Within the first few pages of Ann Aguirre's Grimspace series, I found a heroine in Sirantha Jax I couldn’t quite shake from my mind.
The series begins with Jax in a rough equivalent of a psych ward. She’s been accused of causing the crash that killed her partner and pilot, as well as the delegation they were transporting. She’s broken out by rebels and then kidnapped by them to help with a covert mission, which ends with her destroying the company that caused the crash and set her up to take the blame. The ripples of those actions and others while she finds her way stretch through the rest of the series with battling pirates, returning a hatchling, and fighting a guerilla war to fulfill a promise to a lost friend.
Much of what drives the Sirantha Jax novels is watching her develop from the girl you want to throw a party with to the woman who gives up her space suit to save two children from pirates. You never get to see the party girl life she led, but there are glimpses of her here and there as her reputation precedes her. The woman you meet is a broken girl who has lost her lover in a fiery accident. The change she undergoes through the series is incredible, because there were often moments in the first few books that were reminiscent of a horror movie—that point where you yell at the screen and say “don’t go downstairs” to the blonde coed with the dying flashlight. But by the end of each walk down the stairs, you know why she had to take those steps into the dark abyss.
Behind her the entire way is the man who saved her from her cell and forced her to live again in the very opening of the series: March. If you like broken men who need to be saved, March is for you. If you want a strong man who will kill for you, he is that as well. March is the one who pulls her out of her cell and away to help lead a revolution. He manages, despite himself, to start to care for her. And after much joking, she returns his love. Neither quite know the depth of their feelings until they are tested, time and again, as he tries to blow up a building to save her, she risks an entire mission to save him on an alien world, he keeps her at his side as they head off to war and she (almost) sacrifices herself to save them all. The two have some great declarations of their love for each other, but the one that touched me the most came after a session of love-making when Jax thinks “I'll wait for him and him alone until the universe goes back to dust.”
Rounding out these two are an additional set of characters, a team that March initially March pulled together to rescue Jax—and they have to rescue her often when she insists on going down the basement stairs. The rag-tag bunch includes a former princess turned mechanic and her assassin-lover, a doctor who patches them all up and a non-human who is probably more human than most. The last, Velith, adds an interesting twist to the series, as we can never quite figure out if we’re going to end up with a romantic triangle or if he is just that friend who is more. Given the fact that we met him as he was a bounty hunter employed to retrieve Jax, the many layers of their relationship were confusing, comforting and all too human.
The series is filled with these moments of honest human behavior where you, as an outside observer, can see what is going to happen but you keep turning the page. And often, even though we know that there is no other option, we wish there was because we can see how this one act is going to cause so many others. In the first book we read “Part of me aches, like this is my fault, like I’m the butterfly whose wings create hurricanes.” A small act of defiance, a refusal to accept the lies that her company wants her to accept causes the destruction of the company, the loss of security universe wide, the end of the training academy, the rise of pirates and an invading menace that threatens every living thing. How Jax tries to fix these hurricanes she caused and how she tries to atone for these hurricanes drive the series.
And I think it is that which really drives me to pick up each sequel is to see just how she can resolve what she has done and what she can be. The final book, Endgame, was just released this week and I’m taking it slow because I don’t want to miss how this ends.
Series titles: Grimspace (Feb. 2008), Wanderlust (Aug. 2008), Doubleblind (Sept. 2009), Killbox (Aug. 2010), Aftermath (Aug. 2011), Endgame (Aug. 2012)
Rae herds cats for a living as a project manager & theatrical stage manager and is kept hopping at home with an energetic toddler and a music-afficianado husband. She can be found online at RaesAlley or on Twitter as @rszalley.