For those who don't mind a little more hinting before they buy a new book (and no shame in wanting some idea of whether or not you'll like it--) here are a few more hints, but nothing I would personally call a spoiler (nothing in the first 20% of a book can really be a spoiler, at least not in my mind.) For new readers to the Vatta universe, an introduction to some of the main characters:
Ky Vatta, now on the edge of 30, is the only surviving child of her parents, both killed shortly after she left her home planet as a disgraced former cadet and the new captain of a Vatta Transport trading ship. Her adventures back then were told in the five books of Vatta's War, during which a lot happened, both in her private/family life and professionally. In brief, she managed to cobble together a fleet of disparate ships from different places as a defensive fleet against the power of Gammis Turek's "more than pirate" force. (Turek was a sociopath whose dream was to rule all the known worlds and over the years had assembled a force for that purpose.) In the end, legitimate planetary governments contribute more ships to Ky's force, and she defeated Turek decisivel in the battle of Nexus II. So she's now a grand admiral of the whole shebang. Which, in the few years since that battle, she's found increasingly dull work. Begging money to support the fleet from politicians...not fun for her. Also, though she was a star cadet back before she screwed up and got booted, she has no additional training in things like, um, diplomacy, strategy, staff work and how to set up the staff she needs. Ky is one of the "dark Vattas"--the family's distant past Terran origin was the trade routes from Istanbul to India (with of course some outliers.) She is shortish, dark skinned, as were her parents and her uncle Stavros, and comes of a family that used some gene tinkering generations back to make sure their kids were smarter than average and could easily accept implanted enhancements as needed. Like most people on Slotter Key, having a cranial implant is not considered "humodification" or being a "humod." It's just a prosthesis, to most. (But not to the anti-humods, some religious and some secular.)
Stella Vatta, the only surviving child of her parents, is 33-34, Ky's older cousin. Both of them lost family on the same day on Slotter Key, and more family over the next half year as an attack on Vatta continued. She is a strikingly beautiful woman, taller than Ky, and a blond. Until recently (over the whole arc of the books) everyone thought her coloring came from her mother, Helen Stamarkos, whose ancient background was Greek/Macedonian. Stella was the youngest (and lightest) of Stavros & Helen's children. Stella, defined in the family as "the beautiful one," *(her older sister Josephine was "the smart one", etc.) did not develop her intellect until after making some really stupid mistakes, but she is actually very intelligent. She is also not the biological daughter of Stavros and Helen, something she found out only recently, in book time. Stella and Ky, being the two cousins who were both youngest in their own families and only 3-4 years apart, were sometimes allies and sometimes enemies, depending. The memories they share (and don't share) are never far from the surface and affect their assumptions about each other. Ky is more faithful to the familial relationship (ignoring the adoption thing) than Stella, who is the one whose sense of identity was damaged when she finally found out. Stella, of course, also has an implant.
Their great-aunt Grace Lane Vatta, the oldest living Vatta, is now a very old woman, and still powerful. Her past is shrouded in some mystery, especially about the degree of involvement she had in a regional conflict back when she was quite young. Grace used to make (may still make) fruitcakes which some of the family hate, and some of which contain more than the usual ingredients. She lost an arm to gunfire (in one of the books of Vatta's War) and chose to regrow it biologically to avoid the possible hacking of a bionic replacement. So she has one "young" arm and one old wrinkly age-spotted one. Grace was a powerful influence on both Ky and Stella as they were growing up; Ky, being younger, regarded her mostly as a fussy, nit-picky old woman, a nuisance who pressed fruitcakes on everyone. Stella, taken under Grace's wing for some remedial education after her worst mistake, knows better. Grace is now the Rector of Defense on Slotter Key, the head of the Defense Department (equivalent to our Secretary of Defense) and thus a political power. As a Vatta, she has enemies of the family, and as a person with a history, she has personal enemies as well.
Rafe Dunbarger. Son of the former CEO of InterStellar Communications, a monopoly that, until recently, controlled communications between planetary systems, building, maintaining, and protecting the ansibles that allowed instantaneous communication over light-years distances. Rafe's background of privilege ended at eleven, when he killed an intruder while his parents were away (saving himself and his little sister) and was then judged a danger to society and thrown into the juvie system.--not so much for killing the intruder, but for saying he didn't regret it. Later his family paid him to stay out of the Nexus system--a remittance that he supplemented in a variety of shady (and some legitimate) ways. Still later, his father made use of him as a remote agent, looking into dangers that might affect ISC. And--toward the end of Vatta's War--when his family was kidnapped by an ambitious underling, and tortured to gain information that would let the underling take over, Rafe rescued his family, and took over as interim CEO, shortly before the battle of Nexus II. Rafe's experiences in juvie, which he had regarded for years as 110% negative, turn out to be the reason he can rescue his family. Rafe's willing to lie, cheat, steal, and kill to achieve a goal--skills he learned mostly in juvie and then in various unsavory encounters, but his early years gave him a solid underlying morality and saving his family reconnected him to his roots. Rafe and Ky have had a relationship but it has not been smooth sailing. Rafe and Stella had a thing years back (her first offplanet mission for Aunt Grace crossed paths with Rafe) but it wasn't serious for either of them.
And this is Book #27. #28 is with my editor.