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Review: Shafter – Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Shafter - Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Genre: Sci-Fi, Colonization

Reviewer: Scott

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About The Book

Born in the abandoned subway shafts beneath First City, Trina measures life in the coin she steals from her wealthy father’s people living above. She gives little weight to her dying mother’s fairy tales about how her father will rescue Trina and her twin sister, taking them away from this planet. Yet the stars catch her attention every time she goes to the surface.

Trina is the protector, a role she created more from heroic tales in books her father gave them than anything in a shafter’s life. When she sees drunken aristocrats harassing laborers, she can’t turn away even though attacking them carries a death sentence. Her paternal grandfather discovers Trina before the enforcers can and offers everything she has ever desired—safety for her family and a way off Ceric.

Can she trust their family connection, or will the price of her dreams be more than Trina is willing to pay?

The Review

I met Margaret in person a few months ago. She and I were both part of the Liminal Fiction book sales table there, and I had a chance to take a look at the other authors’ books and to spend some quality time talking with her.

One of her books caught my eye, so I picked up an ebook copy of Shafter and added it to my TBR pile, and just finished it.

Shafter is the tale of two sisters who live with their sick mother underneath First City, in the shafts that once provided city transportation. They’re the bottom caste in this low-tech colony, but not all is as it seems. Their father was a Polit – a man from the highest caste, and promised to come for them and their mother one day.

Sadly, that day never came.

Trina has become an expert thief to feed their small family. She dreams of being a spacer, but no shafter has ever become one before. It’s a fool’s dream.

An encounter with a cocky young polit leads to a meeting with her grandfather, and opens up a new world of possibilities for them all – if only she can trust his word.

I loved Trina’s character – plucky and occasionally righteous, with a much stronger moral compass than most of those around her. She lives small bit dreams big, not just for herself but for her family. I enjoyed watching her grow and slowly become the person she was meant to be

Her sister Katie’s a bit more complicated, sometimes sullen and withdrawn, sometimes filled with worry for her sister, and sometimes daring to feel a little hope herself.

While the story starts off a little slowly, once it kicks into gear it really moves. Fisk throws in some unexpected twists and turns, and it becomes a roller coaster ride to the end.

If I have one small nitpick, it’s the character names – centuries in the future, and the characters are named Paul, Trina, Katie, Aaron, Marcus, and the like. There are a few unusual names, but I’d have liked to see more of them.

But that’s a minor complaint. Shafter is a female-centric sci-fi thrill ride that will take you from the depths of the shafts to the stars above. I highly recommend it, and if you like it, you can read the sequel Trainee next!

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.

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