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03/09/2004 Entry: "THE MOON'S SHADOW by Catherine Asaro -- Leila's Take"

The Moon's Shadow

I found THE MOON'S SHADOW a very good read. The romance is subtle in the extreme and perhaps a bit scary as the heroine is quite devoid of any scruples in the advancement of her ambitions.

Our hero is the 17-year-old son of Soz and Jaibriol II [see PRIMARY INVERSION and THE RADIANT SEAS] and ascends to his father's throne at the imperial court of the Hightons, who are known as the "Traders" in the Skolian's parlance. As Jai is a powerful telepath in a world where people like him are used to provide extreme pleasure to Hightons by mentally broadcasting pain when made to suffer, he must hide both part of his heritage and his own abilities.

It appears some Hightons have a vague sense of morality and chose to have a discreet operation that prevents them from feeling the bizarre pleasure of transcendance (where they transcend a telepath's pain into drug-like pleasure for themselves). Two such people are the new emperor's cousin and his minister of finance. Both are extremely powerful and adept at the more obscure Highton politics. Being in their presence is restful to Jai, who otherwise suffers from being around Hightons.

As the new emperor, Jai is determined to negotiate a peace treaty with Skolia in memory of his parents. Various factions are vehemently against this and ominous plots and counter-plots take shape. Jai quickly realizes that his life will be hell, and he makes the brilliant move of naming his gorgeous 104-year-old minister of finance his empress, acquiring in the process a very powerful ally (for whom he feels tremendous lust) and even more enemies who promptly start assassination attempts.

It's all terribly complicated, and these political plot and counter-plots, accompanied by elliptical speech, did remind me of Lee and Miller's Liaden universe. I found the Highton court lacking the wit and charm found in the Liaden universe, but that's in keeping with the total lack of human warmth displayed by most Hightons.

The denouement hints at a possible love affair between this emperor and his scary wife, which made for quite a surprising end.

I had stopped reading Asaro for a while. I couldn't stand a universe where the Traders/Hightons were in charge as I despised their society. I still do, but the peace overtures made by Jai give hope that the Skolian universe is redeemable. The book is quite good, a page-turner in fact, and if anyone else had stopped reading Asaro for the same reasons I did, I heartily recommend THE MOON'S SHADOW.--Leila


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