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You may recall I reviewed the one sourcebook I have for BattleTech, based on the animated series. BattleTech is a tabletop role-playing game set in the future where a group of space colonies are cut off from far off Earth. The game franchise started with the colonies degrading into civil war based on various houses, but at some point a new enemy is created for the “Inner Sphere” in the form of the Clans. These are remnants of the original peacekeeping force for the Inner Sphere known as the Star League who got pissed off at what these idiots were doing and went off to start their own group. Now they’re back and ready to conquer the Inner Sphere with superior mechs, giant robot-like combat vehicles, and a method of combat rules that makes Marquis Of Queensbury look like anarchy. This is where the show got their stories from and where our book review comes from.

BattleTech: I Am Jade Falcon features the more well-known of the Clans thanks to their appearance in the cartoon as the main antagonists, the Jade Falcons. Written by Robert Thurston and published by Penguin Books “ROC SF Advance” chapter (no pun intended) in 1995, the book follows one particular former falconer–the Falcons’ term for a trainer–looking at the twilight of her life and looking to die on the battlefield as a warrior. It follows her struggles but are they worth following? I mean, this is essentially one of the bad guys in the franchise, right?

The book tells the story of Star Colonel Joanna, demoted in the book by a questionable superior Ravil Pryde to the rank of Star Commander and about to be forced to tend to the tanks used to grown new warriors. In this world new Mechwarriors of the Clans are made by mixing genetic material of fallen warriors in a vat and growing new people, the old fashioned way being referred to as “freeborn” (still in happy use by the Inner Sphere and occasionally happening in the Clans because they apparently never learned what condoms are) and the preferred way of the Clans referred to as “trueborn”. Joanna is a trueborn but she makes friends with two freeborns, one of whom is the daughter of a famous trueborn warrior Ravil just happens to be a huge fan of. He doesn’t like Joanna however and is happy to send her to a nursemaid position, but someone higher up has other plans for her, and she’s not sure if being a spy is an improvement.

If you want to know my full impression of the books here are the Chapter By Chapter reviews I did of the book just recently on my other site, interrupted by the various medical issues I’ve had this year. This is an overview with minor spoilers.

It should be noted that as far I’m concerned with my limited knowledge of the franchise (I’ve never played the games, including the video games but I have read this book, a few comics, and watched the animated series) the Clans, especially Jade Falcon as the most notable, are the bad guys. They may be nuanced but they’re still an invading force whose weaknesses come from their fighting philosophy and the fact that the various Clans don’t get along with each other either. The fact that I’m rooting for one of them shows how good the book is. Granted it’s villains fighting villains, which I wish we’d see more of instead of heroes fighting heroes but that’s another discussion.

Thurston does a good job setting up scenes and describing battles. While I wish there were more mech battles, given the series revolves mech pilots, the people fights are not bad, though the book does skip over how Joanna escapes a group of renegade scientists. More on that later. The characters are also good. Ravil is a character designed to not be liked even by Jade Falcon fans as he acts counter to traditional methods but he does show he may be worthy of at least a little of his ego. Joanna is our main character and she undergoes a growth arc during the story on her various escapade. Her friend Horse does almost nothing in the story and wouldn’t have been missed unless he matters in previous books and thus fans. My favorite character however is Mechwarrior Diana, the freeborn daughter of a trueborn warrior I mentioned. Her mom was part of the science caste but also born in a vat and so she’s as close to trueborn as one can get exiting a womb instead of an incubator. I love her personality and want to see more stories with her. Then there are the characters Joanna gets entangled with on her spy mission, who are also interesting to see. Karlac undergoes a mini-arc and it’s fun to see how she frustrates Joanna.

Not that the book is perfect. At times terms are used exclusive to the Clans but there’s no glossary explaining them, just pictures of some of the mechs mentioned in the story and a map of the various planets controlled by the six clans at truce with the Inner Sphere. I had to look a few things up on a fan wiki while some I knew from the show and comics. At one point Joanna is in enemy territory but we never do get to see her escape. However, the hardest part is that this is essentially three stories, two that take up the majority of the book (Joanna putting up with her jerk of a Co, then her spy mission) and a Mech battle scene that feels like a tacked on short story rather than a full story. They’re only connected by Joanna and her character growth but it feels like three stories stuck together to form one book, a book that’s over 30 chapters long, though some of those chapters are only a few pages long.

In the final analysis though this was an enjoyable book and one I’d be willing to read again. It has solid characters, the three stories at least flow together well, and there’s some well-described action. Even if you’re not a fan of this series (just keep a BattleTech Clan glossary in easy access) you may find yourself enjoying the book.