In the far future, a power struggle between the unified Worlds and the Dominion has resulted in a stalemate. Some years ago, a ship captured by alien masuki slavers was intercepted by a Dominion warship; Darcie Dartmuth and her young son, Tristan, fled in a lifeboat, only to crash on planet Ganwold and live undetected among its natives. Later, when Darcie falls ill, Tristan and his alien blood-brother Pulou are forced to seek help at a Dominion base. But the pair are captured and taken to planet Issel, where Tristan is identified by Governor Mordan Renier, the bitter enemy of Unified Worlds leader Lujan Serege -- Tristan's father. Renier makes certain that Lujan becomes aware of Tristan's reappearance, and orders Tristan to be trained as a space fighter pilot in order to raise his profile and increase his usefulness as a potential hostage -- meanwhile plotting treacherously with the masuki to launch a surprise attack against the Unified Worlds. Tristan survives torture and battle, while neither Lujan nor the also-captured Darcie yields to blackmail. After various battles and heroics, Renier is defeated. A solid scenario, fleshed out with often telling detail. But with a plot that's little more than a string of science-fiction clichâ€šs, Thornley's debut lacks ambition and originality. Promising? Maybe.