"The Quantum Rose" is another winner in Catherine Asaro's provocative and compelling "Skolian Empire" series. This one doesn't advance the saga all that far-it's more of a gapfiller than anything else--but it has a kick to it. The tale starts out as yet another take on "the culture that the galactic civilization forgot, and which has regressed" and has gone medieval.
Sounds familiar? But be not afraid, Toto. We're not in Darkover any more. Asaro has a new angle on the old idea, filling it with romance, high tech, low tech, dance, horselike critters (two brands) telepathy, and oh yeah. Quantum physics.
There's enough action for the space opera fans; steamy romance for the romantically inclined; and hard science for those who like their science fiction to emphasize, well, the science (an early version of the first half, we're told, appeared in _Analog_).
At heart, though, the story is about growing up and taking charge, as young Kamoj, torn between two men, Vryl of the Skolians and Jax of her own world, eventually finds love in all the right places, and grows as a person. So, in the end, the story is more about the development of character than anything else. And how many genre novels can you say that about?
There's enough material here for a 1200-page by-the-numbers trilogy, but Asaro, with her lean, mean, prose style, doesn't waste our time--she keeps things down to a reasonable 403 pages (plus appendixes).
This is a must-have for Asaroistas although newcomers would probably be better off starting with _Primary Inversion_ , which led off the series, before they tackle this one.
All in all another example of what science fiction can be in the right hands.