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Engaging the Enemy (Vatta's War Series #3)
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Engaging the Enemy (Vatta's War Series #3)

4.3 48
by Elizabeth Moon

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For fans of fast-paced adventure and compelling characters, the military science fiction of Nebula Award—winning author Elizabeth Moon is the perfect choice.

The brilliantly unorthodox Kylara Vatta, black-sheep scion of Vatta Transport Ltd., one of the galaxy’s wealthiest merchant houses, is a heroine like no other, blessed with a killer instinct for


For fans of fast-paced adventure and compelling characters, the military science fiction of Nebula Award—winning author Elizabeth Moon is the perfect choice.

The brilliantly unorthodox Kylara Vatta, black-sheep scion of Vatta Transport Ltd., one of the galaxy’s wealthiest merchant houses, is a heroine like no other, blessed with a killer instinct for business and for battle. Now, in the aftermath of cold-blooded assassinations that have left her parents dead and the Vatta shipping empire shattered, Kylara faces her greatest challenge yet.

There is a time for grief and a time for revenge. This is decidedly the latter. Placing her cousin Stella in command of the trading vessel Gary Tobai, Ky embarks aboard the captured pirate ship Fair Kaleen on a twofold mission: to salvage the family business and to punish those responsible for the killings . . . before they strike again.

Since the network providing instantaneous communication between star systems has been sabotaged, news is hard to come by and available information impossible to trust. But as she travels from system to system, with Stella a step behind, Ky pieces together the clues and discovers a conspiracy of terrifying scope, breathtaking audacity, and utter ruthlessness.

The only hope the independent systems and merchants have against this powerful enemy is to band together. Unfortunately, because she commands a ship known to belong to a notorious pirate–her own relative Osman Vatta, whom she killed for his part in her parents’ deaths–Ky is met with suspicion, if not outright hostility. Rumors swirl about her intent, her very identity. Soon even Stella begins to question her cousin’s decisions and her authority to make them.

Meanwhile, the conspiracy Ky hunts is hunting her in turn, with agents insinuated into every space station, every planetary government, every arm of the military, and every merchant house–including her own. Before she can take the fight to the enemy, Kylara must survive a deadly minefield of deception and betrayal.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher


“Bound to appeal to fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, this sf adventure is filled with fast-paced action and well-conceived characters.”

“Compelling . . . a superior novel . . . Trading in Danger [has] originality and intelligence.”


“Excellent plotting and characters support the utterly realistic action sequences: swift, jolting, [and] merciless.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“The intrigue-filled plot lends a marque of distinction.”
–Entertainment Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Nebula Award-winner Moon's third Kylara Vatta novel is sadly more reminiscent of the uninspiring Trading in Danger (2003) than the inspired Marque and Reprisal (2004). Ky has more or less patched up her relationship with her cousin Stella-a good thing, since they're all that remains of the Vatta shipping empire-and finished off the most immediate danger, the renegade Osman Vatta. Ky now faces the much more nebulous threat of an interstellar piracy gang. As she travels from station to station seeking fellow pirate fighters, annoying local officials and repeatedly leaving Stella in the lurch, it's hard to stay interested. It doesn't help that the one genuinely stunning twist-of-fate climax is followed by six plodding chapters on an entirely different topic. Moon's strength is clearly in flash-bang-gee-whiz battles and skulking intrigue, both planetside and in space. It's too bad she so frequently drowns them in mundane details that provide realism at the expense of entertainment. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
After an attack leaves her parents dead and her family home destroyed, Kylara Vatta, black sheep of one of the galaxy's most influential merchant houses, decides to track down the perpetrators of the crime. As a privateer carrying letters of marque, Kylara treads a fine line in the public eye between piracy and heroism, and her checkered past makes it difficult for her to act within prescribed channels. As her investigations proceed, Kylara discovers a galaxywide conspiracy and faces a challenge she may not survive. Moon's third novel featuring the irrepressible Kylara Vatta excels in character development as well as in its fast-paced action sequences and intricate plotting. A solid purchase, along with its predecessors (Trading in Danger; Marque and Reprisal) for most sf or YA collections. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Just a year after being expelled from space academy, Kylara Vatta, the daughter of an interstellar shipping tycoon, is well on her way to making her fortune and is the veteran of two successful campaigns of space warfare. In Trading in Danger (2003) and Marque and Reprisal (2004, both Del Rey), she proved her mettle as a trader and won a ship of her own, only to lose most of her clan when unknown enemies attacked the Vatta corporation's headquarters. Now, Ky lays the groundwork for an interstellar military force as a first step toward destroying a large army of pirates, reestablishing safe trading and cargo transport for the law-abiding citizens of her galaxy, and ultimately rebuilding the Vatta empire. She continues to mature as she struggles with inner demons and learns to make the most of her emerging gifts for strategy and leadership. This volume has a transitional feel, telling how the new space navy gets off to a small and rocky start, but leaving the rest of Ky's quest to future books. While the battle strategies and dogfights are thrilling, the series is also a family dynasty saga, complete with eccentric but brilliant cousins and elders and quirky humor. It should appeal to fans of Anne McCaffrey's "Rowan" family SF saga (Ace) as well as to those of David Weber's "Honor Harrington" military SF series (Baen). Moon has created a richly imagined universe of different cultures, replete with intriguing characters and the sense of unlimited possibility that characterizes the most appealing science fiction.-Christine C. Menefee, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vatta's War Series , #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In the afternoon sky, the sound of the approaching aircraft rose above the sea breeze, a steady drone. Nothing to see . . . no, there it was, small to make that much noise . . . and then the sudden flood of data from the implant: not an aircraft, no one aboard, a weapon homing on the airfield’s navigational beacon. Visual data blanked, overloaded by heat and light, auditory data an inchoate mass of noise, swiftly parsed into channels again, stored, analyzed: primary explosion, structural damage, secondary explosion, quick flicker of building plans, primary visual restored . . .

