The Toccata System

Retellings. Assassins. Murder and space. These are a few of my favorite things… Welcome to the Toccata System.

There are three books in the Toccata System, plus a short story. Each one is told from a different perspective, but the overall plot, along with multiple character arcs, intersect in fantastic and brilliant ways. In further nerdy fangirl news, there are some awesome retellings wrapped in each book as well.

Parting Shadows = Miss Havisham as a murderous AI and Estella as revenge filled assassin.

“Astra could kill. She simply refused to do it. Until, one day, she met a boy with wet socks.”

The second you tell me there’s a book, in space, with a murderous AI, I’m in. But then you add, in a whisper and under your breath, a murderous Miss Havisham AI… And I lose my fucking mind.

First, retelling Great Expectations but focusing on the LEGIT interesting characters in the book is genius. I mean, Pip is… fine… but also, a woman who has literally frozen herself in one jilted moment and raised a manipulative-man-hating-girl-seeking-nothing-but-heartache-and-revenge. THAT IS A PLOT I CAN GET BEHIND!!!

Astra is amazing. Complex and delicious, she tries to be her own girl while also being exactly who she was raised to be. It’s a fabulous contradiction that so reflects the accuracy of our own internal struggles. Even when she makes mistakes, makes bad choices, it’s all so completely relatable that I couldn’t help but cheer for her all the way to the end. And oh my, what an ending…

Phantom Song = a cyborg Phantom Of The Opera who is both the phantom AND the opera.

“It was a complicated feeling, to love a place that would shun her if it knew what she really was.”

Nothing against the original Phantom, but holy cyborg Claire is EVERYTHING the Phantom could have been and more! Beyond a simple retelling, Swed tackles discrimination and body issues flawlessly within Claire. And IZ!!!

Bringing the characters from the two stories together was a delicious tension filled adventure. But what really had me turning the pages long into the night was the action that followed. The story may have begun as a retelling, but like with Phantom Song, Swed grabs ahold of the themes and wrangles them into new directions that are wholly her own. And of course, there are heart-pounding mysteries solved through lots of explosions.

Fated Queen = Anastasia but as a murderous assassin bent on taking over the Universe.

Beyond getting the backstory behind one of the stabbiest characters in the Toccata System, this short story ties all the books together with a sharp, deadly bow.

Prodigal Storm = robo-pirates a la Treasure Island.

“If they knew the truth about her, even these supposedly coldhearted killers would back away in terror.”

Oh LJ. Part assassin. Part barkeep. All pirate. You know I absolutely adored her. In this last story of the series, all the characters find themselves together with all the stories colliding together and you know the result is nothing short of spectacular.

Swed brings all the unanswered questions from the first two stories, and honestly, you should read the short story Fated Queen between two and three. Details become more enhanced, allowing you to piece backstories with current plots and it’s just DELICIOUS to read. That’s not to say there’s no mystery. Or tension. Or plot twists that punch you in the face. Because there is all of that. And it’s oh-so-good!

I devoured these stories, loving the tiny details, the hidden nuances, the subtle references. The characters are all incredibly well developed and I love how they’re all tied together in surprising and unexpected ways. Basically, if you love clever retellings, all things science fiction, murderous, stabby, badass girls, all set in space–this series is for you!

Get your copy today!

Toccata System Trilogy Box Set & Bonus Short (ebook only) Goodreads Bookbub

Parting Shadows (ebook and print) Goodreads Bookbub

Phantom Song (ebook and print) Goodreads Bookbub

Prodigal Storm (ebook and print) Goodreads Bookbub 

Kate Sheeran Swed loves hot chocolate, plastic dinosaurs, and airplane tickets. She has trekked along the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, hiked on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in Iceland, and climbed the ruins of Masada to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea. After growing up in New Hampshire, she completed degrees in music at the University of Maine and Ithaca College, then moved to New York City. She currently lives in New York’s capital region with her husband and son, and two cats who were named after movie dogs (Benji and Beethoven).

Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide Volume 5, Electric Spec, Daily Science Fiction, and Andromeda Spaceways. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Pacific University. Visit her at to snag a free short story collection, or say hello on Instagram @katesheeranswed

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