"Ragamuffin," Tobias S. Buckell

Pros: Stunning universe; amazing characters; engrossing story
Cons: Slight bit more exposition than in “Crystal Rain”
Rating: 5 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Tobias S. Buckell.


Nashara Cascabel is on a mission. She has returned to humanity from the cut-off world of Chisom to help free it from the oppressive, mind-controlling Satrapy. Unfortunately, the Satrapy has just decided that humanity may be more trouble than it’s worth, and they’re already after Nashara. Luckily they don’t know what she really has inside of her: a weapon that could enable her to take over the ships and machines of the Satrapy, given the right circumstances. So, together with the Ragamuffins—a bunch of miscreant traders one might loosely call pirates—Nashara must find a way to not only survive, but keep humanity alive. There are a couple of complications, however, standing in the way: the Hongguo, humans working willingly for the Satrapy; the pathetic state of the Ragamuffins themselves; the Satrapy vessel that can close off the wormholes that connect one area of space to another; the meddling, terroristic and xenophobic League of Human Affairs; and the fact that the wormhole to New Anegada, long closed off, has opened, and disgorged an alien vessel.

Crystal Rain

Crystal Rain told the tail of John deBrun, an amnesiac who found himself called on to save the country of Nanagada from the alien Teotl and their human servants, the Azteca. While it’s possible that you might be able to read Ragamuffin as a standalone, I wouldn’t recommend it: its tale does merge once again with that of Nanagada and John deBrun, and it would be best to have that background. On the very positive side, this means that we aren’t left bereft of the amazing characters created in that first book; I for one was quite glad to see them again!

The Ragamuffins

Once again, where do I start? Tobias Buckell has created a grand and fascinating universe within the pages of Ragamuffin. He clearly excels at universe-building and character creation; everything he details positively comes alive, whether it’s a dying space habitat, a distant alien Satrap, or the sheer chaos of facing a copy of one’s self and having a chat.

Surprises and revelations flow naturally and aren’t used to artificially ratchet up the tension or bolster the pace. This means that if you figure something out in advance, it doesn’t cause an anticlimax or rob the story of its momentum. The story is fast-paced and intriguing, and I had difficulty putting it down once I started (in fact I first picked it up during a lull in something else, and ended up putting that first activity aside because the book was too engrossing).

Again, I’m not sure how to detail everything I loved about this book. The characters are amazing and fascinating, every bit as much so as in Crystal Rain. In most authors’ hands the League of Human Affairs would have been a one-dimensional organization, but in Buckell’s hands even it comes alive with personality. We’re reunited with John, Jerome, and yes, even Pepper, who are dealing with a whole new (and very different) invasion of Nanagada by the Teotl. Not only do we enjoy the presence of old friends, but we get to watch them grow and change in new and different ways as they face new difficulties.

Crystal Rain was an absolutely stunning debut, and Ragamuffin is a wholly worthy successor. It’s a touch slower in places due to the background provided on some of the aspects of the world, but not enough to detract from the novel in my opinion.


Note: This was a review of an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) and thus I cannot review it for presence or lack of editing & typos.

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7 comments on “"Ragamuffin," Tobias S. Buckell
  1. Stephanie says:

    Oh man…talk about adding books to my TBR list!! I tried to win a copy of this one (I’m such a weird reader sometimes. I liked the cover. I’m a sucker for a good cover!) But alas…it wasn’t to be! I’ll definitely be on the lookout!

  2. heather says:

    Stephanie: Muahaha! Well after ending up with so much on my TBR pile and wish list thanks to all the wonderful book bloggers out there, consider this my bit of revenge. πŸ˜‰

  3. booklogged says:

    Wow, you read that fast. Thanks to you, the author said he would send me a copy of Crystal Rain. I can see from your review that I’m going to get myself pulled into a new, wonderful series. Thanks, Heather.

  4. heather says:

    booklogged: I hope you enjoy Crystal Rain as much as I did! And you’re more than welcome.

    My reading speed depends on my mood and what else I’m up to. πŸ™‚ It can range from one book in two weeks (if the book’s really boring and I’m busy) to one book a day. The one day rate mostly happens when I’m so hooked on a novel that I can’t put it down.

  5. dew says:

    You’re just plowing through these Buckell books! I wish I read that fast. πŸ™‚

  6. Kim says:

    I liked Crystal Rain and will definitely read Ragamuffin soon. The teaser chapter of Ragamuffin provided in Crystal Rain was a great jump into a new story.

  7. heather says:

    dew: It’s been a long time since I read this many books in this kind of time-frame, and it feels great, like stretching out a muscle. Hopefully I won’t stop now that I’ve gotten started. πŸ™‚

    Kim: Excellent. I look forward to your take on Raga!

4 Pings/Trackbacks for ""Ragamuffin," Tobias S. Buckell"
  1. […] Dreams was completely drawn in by Ragamuffin, saying that she kept reading it instead of something else she had planned. That’s a good […]

  2. […] that didn’t wake me up. Oh well. Anyway, new review up today: Tobias S. Buckell’s Ragamuffin. Very nearly as good as his debut Crystal Rain, and given how good that one was, that’s […]

  3. […] love this quote about Ragamuffin by Heather of Errant Dreams: Surprises and revelations flow naturally and aren’t used to artificially ratchet up the tension […]

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