Book cover: Translucid - Zen di Pietro (a space station in front of a nebula, tinged red)Emé Fallon, security chief on Dragonfire Station, is unable to remember a single thing about her life after a head injury. Thrown back on her instincts, she tries to pick up the pieces of life, but was it really an accident that destroyed her memories? Should she trust her instincts – or her wife?

Translucid is the space opera equivalent of a cheeky Chinese takeaway after a long week at work: not necessarily highly nutritious, but utterly delightful. We meet Emé Fallon in her sickbed, suspicious and tight-lipped as the medical team shine lights in her eyes and ask her questions about her well-being. Her instincts tell her to be evasive; and then she realises she can’t answer any of their questions anyway.

For all its suggestive set-up, Zen di Pietro takes time to set out her stall and I found myself wondering a couple of chapters in whether this was actually going to be the high stakes espionage thriller I automatically assumed it to be or Regarding Henry in space. As Emé slips back into her day job – her memory less a well-kept secret, thanks to professional muscle-memory (so to speak: she’s lost none of her competence, just her history) – there’s more focus on her hairstyle and cooking ability than on whether the set-up is remotely suspicious.

As it turns out, that’s an excellent tactic. Spending time with Emé as she relearns the station provides di Pietro with a neat opportunity for some world-building. Dragonfire feels like a small, closeknit community, but it’s also a regular stopping off point for travellers from multiple star systems – human and otherwise (OH MY, RITUALISTIC SPACE LIZARDS). Di Pietro captures a sense of the commercial and sociopolitical concerns without lingering too long on the details.

It also gives the awkward situation between Emé and her newly-estranged wife Wren time to develop. Wren wants her wife back; Emé doesn’t know who either of them are. Wren won lots of points from me for being generally lovable and supremely understanding: I was delighted to realise that their relationship was as much a plot focus as Emé’s memory.

As Emé begins to realise that there’s more to herself than meets the eye – or than is recorded in her official records – the plot begins to gather pace. She must decide who she can take into her confidence before her presumed enemy can strike again. Much to my delight, one of her confidantes is a reptilian cyberneticist. REPTILE ALIENS FTW.

With a final act as high-octane as I could have wished for, Translucid sets up what promises to be a thrilling new series that will indeed focus on space espionage and covert treachery. It just remains to be seen how complicated Emé’s love life can get (and let’s take a moment to reflect that grouchy old oh god not another bloody romance me is delighted at the prospect).

This was buckets of fun. I started out with few expectations and found myself galloping through the pages to find out what happened next. At the end of three weeks’ hard work, it was exactly what my sore head needed: utterly entertaining with a cast of adorable characters (I can’t wait to get to spend more time with the Avian Unit and the crew of the Onari) and enough interstellar intrigue to make their life complicated for – I suspect – several books to come.

****

Translucid is available to buy now. The sequel, Fragments, will be released later this year.

I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.