J.S. Dewes - Review
OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: J.S. Dewes is an author, cinematographer, and video editor with a degree in film production from Columbia College Chicago. Jenny cut her narrative teeth writing scripts for award-winning feature films and shorts which have screened at festivals and conventions all across the United States. A creative at heart, she enjoys video games, drawing, photography, graphic design, Pinterest, and all things visual.
FORMAT/INFO: The Exiled Fleet will be published by Tor Books on August 17th, 2021. It is 432 pages split over 46 chapters. It is told in third person from Adequin and Cavalon's POV. It will release in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: It’s one thing to declare a rebellion, and quite another thing to lead one. That’s the hard truth Adequin Rake has come to realize as she struggles to pull together the remnants of the Sentinel fleet that was abandoned at the edge of space by the System Collective. Before her fledgling mutiny can make a difference, however, they have to get back home to the Core. With dwindling food supplies and not enough power to jump the entire fleet home, Rake, Cavalon, and a hand-picked crew are going to have to head to the Core alone to pull off some daring missions to collect what they need to get the Sentinels to safety. And for Cavalon, that means he may have to face some dark parts of his past he’d thought he’d never have to see again.
The Exiled Fleet is an absolutely superb follow-up to The Last Watch, a sequel that manages to be different while still capturing the kinetic energy of the first book. While The Last Watch had the energy of a space disaster movie, The Exiled Fleet settles more comfortably in the lane of more grounded space drama like early Battlestar Galactica or The Expanse. It begins with way less galaxy-saving and way more day-to-day minutiae, which doesn’t make it any less compelling to read. The Sentinels are in survival mode, trying to figure out how to make old, outdated technology work to keep them all alive. Meanwhile Rake has to somehow form a coalition of several different ships to fight under her banner, all while struggling with not wanting the responsibility in the first place.
Never fear, The Exiled Fleet still has plenty of tense nail-biting action, as inevitably plans go very very wrong. I had moments of gasping, refusing to put the book down, tearing up, and more throughout the read, and almost made the decision to stay up however late it took me to finish the last 100+ pages. Thank God I made myself wait until the next day because THAT was a finale.
There were also some wonderful character moments for Rake and Cavalon this go around. As mentioned above, Rake is struggling with the weight of being responsible for not just her ship, but an entire fleet, and the potential pain that will come with losing more crew if and when things go wrong. Cavalon, meanwhile, is facing a return to the Core, entering space ruled by his sadistic grandfather, who emotionally and physically abused Cavalon for years. While Rake wrestles with the burden of command, Cavalon wrestles with the burden of a legacy he doesn’t want, and the two end up turning to each other again and again as they come to terms with their problems. (And can I just say, I LOVE that so far this is a wholly platonic relationship? No idea if it will stay that way in the future, but I’m enjoying it for now!)
CONCLUSION: It’s rare enough that I give a book five stars in any given year, but two books in the same series released only months apart is unheard of. And yet here we are, with The Exiled Fleet absolutely taking me on another thrill ride. I can’t even talk about some of my favorite parts because MASSIVE spoilers, but Dewes has proven once again to be a master of pacing and tension and knifing you in the heart. I am so glad I took a chance on this space adventure series, because it’s on track to be one of my favorites of all time.