Void Black Shadow is a gripping addition to The Voidwitch Saga featuring swift action scenes, solid story progression, and mind-blowing usage of psychic abilities. Her sheer power is breathtaking. By the end, you’ll be in awe of the terrifying abilities of the all-powerful Mars, leaving a difficult question: is she a hero, or has she become a villain?
Why I Loved It
The Prison Planet
The entire concept of the prison planet was fascinating. This man-made ecosystem is carved out of the inside of a moon, creating a fully functioning society of prisoners inside an artificial atmosphere that seems to be completely natural. The originality is stunning and fascinating to imagine. White continuously juxtaposes the beauty of this place with the untold atrocities committed against the prisoners, begging the question as to why such a hateful government would create a paradise for their most reviled prisoners to live in. One assumes it is to further torture them. It’s super bleak, but all-in-all a well-executed idea.
Badass Women Ruling the Universe
Women are the biggest badasses in the universe. This is my favorite part of the series, and one of White’s strongest aspects as a writer. The greatest power in the universe is a pissed off Voidwitch who fells entire fleets and cities if they get in her way. She’s aided by a space version of Brienne of Tarth, a woman donning an exoskeleton and shooting her way through any situation with ease. You’ve got the all powerful Emperor ruling over it all, a woman who thinks she can control everyone using violence, aggression and overwhelming numbers. These women are powerful, complex, flawed characters – a strong addition to the science fiction oeuvre.
There are some big spoilers after this point – it’s impossible to talk about the depths of her character without examining her final actions in the book.
The Making of a Monster
After the first book, I thought Mars was a badass Voidwitch, taking no crap from anybody and flying around the Universe raining justice on the heads of her oppressors. After Void Black Shadow, the sheer monstrosity of her powers and her abilities are truly terrifying and it leaves me conflicted. She now stands in the hazy area between a dark hero and a villain. You want to side with her, knowing the wrongs committed against her, and the wrongs committed by the empire against so many, but it’s hard to justify her actions as she flies off the rails and goes full Hulk against the Legion city. She literally kills tens of thousands of people and one has to ask – does all of that violence still leave her on the hero team? Or is she firmly into super-villain territory? My mouth was ajar as I read through her final destruction/massacre, amazed at the power she is able to wield over the universe. This is the first time I’ve seen such a powerful person, not just a ruler with billions of soldiers, but a single person standing on a loading dock who is able to look to the sky and destroy a world. It’s equal parts mesmerizing and horrifying.
A Conversation on Good Vs. Evil
Void Black Shadow is the rare book where the good side commits almost as many sins as the bad side. Sure, they’re different varieties, and the bad guys are torturing and executing people at random, molding prisoners into hive-mind super soldiers, etc. But the good guys, in this instance, are killing thousands, possibly millions in order to stick it to about four people. While I understand the need to cripple the enemy, every one of her moves kills hundreds of people. It’s the age-old issue with superhero movies. Yes, they save the world, but thousands of people died in New York City while they did it. Mars makes those movies look like child’s play. In this regard, the book examines the good/evil spectrum, stretching the boundaries to ask the reader how far a person should go in order to get revenge. It’s an interesting and thought-provoking conversation to have.
Mars is back, searching for a captured friend. After discovering his whereabouts in an impossible-to-hack prison, she becomes a prisoner herself. An easy prison break turns into a series of horrors, forcing her to confront her oppressors once more.
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