Gareth L. Powell’s Award-Winning Embers of War Trilogy Ends in the Light of Impossible Stars

Gareth L. Powell’s Embers of War is a space opera that does everything right: it’s expansive in scope, but character-focused. It nods to genre tropes, but interrogates them too, considering the real-world ramifications of the lasting trauma of war. Oh, also: it has a great sentient starship. It quickly became a favorite of ours—not to mention the voters who handed it this year’s British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel—and our enthusiasm was not at all muted by the recent release of the just-as-good sequel Fleet of Knives.

As you can imagine, then, we’re pretty thrilled that publisher Titan Books has asked us to give you all a sneak peek at the cover of the third and final book in the series, Light of Impossible Stars, which arrives in early 2020. The cover is designed once again by Julia Lloyd, who has given the series a uniformly sleek feel we’re really digging.

And don’t click away after you’ve seen it—below the cover we’re also featuring a brief excerpt from the novel.

Next winter, the story of the Trouble Dog and co. ends, and we can’t wait to see what happens.

Low on fuel and hunted by the Fleet of Knives, the sentient warship Trouble Dog follows a series of clues that lead her to the Intrusion—an area of space where reality itself becomes unstable. But with human civilization crumbling, what difference can one battered old ship have against an invincible armada?

Meanwhile, Cordelia Pa and her step-brother eke out their existence salvaging artifacts from an alien city. But when Cordelia starts hearing the city’s song in her head, strange things start happening around her. What extraordinary affinity does she have for this abandoned technology, and how can it possibly help the Trouble Dog?

Award-winning author Gareth L. Powell delivers an explosive conclusion to his epic Embers of War trilogy.

An excerpt from the novel follows.


“So,” I asked, “what’s the object of this game?”

The Adalwolf smiled. “To win.”

We were sitting in a virtual environment—a recreation of the Palace of Versailles. Beyond the high windows, ornate gardens stretched away. Fountains sparkled in the clean white sunlight. Adalwolf had dressed his avatar in a dark silk robe. His bony wrists protruded from its sleeves. I had contented myself with my default option: a shaggy haired, androgynous-looking woman in a battered trench coat. A marble chessboard sat on the table between us.

“And how do you do that?”

“You capture your opponent’s king.”

“That’s this tall one?”


“That’s it?”

“In essence, yes.”

“And what about these horsey ones?”

The Adalwolf gave a tight smile. “The knights.”

“Yes, I like those.” I leaned over the board and tapped one of the pieces in my first rank. “And these are the prawns?”


“And these cock-shaped ones?”


“Got it.”

“Are you ready to play?”

“I think so. Who goes first?”

“I do.”

Adalwolf reached out a thin arm and plucked a knight from the back row. He moved it over the pawns and placed it on its destined square.

I frowned in puzzlement.

Adalwolf sighed. “What’s the matter?”

“That’s it? That’s your move?”

“It’s a classic opening gambit.”

“It doesn’t seem to have achieved much.”

“I suppose you can do better?”

“Of course.” I leant back in my chair and cracked my knuckles over my head. I braced my feet against the tiled floor and grinned. “Watch this.”

I sprang forward. The fingers of my right hand jabbed Adalwolf in the throat. He started to fall backwards, and I flipped the table with my left. By the time the last marble pieces rattled down onto the floor, I was kneeling on his chest with his king held triumphantly in my hand.

“I win,” I said.

Adalwolf coughed, massaging his battered larynx. “You really don’t understand chess, do you?”

I sniffed and clambered to my feet. “On the contrary.” I let the marble king fall from my fingers. It bounced off his ribs with a hollow thump and rolled away across the floor. “You just don’t understand tactics.”

Preorder Light of Impossible Stars, available February 18, 2020.

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