By Una McCormack



265pp/$26.95/July 2023

Firefly: Coup de Grace
Cover by Natasha MacKenzie

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Coup de Grace by Una McCormack is the eighth original novel set in the world of Joss Whedon's Firefly 'verse. McCormack previously wrote the Firefly novel Carnival, which was set during the television series, giving her access to the full cast of characters. Similarly, Coup de Grace, takes place between the series and the film that followed it, allowing her to include all of the crew members, which she does well, capturing their voices on their foibles.

Set on the frontier world of Abel, the novel opens with first person narration by Annie Roberts, a young girl whose father was murdered in the street. When the local sheriff refuses to take action against her father's killer, she elects to hire the crew of Serenity to ensure that her view of justice will be accomplished. McCormick splits the crew into four parts, using several of the characters as viewpoint characters and allowing her to focus on interactions that weren't fully explored in the series, such as Simon and Inara as well as Wash and Kaylee. She can also further explore more common groupings, like Book and River or the Malcolm, Zoe, and Jayne trio, the latter accompanied by Annie, who continues to narrate and offer an outsiders view of the competence of Mal and his crew.

While Mal's squad goes in search of Annie's father's killer, with Annie in tow, Simon poses as a wealthy investor from the core to try to learn what is really happening on Abel and why the authorities would turn a blind eye to the murder of a man who was widely liked and respected by all accounts. His digging puts him and Inara into danger of being discovered, but also gives Inara new respect for Simon's abilities outside of the medical field. Kaylee and Wash are sent to learn what they can about the individual whose case appeared to lead to Annie's father's murder, and in the process they learn more about the dissatisfaction among the people of Abel, caused by a drought and the incorporation of farmers seeking jobs in the moon's cities. While McCormack captures the characters' voices well, the Wash/Kaylee plotline seems to run a little too smoothly when they discover a trade union on the verge of a strike.

The novel contains plenty of action, as well as the series trademark humor. One of the more interesting aspects, aside from providing an outsider's view of the crew, is that Mal finds himself coming to face to face with another Browncoat, whose views and actions do not necessarily align with his own. The situation he finds himself in forces Mal to side with the alliance against a Browncoat, but more importantly, it raises questions in his own mind about his ideas of comradeship, the Alliance, and those who fought against it. McCormick provides Mal with a suitably introspective moment when he realizes the entirety of the situation in which he has found himself.

Of the four authors who have published original novels set in Whedon's world, McCormack has demonstrated that, along with M.K. England, she has the ability to get their voices right. McCormack's character's speak and act the way the characters in the television series would, and reading their lines, the actors' voices can be heard in their cadences and points of view. Coup de Grace feels like an episode of Firefly, merely lacking in the visuals of the series.

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