Stealing Light came out in 2007 and was a book I really enjoyed. There's been a two year wait for the sequel, a long time in book terms, but after a strong first book and a title like Nova War it was always going to be a must read. I picked it up with great anticipation and was thoroughly pleased with what I found - Gary has moved from the more focused story of Stealing Light on to a widescreen look at the problems facing the species in the galaxy because of those events, all of which has made for some compulsive reading!
We start off pretty much where Stealing Light left us - Dakota Merrick and Lucas Corso are in a Bandati system and are their prisoners. The derelict Magi spaceship is being held, along with Dakota's ship the Piri Reis, by the Bandati in one of their secure stations in the system. Not only this, but with the rival Bandati factions drifting toward opposite sides in a dangerous and escalating war the stakes are being constantly raised. Add to this the fact that Trader, a member of the Shoal we know from Stealing Light, is behind some decisions and actions that will have a lasting effect on the galaxy. What Nova War does is give a story from the perspective of characters we know that are now in a dangerous situation that effects not only them, but the whole galaxy - and Gary does a damned good job of it.
Although the start is fairly slow paced, the scenes with Dakota, Trader and the Bandati show us that there is much going on in the background that we don't know yet. We get to find out the details along with Dakota and follow her as she takes whatever action she can to protect herself. The initial prisoner scenes were done very well and helped to show how vulnerable Dakota is, but also to show how her relationship with Derelict is developing and growing. This helps to put a lot in perspective and allows some hidden secrets to come out of the woodwork which in turn gets the pages turning all the quicker.
Another aspect I really enjoyed were the alien species and civilisations that are present. The Bandati are especially impressive and it appears that there is so much effort and thought gone into their creations - everything feels real and totally believable. The history that comes through the story raises more questions about the Bandati, the Shoal, the Emissaries and the Magi. With four strong species in this book I felt spoilt while reading it and never felt out of my depth when the action switched from one to the other.
Nova War is a great example of intelligent and thoughtful space opera that delivers a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read. As the second book in a series it builds very successfully on the foundation laid in Stealing Light and also gives plenty to carry through to the next book (which I just can't wait for!). For an enthralling widescreen space opera with characters and aliens that are both interesting and engrossing this is the books to read. Very highly recommended.