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Ava is a sixteen-year-old girl who was born on the merchant ship Parastrata. Women do most of the drudge work on board merchant ships and receive no education. They are never allowed to leave the ships, except through marriage to seal trade agreements with other ships. The culture practices polygamy, where older men take multiple wives. Ava falls in love with Luck, the brother of her friend on the ship Aether, and when news comes of her betrothal, she is sure she is to be Luck’s bride. The two of them consummate their marriage a little early, but when they’re caught, they find Ava was to be married to Luck’s father, the ship’s captain, instead. Ava is to be thrown into the Void for her transgression, but with the help of one of the women, she manages to escape to Earth’s space station. She is rescued by Perpétue, a ship’s captain who takes her to Earth. Ava struggles, as she has never experienced full gravity, but she adapts, and Perpétue’s young daughter Miyole starts teaching her to read. Perpétue disappears in a storm, but Ava and Miyole escape in the damaged ship. They are taken in by the street smart Rushil. He starts helping Ava repair their damaged ship, but Ava is worried about exposing Miyole to dangers in the slums where he lives. She searches out her Aunt Soraya and the two begin school in the rich neighborhood where her aunt lives. Miyole flourishes, but Ava feels like a misfit. She returns to help Rushil repair the ship and flies with him to the space station to apply as a ship’s captain. There she finds Luck again, and has to decide between her old life and her new one.

This novel has some rich world-building. Duncan has invented a whole culture for the merchant ships’ crewes, including language, customs, religion and sanctions. The story investigates the effects of these cultural elements, with Miyole shining the light of cold reason on Ava’s customs and beliefs. Four stars.

This book was an Andre Norton Award nominee in 2015. It also won the 2015 Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award.

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