Ky Vatta jerked awake, heart pounding, breath coming in great gasps. She wasn’t there, she was here, in the dark captain’s cabin of Fair Kaleen, darkness pricked with the steady green telltales of major ship functions. All she could hear beyond her own pulse beating in her ears were the normal sounds of a ship in FTL flight. No explosions. No fires. No crashing bricks or shattering glass. No reverberative boom echoing off the hills minutes later.

“Bedlight,” she said to the room, and a soft glow rose behind her, illuminating tangled sheets and her shaking hands. She glared at her hands, willing them to stop. A deep breath. Another.

The chronometer informed her that it was mid-third-shift. She had been asleep two hours and fourteen minutes this time. She went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror: she looked every bit as bad as she felt. A shower might help. She had showered already; she had taken shower after shower, just as she had worked out hour after hour in the ship’s gym, hoping to exhaust or relax herself into a full night’s sleep.

She was the captain. She had to get over this.

This time she dialed the shower cold, and then, chilled, dressed quickly and headed out into the ship. She could always call it a midshift inspection. Her eyes burned. Her stomach cramped, and she headed first for the galley. Maybe hot soup . . .

In the galley, Rafe was ripping open one of the ration packs. “Our dutiful captain,” he said, without looking up. “Midshift rounds again? Don’t you trust us?” His light ironic tone carried an acidic bite.

She did not need this. “It’s not that I don’t trust the crew. I’m still not sure of this ship.”

“Ah. As I’m sure you recall, I’m on third-shift duty right now, and this is my midshift meal. Do you want something?”

She wanted sleep. Real sleep, uninterrupted by dreams or visions or whatever . . . “The first snack you pick up,” she said.

He reached into the cabinet without looking and pulled something out. “Traditional Waskie Custard,” he said, reading the label. “The picture is an odd shade of yellow—sure that’s what you want?”

“I’ll try it,” Ky said. He had put his own meal in the oven; now he handed her a small sealed container and a spoon. She glanced at the garish label; it did look . . . unappetizing. Inside the seal was what looked like a plain egg custard. Ky dug the spoon into it. It should be soothing.

“Excuse my mentioning it to the captain,” Rafe said, sitting across from her at the table. “But you look like someone slugged you in both eyes about ten minutes ago. I promise to perform all my duties impeccably if you’ll go back to bed and look human in the morning.”

Ky started to say something about duty, but she couldn’t get the words out. “I can’t sleep,” she said instead.

“Ah. Reliving the fight? It must’ve been bad—”

That attempt at pop psych therapy almost made her laugh. Almost. “No,” she said. “I had my post-manslaughter nightmare the second night. This is something else.”

