At long last a new tale in Stobie Piel's wonderful futuristic series. The heroine of this tale is Ariana of Valenwood, daughter of Arnoth (THE WHITE SUN), a great Intersystem leader and healer.
There is no question that Ariana is deeply loved, however as young people often do, she chose to spread her wings a bit by persuading her friends to take an unauthorized visit to Lodder Vale, a pleasure outpost in the Border Territory. This celebration of their graduation from the Intersystem Academy was destined to end badly.
Ariana awakens to find herself in a strange craft, bound, and lying beside the other women who had accompanied her. The fate of the men was unknown. Soon they find themselves on a barren Dark Sun world far outside the Intersystem territories. The women's heads are shaved, an act which drives home to Ariana how insignificant her identity is here. They are forced down a tube into a dark cavern where they are confronted by barbarians. The majority are male, aged between fourteen and twenty, men before their time. An astute assessment of the situation tells her that these men are slaves to the Automon, no doubt born on this planet, and used to mine the precious malloreum crystals which fuel the Dark Sun ships. The women are merely to become the latest batch of breeders.
Though nearly paralyzed by fear, Ariana steps forward. Recognizing her superiority to the other women, the barbarian leader stakes his claim on her. Ariana is determined to fight him to the death, but notices another slightly younger man, assessing her. Something in his eyes bemuses her. Though his language consists of nothing more than grunts and gestures, she detects intelligence and a gentle spirit within them. He detects something special in her as well. When the younger man challenges the leader, she hopes against the poor odds that he will somehow prevail. When brains and agility win out over brawn, Ariana is not the only one who is relieved. The new young leader claims her for his own, and in a very short time Ariana comes to love him with all her heart. Somehow they find a way to communicate, but she learns more about him by his actions.
It is human nature to cherish freedom and Ariana's mind turns often to escape. The need becomes urgent when she discovers that, although the miners knew no other life, the Automon definitely anticipated rebellion. Evidence of deliberate lava flows indicate that previous generations had been destroyed before the will to rebel could become effective. Ariana does not intend for her lover to become another statistic, a fact she somehow conveys to him. Soon they find a chink in the Automons' routine and Ariana plans to take those women of her crew that wish to go along with them. That is her mistake. Among them is a false friend who has taken advantage of Ariana's trusting nature for many years. The woman coveted Ariana's status, and now the man that she'd come to love as well. When their plan is unexpectedly thwarted, the barbarian leader sacrifices himself allowing Ariana to escape alone. Unable to stop the ship, she witnesses his punishment through a window, which leaves her to believe that he is dead. Her grief was devastating. She was unaware she would carry a part of him with her always, but she did know that she would never stop searching until she found his world again and liberated it.
Damen would not wait. Broken hearted at the loss of his beloved, he has found his reason for rebellion. His generation of boys are not yet old enough for the Automon to expect it of them. Many are lost, but the slaves prevail.
Ten years later, Ariana had not forgotten her barbarian king. She'd been looking for a pilot to take her on another expedition to the Dark Sun system when she finds him. Not that she would have recognized the cocky, arrogant man who calls himself Damen. Nor would she expect to become his captive. Oh yes, though he had become wealthy and educated, and had founded a world of his own, he was still a barbarian at heart, the Dark Sun Lord, a pirate who if he had his way would once again claim her as his prize. But first he must put an end once and for all to the Automon tyranny, and if Ariana had her way he would do it with her right by his side.
This a wonderful futuristic adventure. The main characters are very authentic, bold yet vulnerable. One cannot help but love the feisty heroine who bravely faces the unknown with tremendous courage in spite of her fear, or the hero who rules one world, and builds another, but who fears he will never fit in Ariana's. The romance is strong, heartwarming, inspirational. The threat is real, coming at them from the inside as well as the outside. As they face enemies and traitors, they will know who their friends are. I was particularly intrigued with two of them. Fia, had been the young girl who'd been delivered to the slave planet in the same ship Ariana had escaped in. She'd become Damen's ward, his focus after his loss. She becomes he right hand woman and a starship captain in her own right. The other is Hakon, son of Dane Calydon (THE MIDNIGHT MOON), Ariana's best friend, and the man everyone expects her to marry. These two are both very dignified, haughty, and more than a little arrogant. They are bound to rub each other the wrong way intellectually. But I can just imagine the passion that might evolve were they allowed to rub each other the right way emotionally. I am hoping the we will see more of them. I highly recommend LORD OF THE DARK SUN. If you missed any of the previous titles I suggest that you try to find them, starting with THE DAWN STAR. ~ for PNR Reviews