I can speak very highly of Catherine Asaro's THE MOON'S SHADOW and also find a lot of fault with it. I hope I don't raise expectations too much by saying I thought it absolutely brilliant. The complexity of the unfolding plot (I thought of Zelazny's novels) and the characterizations (the main characters were vulnerable without coming across as weak) were brilliant.
But THE MOONS' SHADOW was also somewhat disappointing because in the cast of thousands, I found it hard to recall what was going on with the plot. Part of the continuing saga of the Skolian Empire, the story started out with a bang and continued with a lot of heady suspense and twists. But after so long of being held with your feet to the fire and biting your nails, you finally just want to skip to the end only to find that, whoops, it's to be continued. Well, okay, it wasn't a blatant cliff hanger, but you know the story of the Skolians is continued.--Barbara (7 Jan 04)
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, and ascends to his father's throne at the imperial court of the Hightons (the Traders in the Skolian's parlance).
As he 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 the hero who otherwise suffers from being around Hightons.
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 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 the 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 (14 Feb 04)