Embers of War (Embers of War Book 1) by Gareth L. Powell

The Trouble Dog and her crew of misfits are sent on a rescue mission when they stumble upon a cover operation that goes wrong and leads to the discovery of an ancient secret.


  • Interesting story that continually adds more plot elements as the story progresses
  • Ships with artificial intelligences
  • Plot has a galaxy-spanning story that is engaging
  • Use of more advanced vocabulary
  • Variety of aliens within story universe even if only one crew member is alien


  • Some slow moments, especially with the perspectives of some characters
  • Tone of melancholy with characters can feel depressing at points

Embers of War Review

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell is an engaging military space opera that starts right in the middle of a battle above a planet and then expands to encompass the larger galaxy. Readers are introduced to various characters who have become outcasts in some way, and together, they make a discovery that reveals galaxy-threatening mystery.

What makes the story really exciting is that along the way, the story expands in its scope so that eventually, the conflict encompasses a threat larger than just a ship. And the outcasts that crew the Trouble Dog, the sentient warship and protagonist of the story, all have the opportunity for salvation.

At its heart, Embers of War is a story of redemption and salvation. The entire crew is flawed in some way, including the warship Trouble Dog. Stories where the heroes are flawed, recognize their flaw, and seek to remedy it are usually interesting because their struggles mirror our own struggles for meaning in life.

But where the story excels with its plot progression and reveal and where the characters are relatable for their weaknesses, the tone can sometimes feel a bit depressing because of the characters’ own depressions, especially between the action-filled scenes. That downtime allows more exposition, which can seem to focus a lot on the regrets of the characters.

Sentient ships aren’t really a new idea. Science fiction writers have been writing about artificial intelligence and exploring the concept of sentience for quite a long time. But what makes the warship Trouble Dog interesting is that she isn’t perfect—like her crew, she too is damaged, yet it’s this same damage that allows her to evolve beyond her own limitations as an artificial construct with built-in restraints.

The progression of the story is excellent, and while the story doesn’t deliver massive fleet battles, it still manages to engage readers with some descriptive scenes of combat both on the ground and in space. These scenes, along with the discovery, promise some exciting combat in subsequent sequels.

By the end of the story, readers are left with a sense of suspense and tension regarding the discovery and what the discovery entails, that makes the sequel highly anticipated. That discovery, along with its shift of the delicate balance of power in the galaxy, will certainly lead to some interesting alliances.

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell is an exciting and suspenseful science fiction space opera story that manages to engage readers with its mysteries and the implications of those mysteries while portraying relatable, flawed characters searching for redemption.

Read reviews of science fiction books with similar plots.