Second installment of the authors’ prequel (Dune: House Atreides, 1999) to Frank Herbert's mighty Dune series. In the far-future galactic empire ruled by House Corrino's Shaddam IV, the genetic-whiz, pariah Tleilaxu continue their occupation of the machine planet Ix. The exiled Ixian leader Dominic Vernius smuggles melange, the miraculous spice produced by Dune's giant sandworms; unaware of Dominic's fate, his children, Rhombur and Kailea, are guests of Duke Leto Atreides on Caladan, where they plot revenge. Against his better judgment, Leto takes Kailea as his mistress; she bears him a son, Victor, but soon the relationship sours. Warrior-troubadour Gurney Halleck, first a slave on the Harkonnen home world Giedi Prime, escapes and joins Dominic. Duncan Idaho studies the art of swordplay on Ginaz. The evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen learns that the Bene Gesserit witches are to blame for his debilitating and disfiguring illness. The baron's nephew, Beast Rabban, murders his gentle, well-meaning parents. Shaddam's assassin-confidante, Hasimir Fenring, conspires with the Tleilaxu to develop an artificial source of melange. And Leto takes Jessica, a Bene Gesserit, as his concubine, unaware that Jessica's secret orders are to bear him a daughter who eventually will mate with Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen to produce the Kwisatz Haderach, the superman who can see both past and future.
Authoritative, no. Still, the scenario's extraordinarily well developed and continually fascinating, and most fans will conclude that ersatz Dune is better than no Dune.