I always go back to this book. It's really hard not to when we talk about not only one of my favourites of all time, but seriously the book that changed my life's direction forever.
Not something you'd expect from a mass marketed paperback sci-fi novel.
But it did.
The premise of the book seems a bit silly at first. A rich old lady who likes horse jumping and eventing hires the recently 'fired' Captain Heris Serrano from the Space Navy to captain her space yacht so she can get to and from horse events, breeding farms, and other horse related events.
Yes, horse events in space. The old bitty is a rider of show jumping horses and has won prizes. Even her own family thinks she's a bit crazy, and always has been. But they respect her independence, power, and influence within the government that runs things in the universe.
Lady Cecelia is that old aunt - the wild card. The single one who tells you that it's your life to live and sneaks you away from the traditional. She's the one that encourages you to do what you want to do, not what people expect you to do, but at the same time to grow the hell up and get your life together. She has no patience for nonsense of any kind.
The very picture of a strong woman who lives life on her own terms, and people get the hell of her way because what she has for respect she earned - the hard way.
Enter Heris Serrano, a younger woman than Cecelia but in no way inexperienced. As a former captain in the space navy, she is at least into her forties, perhaps even fifties. She's far younger than Lady Cecelia, but the first thing you learn about Heris is that she too has lived through some harsh life lessons and people respect her for her abilities and what she can do. She's tough, but kind hearted and patient with Ronnie when he screws up and takes the time to teach him consequences for actions done... but at the same time that he has a brain in his head and is worth far more than anyone gives him credit for. He's young, yes, but he has potential to be more than the spoiled brat he starts out as.
And then there's Bubbles, who later renames herself Brun, as she goes from airheaded "Bubbles" to level headed Brun. Spunky, sparkly, but tough. What she lacks in experience, she makes up for in tenacity and strength when the others in her group, including Ronnie, are hurt.
Three women of three different generations... and all of them strong and capable.
All of them examples of what a girl can do if she gives herself a chance.
Women characters who are more than arm candy.
Considering this book was published in 1993 (I was thirteen at the time) and one of the first books I bought brand spanking new from Coles, the impact of seeing these three women come to life was massively life changing for me when all I had seen before (outside of She-Ra) were that girls needed saving. It was always about the knight saving the princess from the dragon.
This book was about the princess, a queen (er, Captain), and a Queen Mother doing the saving themselves without degrading men in the process.
Where there were strong women, so too were there equally strong (but human) men.
This is military sci-fi. Everyone was strong. Everyone was capable, and those who weren't learned to be in a real hurry.
All of this changed my life, and I'm not ashamed to say I bought the rest of the series as it came out.
Would I recommend this book?