by Catherine Asaro

Cover image

Series: Skolian Empire #9
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: October 2003
ISBN: 0-765-30638-7
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 317

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This is the ninth book in the Skolian Empire series. While it does stand alone as a prequel, many of the references are more enjoyable and interesting if you've read the preceding books.

This is more like it, a definite improvement over The Moon's Shadow. It's a prequel, so it's still a retelling of a story that we'd heard about before, but at least it's not a story that was previously told from another perspective. Some of the other technical flaws are much improved as well; I didn't feel hammered over the head with explanations about how the world works, and the background of Roca's family was introduced reasonably smoothly.

This is the story of how Roca met Eldrinson originally, forming the beginning of the branch of the family that has given us most of the heroes and heroines of the other books. It also tells how the world of Skyfall became so central to the Skolian Empire.

Asaro still doesn't stray far off her standard plot here. Ruby empath meets non-Ruby empath, falls in love because empaths attract, cultures clash, and they overcome obstacles together. It's the same basic background as at least three other Skolian Empire novels. This is the sort of book that I like fine while reading, but close with the distinct feeling that people with less tolerance for lack of originality would have disliked it a lot. If you're not a fan of Asaro's standard empathic romance approach or not in the mood for some fairly light reading, you may want to give this one a pass.

Since this was a prequel, little to nothing was covered that we didn't already know in general. Specifics were just added around the edges, including more of Kurj and of the relationship between Kurj and Roca, but there's really a disappointing lack of even echoes of things to come later in the main plot line of the series.

Overall, I found it an enjoyable book, but that's likely a quirk. I'd only recommend to stalwart fans of the series.

Followed by Schism.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2004-03-01

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