Britisher Brosnan (The Sky Lords, 1991, etc.) takes a crack at an old SF chestnut: the multigenerational starship whose inhabitants don’t know they’re on a starship.
The haughty, cruel Elite, with their aircars and miraculous weapons, ruled Urba’s medieval patchwork of contending states—until the Day of Wonder when the power failed, aircars tumbled from the sky, and the Mundanes vengefully fell upon the Elite survivors. Proud, bold young Prince Kender and his reluctant sidekick, Jad the failed court jester, undertake to travel to the Elite Citadel and try to learn exactly what befell their erstwhile rulers. Posing as mercenaries intent on joining Lord Camarra’s army, Ken rescues a distressed damsel. Ken falls instantly and hopelessly in love with tough, resourceful Alucia—an Elite. Equally curious as to why the power failed, Alucia plays along with Ken’s obsession while educating the smarter Jad concerning Urba’s true nature. After various adventures they reach the Citadel, though as Camarra’s prisoners; the conqueror takes all three for Elite, therefore they’re expendable. Ken, Jad, and Alucia must lead an expedition inside the Citadel, urged on by Camarra’s surly troops. Once they’re inside, the power comes on, and hordes of scorpion-like machines—not Elite devices—scuttle forth to shred the troops! The three evade the scorpion-things and arm themselves with Elite weapons, but thoughts of further resistance evaporate when a second wave, this time of huge scorpions, emerges to destroy the rest of Camarra’s army and devastate Urba. What’s going on? Has Urba itself been invaded by aliens?
Snappy and amusingly picaresque, with plenty of puzzles to keep readers coming back for more: while this one’s satisfyingly complete, sequels will follow.