“You could tell me,” he said, his voice softening to a purr. When she didn’t respond, he sat up and said, “With the matter of the internal ansibles, you have enough on me that I wouldn’t dare reveal any secrets of yours.”

Maybe it was safe to talk to him; he had been ready to commit suicide rather than let outsiders know he had unknown technology, a personal instantaneous communicator, implanted in his head. “It’s not . . . it’s . . . I’m not sure what it is.” Ky tented her hands above the custard, which was not as soothing as she’d hoped. Something in the texture almost sickened her. “I think . . . somehow . . . I’m seeing what happened back home.”

“What . . . the attack?”

“Yes. I know it’s impossible; I don’t even know if Dad’s implant recorded any of it, and I haven’t tried to access those dates anyway. But I keep dreaming it, or . . . or something.”

“A high-level implant could record it all,” Rafe said. “If your father wanted a record, something for a court. Are you sure it’s not bleeding over? I mean, if he put an Urgent-to-transmit command on it—”

“It couldn’t override my priorities, could it? Everything’s user-defined . . .”

“True, but this implant’s had two users. It may not know you aren’t your father.”

“That’s . . .” Ridiculous, she had been going to say, but maybe it wasn’t. She’d had the implant inserted in an emergency, with no time then for adjustment of implant and brain. She’d gone directly into combat, and then the direct connection to Rafe’s implant had made changes in hers, changes that essentially reconfigured it into some kind of cranial ansible. That might have damaged or changed control functions. And she’d never had someone else’s implant before. Why, she wondered now, hadn’t Aunt Grace downloaded the data into a new one? Unless it couldn’t be done. “I hadn’t thought of that,” she said instead. “What do you know about transferred implants?”

“Not much,” Rafe said. “I know it’s possible to use one; I don’t know how much residual control might be involved. That one was your father’s command implant, right? I’d expect it to have special features.”

“It probably does,” Ky said. “It certainly does now, after linking with yours.” She looked at the cup of custard and pushed it away. “I suppose I’d better look into that.”

“If you don’t want to go insane from lack of sleep and nightmares, that would be a yes,” Rafe said, pulling his own mealpak from the microwave. “Real food wouldn’t hurt, either. How about some noodles and chicken? I can make myself another.”

It smelled good. Ky nodded; Rafe pushed the tray across to her, picked up her container of uneaten custard and sniffed at it, then wrinkled his nose and dropped it in the recycler. He pulled out another mealpak and put that in the microwave before sitting down again. Ky took a bite of noodle and sauce; it went down easily.

“See if the implant has a sleep cycle enabler,” Rafe said. “They don’t put those in kids’ implants, but the high-end adult ones often do, along with a timer. It should be in the personal adjustment menu somewhere.”

Ky queried her implant and found it: sleep enhancement mode, maximum duration eight hours, monitored and “regulated” brain-wave activity and damped sensory input. Users were instructed not to use this function more than five sleep cycles in a row without medical advice . . .

An Urgent tag came up: “Authorized user request: review sealed files.” Ky scrolled mentally to check the priorities of sleep enhancement versus Urgent Message, dropped the priority of the message to allow sleep enhancement to override it, and set a condition for waking. Then she finished her noodles and chicken.

“I’m going back to bed,” she said. “Tell first shift I may be late.”

Initiating sleep enhancement mode was like walking off a cliff into oblivion. She woke feeling rested for the first time since before she’d put the implant in . . . languid, comfortable. After a shower and change, she went up to the bridge.

“Good rest, Captain?” Lee asked.

“Very good,” Ky said. “But I’m going to need to spend a lot of time today exploring data stored in this implant. I suspect it’s going to be very intense. So if there’s anything you know you need for this shift, tell me now.”

“We’re doing fine,” Lee said. “All systems green—this is a lovely ship, despite the way she’s been used. Whatever else Osman was up to, he maintained the ship systems perfectly.”

“Call if you need me,” Ky said. “I’ll be in my cabin.”

She puttered around briefly, stripping the bed and sending the linens through the ’fresher cycle, reluctant to face what was coming. When she realized that, she sat down at her desk and activated the secured files.

In the afternoon sky, the sound of the approaching aircraft rose above the sea breeze, a steady drone . . . but this time she was awake, and viewed the audiovisual data as an outsider, not a participant. Her father’s emotions did not flood her awareness; she recognized the silhouettes of the two craft before the implant matched them.

