Timothy Zahn’s “Pawn” is a Challenging Read That May Set Up A Very Satisfying Sequel

Title: Pawn
Series:
Sibyl’s War #1
Author:
 Timothy Zahn
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Tor Books
Review Spoilers: Low
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Rating:
The first Timothy Zahn book I read was Heir to the Empire in the third grade. I can honestly say that book was single-handedly responsible for turning me into a nerd. I didn’t just fall head first into Star Wars, but also science fiction in general. And yet somehow over the years I had never read any of Timothy Zahn’s other books. That changed when I picked up Pawn, the first book in a new original series chronicling The Sibyl’s War.

So, what did I think of this first foray into Timothy Zahn’s original work?

Honestly, I have some mixed feelings. Pawn is a strange book that starts off with an intriguing premise that it fails to truly realize until pretty much the very end. It’s a book that could potentially kick-off a really great hardcore science fiction series. But this particular book doesn’t quite engage readers the way the rest of the series might. That may not make a whole lot of sense but that’s how I feel. Pawn ended up being okay. The rest of the series could be far more interesting.

Pawn is about a young woman named Nicole who finds herself abducted by some extraterrestrial force alongside an abusive, criminal acquaintance and another unfortunate bystander. They are brought aboard a ship called the Fyrantha, where they find themselves unceremoniously tasked with maintenance aboard the seemingly crew-less ship. Nicole finds out that she is a ‘Sibyl’ – an individual uniquely capable of communicating with the ship.

But what exactly does that mean and what is the point to everything they’re doing?

Those are the sort of things both Nicole and the reader struggle to find out. The Fyrantha is full of secrets — dangerous secrets that Nicole may not want to discover. And that’s part of what makes the book so interesting. Zahn creates a very mysterious world aboard this ship with all kinds of secrets and mysteries. Who created it? Who is in charge? Where did all the people and aliens abducted to fix the ship come from and why? Who created the ship and what did they hope to accomplish? What does it mean for Nicole and the others?

Unfortunately, the answers come slowly. And some of the things Nicole does discover seem out of place. A large part of the book is spent focused on a devious, Hunger Games-esque experiment that Nicole and a couple of the others just happen upon. While it’s certainly interesting and it eventually helps the story moving along, the whole subplot comes off as a bit of a distraction from what’s really going on. As readers we want to know the big picture. But Pawn drags out its mysteries, saving the ultimate pay off for the very end of the book.

It’s admittedly a little frustrating.

But the revelations towards the end are more than worth it. At a certain point I won’t spoil, I actually got goosebumps thinking of what it meant. So there are some really great moments in this book. It just takes a long time to get to them. You end up slogging through the bulk of the book waiting for something that really matters to happen.

Still, I have hope for the rest of the series. I think Pawn does a great job of introducing us to our characters and as one-dimensional as Nicole seems at times she’s growing into a very capable character. After everything we find out at the end of the book you’re left wanting to know more. You want to know what’s going to happen next.

Pawn is definitely worth a read if you aren’t afraid of working for it a little. You’re going to have to give the book a chance. Give Nicole a chance, too. The ending and it’s incredible revelations really redeem the book as a whole. Pawn isn’t for everyone. I’m going to tell you that up front. But if you like science fiction and you like Timothy Zahn, you may want to give it a shot!