This is something of a prequel to The Engines of God where we see Priscilla Hutchins’ early days after getting pilots license for taking the big FTL interstellars out into the void. A lot of her early days are the frustration of not being able to get a steady job as a pilot, especially after she blew off one such job over an ethical issue. She still gets a little work here and there, but mostly she’s parked at a desk.
But it’s also the story of one of her instructors, Jake Loomis, and his flirtation with retirement. After a frightening brush with death, he decided he was done, but the business of interstellar flight was not quite done with him. So he kept getting pulled back in, “just for one more flight”. Ultimately the decision on whether or not he was going to retire was made by someone else.
While it was not as satisfying as a sequel to Cauldron would have been, it was fun to see Hutch back when she was still merely Priscilla, and to see how she earned her nickname in the first place. If you’re a fan of the Academy series, definitely check it out.