Paul Paxwax, third son of Toby Paxwax, head of the Paxwax famaily, the fifth most important family in known space, is returning to Bennet, the Paxwax home world, with news. He has found a woman he wants to marry, Laural Beltane, of the Beltanes, a minor family (the fifty-sixth). He expects to meet with opposition from his father.
He does not expect to find the family estate in ruins, and a mass grave containing the Family's servants. He does not expect to be threatened and almost killed by his father, who has been driven mad with grief, as his second son, and designated heir, Lapis, has been reported killed in a mining accident, with only his foot surviving. Paul is now the main heir so the marriage to a Beltane, always marginal, is now impossible. An accident kills the father, so Paul has to report his death and get acknowledged as the new head of Paxwax by the other Families. He expects trouble.
But it comes from an unexpected source. The dominion of the Eleven Families was built on alien genocide. Intelligent and harmless species, like the Gerbes, were eaten as delicacies. Dangerous aliens, like Spiderets (large intelligent spiders) and the Hammer (extremely vicious and clever giant scorpions) are worked as prisoners and killed if they show any hostility. Unknown to the Families, on a hidden planet called Sanctum, the alien races have united and are plotting their revenge. They include humans: Pawl's other elder brother Pental is among them. The driving force is a telepathic Tree, which selects a Gerbes called Odin to go to Pawl and advise him, ostensibly as an advisor from the Inner Circle, ostensibly neutral but really a front for the alien rebels.
This first book of two is driven entirely by human treachery. Two Families hate the Paxwax, the Xerxes and the Lamprey, and they have been planning a surprise strike on the Paxwax for some time. They have secretly bought control of the 'Way Gates' (transporters that link the far flung human worlds) that lead to Paxwax worlds. The 'foot' was their doing as Lapis was their prisoner, whom they were torturing to death. Almost immediately Pawl is under attack once he takes over the Paxwax family. This book is essentially about his struggle to survive.
To call this space opera is to underplay its strident differences from the norm. It reverses the normal 'humans as good guys' and builds a complex and believable future society that is obviously rotten to the core (for example genetic anomalies are common throughout the Families, Pawl has golden eyes and bandy legs) but which might be shriven and saved..Read more ›