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The seventh volume in Asaro’s Skolian space opera has less sex and sadism than previous outings (The Quantum Rose, 2000, etc.) as Dyhianna Selei, a telepathic psychic-webmaster and Pharaoh of the Ruby Dynasty, brokers an uncertain peace with the vile, slave-keeping Aristo Traders. The Radiance War has ended with the galaxy of human-inhabited planets more or less in tatters and both the Skolians and Traders claiming victory. The titular heads of both empires are dead, with rivals lining up to continue hostilities, when Dyhianna literally appears out of thin air on a planet inhabited by humans who look like walking trees. Exactly how she got to this planet she can barely remember–just as the Traders were about to annihilate her family, she, with her husband Prince Eldrin and son Taquinil, somehow transformed themselves into “Kyle space” and escaped into the psychic-Internet that Dyhianna, who is also a genius mathematician, invented. After a tree man almost rapes her (but gives up because he has a kind heart), Dyhianna eludes a pack of torture-hungry Trader soldiers by vomiting on them. She makes her presence known and is whisked away to a Skolian battle cruiser, where she discovers that the psychic-Internet no longer exists, but that the Traders possess her husband, whose psychic abilities, when combined with an ancient device called a Lock, might give the Traders supremacy. Then Dyhianna notices that her ex-husband, Seth Rockworth, living on Earth, has been taking care of a peculiar bunch of kids whose features suggest that they may be offspring of the dead Skolian Imperator Sauscony “Soz” Lahaylia and the Trader Emperor Jaibriol Qox. Can Dyhianna get these kids, one of whom appears to have already assumed power over Traders, to make love, not war?

Preposterous plotting, laughably bad prose: “As I reformed, refinements added to my body and mind like translucent layers of watercolor paint laid over a picture.” For fans only.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-89063-X
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001


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