Perdition by Ann Aguirre

The prison ship Perdition, a floating city where the Conglomerate’s most dangerous criminals are confined for life, orbits endlessly around a barren asteroid.

Life inside is even more bleak. Hailed as the Dread Queen, inmate Dresdemona “Dred” Devos controls one of Perdition’s six territories, bordered on both sides by would-be kings eager to challenge her claim. Keeping them at bay requires constant vigilance, as well as a steady influx of new recruits to replace the fallen. Survival is a constant battle, and death is the only escape.

Of the newest convicts, only one is worth Dred’s attention. The mercenary Jael, with his deadly gaze and attitude, may be the most dangerous criminal onboard. His combat skill could give her the edge she needs, if he doesn’t betray her first. Unfortunately, that’s what he does best. Winning Jael’s allegiance will be a challenge, but failure could be worse than death…

This book intrigued me when I read the synopsis on Goodreads. A badass woman who basically becomes a mob boss on a prison ship? OK, sure, I’d give it a try. Turns out the story was better than the synopsis made it out to be. Dred is more than just a tough lady. She has a psychic ability that allows her to read a person’s intentions. Lets her know if they are lying. She can also see if they’ve committed horrible murders – which is what got her stuck on Perdition. Dred saw so much horror she became a vigilante, hunting down and killing men she knew did awful things. This ability helps her out on Perdition though by letting her see which of the prisoners are exceptionally dangerous, or trustworthy – at least as trustworthy as one can be on a prison ship. It also causes her to pick out Jael.

In my head, Jael looked something like this. 

There’s quite a bit more to Jael than first meets the eye – and Jael is a very attractive killing machine. Genetically enhanced, Jael has incredibly fast healing in addition to his literally super-human fighting abilities. Though he’s killed many, he hasn’t actually committed a crime to land in Perdition – he’s just in storage until the government can figure out what to do with him. Dred knows he’s something special even before she knows about his healing abilities, and he joins her crew.

Together, Dred and Jael must defeat two rival kings who want Dred’s territory for their own. This is a challenge, not just because Dred is woefully out-manned, but also because she and Jael can’t figure out how to trust each other. Not having an easy life up to this point, they each expect betrayal from the other. They must overcome these fears and find a way to cooperate to defeat the other kings and stay as safe as they can in their circumstances.

The relationship between Dred and Jael grew and developed throughout the novel. It was interesting because neither one wanted to trust the other, rather than the typical novel in which one character spends the whole book convincing the other to trust them. And the relationship was well-balanced with the rest of the drama in the novel.

Three stars out of 5 from me for this novel. It wasn’t particularly special, but I was invested in Dred and Jael. I’m not in a rush to get the next book in the series, but I would read it if I found it in a library somewhere.

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