"Embers Of War" is a perfectly executed Space Opera, on the kind of scale I normally see from Iain M Banks or Alister Reynolds.
It's gritty and fast and has a colourful cast of characters: the AI of a Carnivore class warship who has developed a conscience and gone into the rescue business, two spies on opposite sides of a crappy war who end up working together, a war criminal turned poet, an aging captain who is not sure she can live up to her grandmother's reputation as a pioneer in saving lives. Each of them, by a variety of indirect means, end up snared by a puzzle at the centre of a planet that has been carved into the shape of a brain and that may change everything.
My favourite character in the book was Trouble Dog, the AI with a conscience and a hunger for violence. I loved the concept of the House Of Reclamation as a force for sanity in an entropic universe. Then there's the Marble Armada and all the potential that it offers. Balancing this are the points of view of real people with real problems and no confidence in their own ability to solve them.
If you like large-scale SF filled with original ideas and interesting characters, grab hold of a copy of "Embers Of War" and enjoy the ride.
"Embers Of War" is on the Locus 2018 Recommended Reading List.
I'm hoping it will be shortlisted for best SF Novel.
I only discovered Gareth Powell this year, when I read "Ragged Alice", an original and lyrically written crime fiction story with a supernatural twist, set in Wales. I'm amazed at the breadth of his writing. He's now on my Must Read list.
I've already bought the second book in the series, "Fleet Of Knives". I'm expecting great things.
Here's the link to the audiobook sample: