cover image The Last Hawk

The Last Hawk

Catherine Asaro. Tor Books, $25.95 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86044-8

In her third novel set in the embattled Skolian Empire, Asaro (Catch the Lightning) has settled into a smoothly absorbing space-opera formula that mixes high-tech gimmickry with galactic politics and plenty of romance. Kelric, heir to the Imperial throne, is stranded on the restricted planet Coba after he and his ship are badly damaged. The matriarchal society he finds himself in abhors killing, but, justifiably fearing the consequent loss of its autonomy, is unwilling to return him to his space-faring people. So, though the technology Kelric carries embedded in his body threatens to destroy him, he is held captive and treated as a pawn of planetary politics. Shuttled between various strong, ruling women, he becomes slave, lover, servant and savant as his special skills give him talents and abilities that threaten to unmake a world and a people he comes to love. The most original and intriguing aspect of the novel is the game of Quis, a mathematical model for interpersonal relationships that is played with rainbow-colored dice. Less touchy-feely than Asaro's first novel, this one packs in lots of action along with its many romantic interludes and diversions into speculative genetics. (Nov.)