cover image The Radiant Seas

The Radiant Seas

Catherine Asaro. Tor Books, $26.95 (512pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86714-0

The fourth volume of Asaro's saga of the interstellar Skolian Empire takes place in the 23rd century, when the rivalry between the Skolians and the Eubians is rising to a murderous climax. At the same time, the heirs to the two empires, Sauscony Valdoria of Skolia and Jaibriol Qox II of Eube, having fallen in love in the saga's launch novel (Primary Inversion), now fake their deaths and raise a family on an unknown planet--until the deadly intrigues of the Eubians lead to Jaibriol's kidnapping. Now Imperator of Skolia, Sauscony leads her warriors on a mission of vengeance and rescue. The strongest and clearest parts of the somewhat jumbled narrative involve the lovers' raising of their family and the final climactic campaign. Much of the remainder is too crammed with characters (albeit sometimes appealing ones), plots, subplots, counterplots and double handfuls of exotic (and not always fully developed) technologies. There's also a surfeit of sex and torture, which, after serving its purpose of demonstrating the decadence of the Eubian ruling elite, comes off as gratuitous. This isn't a bad novel, but it falls short of the state of the art even in space opera and isn't up to the level of some of Asaro's own work, including last year's The Last Hawk. Agent, Eleanor Wood. (Dec.)