More military science fiction from one of the leading exponents (Patriots, 1996, etc.). Here, the Republic of Cinnabar is at war with the Alliance of Free Stars. Planet Kostroma trades with both but has a military agreement with Cinnabar. Opponents of Kostroma’s supremo, Walter III, however, are unhappy with the agreement, so Cinnabar dispatches a high-level delegation of space Navy bigwigs, including Lt. Cassian Daniels (though estranged from his son, Cassian’s father is a political heavyweight). With nothing much to do, Cassian wanders about Kostroma City and meets scholar Adele Mundy, a disgraced aristocrat hired by Walter to set up a grand library. After unwittingly insulting Adele--Cassian’s father was responsible for ruining Adele’s family-- Cassian sends a detachment of hard-bitten sailors to help Adele out. But unknown to Cassian, ruthless Alliance superspy Markos has pressured computer whiz Adele into providing intelligence, and soon an Alliance-backed military coup overthrows Walter and executes the Cinnabar delegates--except for Cassian, who will team up with Adele and the sailors to create mayhem among the Alliance/Kostroman forces before a rescue fleet from Cinnabar eventually arrives. After a sluggish start--the schmoozing and politicking quickly grow tedious--the yarn unfolds into an authentically taut and exciting tussle, courtesy of Drake’s unflinching portrayal of battle’s downside and his eye for telling detail.