Starfire: A Red Peace

      Publisher: Tor 

      RRP: £12.99

      Author: Spencer Ellsworth 

      Published:  2017-08-22




A Red Peace, first in Spencer Ellsworth's Starfire Trilogy, is an action-packed space opera in a universe where the oppressed half-Jorian crosses have risen up to supplant humanity and dominate the galaxy. Half-breed human star navigator Jaqi, working the edges of human-settled space on contract to whoever will hire her, stumbles into possession of an artifact that the leader of the Rebellion wants desperately enough to send his personal guard after. An interstellar empire and the fate of the remnant of humanity hang in the balance.


A heroine with enough grit to bring down the galaxy's newest warlord.


A Red Peace opens with the end of a galaxy wide revolution. The Crosses, vat grown alien-human hybrids led by the charismatic John Starfire, have achieved a victory against the imperial forces to which they have been enslaved for centuries. It all looks as though peace may be settling on the galaxy until John issues a very strange order – kill all of the humans.

This introduction to the conflict between Crosses and humans moves to elsewhere in the galaxy and the life of Jaqi, a female Cross working as a freelance navigator and about as uninterested in the war to liberate her people as anyone can be. She’s an illiterate rogue with an amazing ability, thanks to her alien genes, to find and navigate gateways in space. Together with an alien called Zaragotha (or Z), she encounters a group of children on the run from Starfire’s pogrom and gets embroiled in helping them to escape. What follows is a tight and well-paced chase across the galaxy as our heroes try to evade the armies of John Starfire and Jaqi comes to learn some truths about herself, including why she is so skilled as a navigator.

A Red Peace reads like a standard space opera, full of strange aliens and space battles. The basic premise is very simple, though it also provides an interesting twist on the trope of “evil empire resisted by brave rebels”, because here the rebels have already defeated the empire and are now stepping into the role of evil overlords themselves. In fact, one criticism here is that it seems as though they do leap straight into evil villain role rather too quickly for realism. Two things mitigate this, however; one is the fact that there seems to be more to John Starfire’s order than mere spite, something which may become clear in future instalments. The other is that, loyal though his followers are, some of them are not fully behind his genocidal orders; part of the book explores the point of view of one such character and follows him while he grapples with his conscience as he hunts Jaqi, Z and the children.

Overall, this is an entertaining read which engages throughout, albeit a little reminiscent of the setting of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K; in the main, this is because of the descriptions of power armour and the use of swords by the Crosses. This association can be both a benefit and a curse, depending on whether you enjoy that setting. The book is definitely recommended if you like your SF on the space opera spectrum with just enough grit to add realism and an entertaining, strong female lead.