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Catherine Asaro
book cover

Skolian Empire Book 7
2001, December, Tor hardcover
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Who recommends: Barbara, Margaret, JW
Who discommends:

Hmmmm, a really good SF novel but not a very good SF/Romance. I can appreciate its merits and yet say it comes after CATCH THE LIGHTNING, PRIMARY INVERSION, and RADIANT SEAS as an Asaro I recommend. But ahead of THE LAST HAWK and ASCENDANT SUN. About the same as QUANTUM ROSE. Confused yet?

This is the story of what happens to Dehya (the Ruby Pharaoh) after the Triad dissolves, Kurj dies, Eldrinson is taken into protective custody, and after Dehya and her son escape into the Lock just as Traders capture Eldrin, her husband. Many events of this story take place at the same time as THE QUANTUM ROSE and ASCENDANT SUN. The good news is that things that happen in those books that are relevant to this story are covered. The first 122 pages are possibly the most sophisticated and strongest writing I have seen so far by Asaro - the start is a rhyme which appears as a sinusoidal wave. The first pages are so filled with images of Dehya's awakening on a strange world that you can feel the darkness, smell the forest, see the bugs, hear the waves and taste the wind. The poem itself is a bit choppy and incoherent, the words and phrases the same, so that the story immerses you into Dehya's confusion and uncertainty as she tries to recall what is going on and who she is.

This first part of the book has all the sharpness of much of van Vogt's finest works and should be savored slowly. Bit by bit Dehya recalls more and more of what has happened in her life. She travels to the only city on the planet and discovers that things have not progressed well, to put it mildly, for the Alliance and the Ruby Dynasty. The web itself has collapsed, and while both sides claim a solid victory, each side is in pretty bad shape.

The story then becomes one of political intrigue and maneuvering as Dehya tries to regain her husband, reconcile her knowledge of the web with her son's fate, stay one step ahead of her "protectors, and free her father-in-law and sister from helpful Earth protectors. Once-solid allies become less than helpful, while the former opposition become friends.

I liked this part of the story much less than the earlier sharp imagery and scenes, finding some of the scenes of Dehya and Eldrin trying to figure things out a bit draggy. So the story arc fell somewhat flat for me after page 122--when Dehya leaves the planet she woke on--until the rescue of Kelric (surprise!) and her sister from Earth. Several threads are left hanging so we know the next story will undoubtedly address the missing pieces of the Skolian Empire. The cover of the book does say "A New Adventure in the Saga of the Skolian Empire". Sigh...I obviously am not terribly fond of Sagas.--Barbara (10 Feb 02)

I read this one about a week ago and enjoyed it. One problem I am finding with this series is the overlap. Asaro has written a number of books that occur at or near the same time and so it can be a bit hard sometimes to work out where you are in the time-flow. Also some events keep on turning up and some of them get a little tedious after the third repetition.--Margaret (19 May 02)

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