Still, the violence of the explosions was shocking. Her breath came fast. Deliberately, Ky slowed the replay, returning again and again to the same image: were they aircraft with missiles or bombs, or were they the weapons? That hardware could be either. They had come in low and fast; the implant did not record—her father had not thought to look for—the telltale evidence that might tell her which they were.

Ky put a tagger on the best of the early images and told the implant to find any similar images after the explosions, but apparently her father had not looked for the aircraft again, nor had he tapped into the airfield’s scan data after that first moment.

Back to the beginning. The implant didn’t tell her what her father was thinking that afternoon, but it held his planned itinerary—a flight from Corleigh back to the mainland—and his planned schedule—a meeting with senior management at Vatta headquarters, the agenda including the quarterly financial reports, dinner with his brother and his brother’s wife, the next two days a series of meetings with the Slotter Key Tik Growers’ Association, the Slotter Key Agricultural Commission, the Slotter Key Shipping Advisory Commission. An address to the graduating class of Nandinia School of Business—Ky ignored the link to the text. All routine: he normally spent at least six days out of ten on the mainland; her mother preferred Corleigh’s gentler climate except during the main social season.

His flight plan had been properly filed well in advance; anyone could have known when he would be at the little private airfield, and yet no explosion occurred there.

She noted that oddity and went back to the visual record itself.

The local offices exploded; debris rained from the sky. Another explosion; the visual output darkened. Along the margins, a row of red numbers appeared, giving her father’s vital signs. She tried to steady her breathing—was this when he died?

But no. The visual record returned, as someone pulled debris off him. She recognized the faces: old George, their pilot Gaspard, someone she had seen around the office . . . Marin Sanlin, the implant told her. Her father looked toward the house, now a tower of flame and smoke . . .

Even seeing it, she could not quite believe it. Surely the comfortable sprawling house with its tall windows to catch the sea breeze, its cool tile floors, had not really gone so fast, so completely. Some walls still stood, as fire raged inside, consuming everything from her past . . . the long, polished dining room table, the library with its shelves of data cubes and old books, the paintings, the family rooms . . .

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Moon is the author of many novels, including The Speed of Dark, Against the Odds, and Remnant Population, which was a Hugo Award finalist.

Actress Cynthia Holloway, a native of Seattle, Washington, has performed on stage, film, and television. She has lent her voice to television programs, radio and television commercials, video games, and audiobooks. Cynthia's most recognizable work is as the voice of Anita Blake in Laurell K. Hamilton's bestselling Vampire Hunter series.

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Engaging the Enemy (Vatta's War Series #3) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
deesy58 More than 1 year ago
This is the third of the 5-book "Vatta's War" series. The back story is covered sufficiently well by the author that this book can be understood without having read the first two books in the series. A goodly portion of the story drags a bit, but the book ends with an action sequence. Very few editing errors.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Vatta Transport Ltd is a trading family that deals with several different systems in the far distant future when communications in the vastness of space are conducted by ansibles. The Vatta Compound on the planet Slotter Key is bombed to oblivion followed by an assault on their fleet that leaves few vessels operational. One of those still flying is Fair Kaleen captained by Ky Vatta who killed her cousin Osman for crimes to horrific to mention. ---- Ky is not alone as her cousin Stella flies nearby even as pirates attack a planet just as Ky leaves it. At her next stop she learns that the pirates control that solar system and communication destroyed because he devastated the ansibles. Ky finally concludes the pirates are organized and led by Gammis Turek. She also figures out that the attack on her fleet and the compound come from the same pirates. Ky hopes to gather a counter force to fight back and restore interstellar trade. ---- Elizabeth Moon writes military science fiction that is so good new readers will scramble to buy her back list soonest while fans will anxiously wait for the new moon to arise. There will a sequel to ENGAGING THE ENEMY because many questions still remain to be answered. This book is a totally exhilarating sci fi thriller starring a delightful somewhat roguish spunky female reminiscent of Princess Leia not afraid to plunge into the center of the hostilities. ---- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you have read the entire series so far, you'll wonder when the action is going to start. Having read Moon's other series, this book is probably critical to the entire Privateer series, as a large number of new characters are introduced who will probably appear in the next book. If you are interested in this book without reading the the others up to now, go read the others first. As a huge Moon fan, while diappointed in this individual book, I am extremely happy with the entire Vatta series
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