The Knife and the Serpent, by Tim Pratt

12 Jun 2024

The Book

The Knife and the Serpent
Pages: 309
Age Group: Adult
Published on 11 Jun 2024
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Space Opera
Available on:


From Hugo Award winning author Tim Pratt comes a new, high-concept space opera, exploring technology, family and the price we pay to follow our destiny, perfect for fans of Peter F. Hamilton and Adrian Tchaikovsky.

After her grandmother is murdered in a home invasion, Tamsin Culver leaves her cushy programming job in San Francisco and returns to her Midwestern hometown to settle the estate. What she doesn’t expect is to find out her grandmother’s life-changing secret: She’s not an Earth native, but an exile from another level of the Nigh-Space continuum, an adjacent reality with technology far more advanced than ours. What’s more, her grandmother ruled there  as an oligarch, meaning Tamsin is the heir to vast wealth only accessible by someone from her bloodline… but the enemies who tried to exterminate her family won’t be happy to see her return.

Back in the Bay Area, grad student Glenn makes a startling discovery about his girlfriend Vivy. She’s a secret agent for the Interventionists: an interdimensional organisation devoted to protecting the inhabitants of Nigh-Space from those trying to take advantage of less-developed worlds. When she lands in trouble, Glenn finds himself on a sapient starship in a distant level of the continuum, racing to save her. But when Glenn and Vivy’s plans clash with Tamsin’s, and secret connections among them all are revealed, their situation becomes catastrophically complicated.

It’s a princess of Nigh-Space versus a champion of Nigh-Space in a reality-spanning adventure that ranges from alien planets to mysterious space stations to Bay Area bars, with starship battles, cyborg augmentation, abductions, snark, betrayal, and fallout both nuclear and emotional.

My Review

The Knife and the Serpent is a standalone space opera novel written by Tim Pratt and published by Angry Robot Books. A light-hearted and with humoristic touches adventure, in which our two narrators will discover the existence of multiple universes and how somebody they knew was an alien from those other universes; a story of high stakes.

The first of our POV and main characters is Glenn, a grad student who discovers that his girlfriend Vivy is a secret agent from another universe and that works protecting people of other universes from the rise of tyranny. Outside of that? Perfect relationship, a dom-sub one that they absolutely love, and they even have matching tattoos; what Glenn didn't expected is that his tattoo would land him into a sapient ship, his first contact with the multiverse and space, and having to race to save Vivy. As you can see, Glenn will do anything for Vivy.
And that brings us to the second POV, Tamsin, whose grandmother has just died; returning to her grandmother's mansion doesn't go as expected, as Tamsin discovers the truth behind her: her mother was an exiled oligarch from another universe in the Nigh Space, and their wealth is locked behind the family's genetic code. Despite having a rough encounter with a peculiar pair of mercenaries that were in the mansion, she finally decides to pass to the original universe of her grandmother and try to recover that power, even if that means fighting the elites that hated her family (and all with the help of the same mercenaries, really handy people).

If we can say something, we soon can guess that Tamsin is an ambitious person and that maybe, just maybe, her plan can end with the same result that Vivy is working to avoid; it's inevitable that both of our POV ends getting crashing into the same situation.
Pratt introduces certain secondary characters that add a point of humour to a situation that can get violent soon: Eddie is a snarky sentient ship AI, and honestly, probably one that should learn to keep the mouth shut; and the Swarm, another AI from Tamsin's world, has a bit of an assassin instinct apart from the intelligence.

The pacing is relatively fast, with action spread across the whole plot; the premise is interesting, and I found myself really invested in the story, especially with the whole Tamsin's arc. It is a book that is compulsively readable.

The Knife and the Serpent is a perfect read for those looking for a light-hearted space opera, fun at points, but which still has a plot that will make you feel invested. There are some rough edges, but if you are in the mood for an enjoyable sci-fi proposal, give Tim Pratt a try!

The Author/s

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt is the author of more than 30 novels, most recently the Axiom space opera trilogy and multiverse adventures Doors of Sleep and Prison of Sleep.

He’s a Hugo Award winner for short fiction, and has been a finalist for Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Mythopoeic, Stoker, and other awards.

His day job is senior editor at Locus, the magazine of the SF and fantasy field.