Ascendant Sun, by Catherine Asaro

ascendant-sun-by-catherine-asaroGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Published: 2001
Reviewer Rating: threehalfstars
Book Review by Richard R. Horton

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Ascendant Sun is a sequel to two branches of her “story so far”. It follows the journey of Kelric, hero of The Last Hawk, a Nebula Award nominee, as he returns to mainstream Skolian civilization after 18 years isolated on the planet Coba. But while Kelric has been gone, a great deal has gone on in the rest of the Universe, most notably the Radiance War between Skolia and Eube. This war is described in The Radiant Seas, Asaro’s 1999 novel. Kelric is a member of the royal family of the Skolian Empire, the Ruby Dynasty, and, in fact, as a result of the events of the Radiance War, he is the presumptive Imperator. But he has no idea of any of this.

Ascendant Sun opens with Kelric barely managing to dock his spaceship at a small border facility in Skolian space. This place is in chaos, as a result of the recently concluded war, and there are no facilities available with the capabilities Kelric needs. Moreover, he quickly gathers that revealing his identity may not be wise for political reasons. Kelric ends up heading for enemy (Eubian) space, and as a result of his high psychic rating, becomes the prized slave of a Eubian minister. After some pretty well done action scenes (not to mention some decent sex scenes), Kelric escapes and makes his way to ostensibly neutral Earth, where he learns some surprising things about the political upheavals among both Skolia and Eube.

This novel does a good job of advancing the overall series plot, and it’s a pretty exciting read on its own. The love interest subplot is a bit less satisfying, though it’s an attempt to do something different. (Finding involving new love interests for Kelric, already married something like six times, is not easy.) All in all, this book will probably appeal most to readers of the overall series: in many ways, it is a “middle” book. Kelric is an interesting character, and moreover Asaro works harder than ever to try to humanize her unspeakable villains, the Traders, though I think she has set herself an impossible task there. This isn’t Asaro’s best work, but it’s a decent brick in the overall structure of her Skolian series.

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