Book Reviews

Review: The Red Scholar’s Wake by Aliette de Bodard

The Red Scholar’s Wake features pirates, sentient ships, and romance all in one. It’s truly unique and for fans of SF this should be an addition to your TBR. For me, I love sentient ship stories, so this was right up my alley! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Xích Si: bot maker, data analyst, mother, scavenger. But those days are over now-her ship has just been captured by the Red Banner pirate fleet, famous for their double-dealing and cruelty. Xích Si expects to be tortured to death-only for the pirates’ enigmatic leader, Rice Fish, to arrive with a different and shocking proposition: an arranged marriage between Xích Si and herself.

Rice Fish: sentient ship, leader of the infamous Red Banner pirate fleet, wife of the Red Scholar. Or at least, she was the latter before her wife died under suspicious circumstances. Now isolated and alone, Rice Fish wants Xích Si’s help to find out who struck against them and why. Marrying Xích Si means Rice Fish can offer Xích Si protection, in exchange for Xích Si’s technical fluency: a business arrangement with nothing more to it.

But as the investigation goes on, Rice Fish and Xích Si find themselves falling for each other. As the interstellar war against piracy intensifies and the five fleets start fighting each other, they will have to make a stand-and to decide what kind of future they have together…


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

All you had to tell me to get me intrigued is sentient ship romance and space pirates. So The Red Scholar’s Wake is a book I had high expectations for from the beginning. While the pirate action is less in that many high stakes raids (think less high seas pirating and pludering) and more how do we regulate our pirate nations and loyalty. Like I feel like if you enjoyed the later “Pirates of the Carribbean” stories where you get to see more of how pirates organize themselves then this is for you.

Those were always my favorite elements – plus all the scheming and betrayals – so The Red Scholar’s Wake was perfect. Now moving onto the sentient ship aspect, which is an aspect that will always result in me adding it to my TBR, I loved it so much! It’s not what I was expecting – there is a physical body within the ship – but I loved this idea of being aware of the ship and being able to change, anticipate, and monitor.

Now moving on to my favorite element – which I was honestly not anticipating considering what drew me to The Red Scholar’s Wake – were the characters. I loved watching Xích Si and Rice Fish bloom, develop, and get to know each other. To see the tinges of heartbreak and sadness within Rice Fish. The love, loss, and judgement from Xích Si. And did I mention there’s also like a fake/political it’s-for-protection-marriage?? By being able to see both of their thoughts, we were able to see how Xích Si and Rice Fish surprise each other.


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Poke at our insecurities and see to the essence of who they are. Witnessing their evolution from Rice Fish’s grief to Xích Si’s observations of pirates, was my favorite aspect. And speaking of Xích Si and her pirate observations, I enjoyed how The Red Scholar’s Wake made sure to ask us what was worse. A life of insecurity and where we could be sold off or a pirate system where you were indentured but could earn your freedom. It’s a smaller part of the story, but I really enjoyed it!

If you like any of these: queer ships (quite literally), space pirates, or sentient ships, you have to read this. Find The Red Scholar’s Wake on Goodreads, Amazon (US)(UK) & The Book Depository.


Do you have any other sentient ship books to recommend me?

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