Card's child-warrior saga (Shadow of the Hegemon, 2001, etc.) goes on . . . and on. The brilliant child-warrior Bean has helped the equally youthful essayist-advisor Peter Wiggin become Hegemon, but it's a title with little power, carrying influence only within enfeebled America and Europe, and the struggle to direct the soul of the world continues. Their adversary, the megalomaniac Achilles, having befriended and betrayed Russia and India in turn, has guided the Chinese to conquer India and Indochina. Now Bean and Peter receive word that the Chinese have lost patience with their psychotic ally and have arrested him. Peter, believing that he can both dominate their foe and learn from him, arranges to capture Achilles—and soon Achilles is pretty much running the Hegemony. Bean, withdrawing from Peter's side, agrees to start a family with his Battle School graduate companion, Petra, stipulating that none of the offspring carry Anton's Key in their genes: the twist that both makes him a genius and dooms him to an early death. Knowing that Achilles will attempt to kill them both, and steal their embryos, Bean seeks refuge with a powerful, friendly Muslim, while Peter's parents endeavor to persuade the stubborn, willful Hegemon that his position is precarious.
The usual welter of plotting, maneuvers, repartee, and philosophy. Unfortunately, much of it has the feel of a primer on how to grow up—and Card is much less endearing when he's writing for children rather than about them.