Women’s Book March: Negative Return by Jessie Kwak

I’m challenging myself to read only novels by women and femme people for a full year, from March 2019 through March 2020. Read this post to get the full story!

Jessie Kwak’s Durga System series is fast becoming one of my favorite indie reads. The first novella, Starfall, introduced us to the infamous Bulari crime lord Willem Jaantzen and his devoted crew; Negative Return zeroes in on the story of how one of those crew members, Manu Juric, first joined up with Jaantzen, and it’s a wild ride.

Manu Juric is a street smart, independent hitman who doesn’t want to be anyone’s underling. But when he takes on a contract to assassinate Jaantzen on behalf of another crime boss and is captured by him instead, Jaantzen offers him a simple choice: join his crew for an upcoming heist, or die. Manu is pragmatic. He’ll join Jaantzen’s crew, play along, and wait for his chance to take the boss out and fulfill his contract. But of course things are never that simple in Bulari!

I loved getting to know Manu as a character: at first he comes off as brash, flirtatious and charming, and he is all those things, yet as the story progresses we also see his hidden depths. He is highly skilled at reading people and situations and can manipulate them to his advantage; yet often as not, he uses his powers for good to protect the people around him. His role in Starfall was relatively small, so it’s great to see his backstory and learn more about the other crew we met in the first novella.

Negative Return is a fast-paced heist story in Jessie Kwak’s signature style, with a surprising depth of characterization alongside the explosions. Space opera fans owe it to themselves to check out this series.

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