This is a Sci-Fi romance, that is actioned packed and very imaginative. Piel is very strong in creating a stellar world, full of menace and pirates.
In celebration of their graduation from the Intersystem Academy, Princess Ariana and her friends go on a wild adventure seeking excitement and new worlds, but they get more than bargained for when their ship is attacked by Automons on the edge of the Border Territory. All the males are killed and the females are transported a desolate mining planet, destined to be breeders of the miners. Ariana is claimed by a young miner, who knows few words, and though she knows she must endure this harsh new life, she comes to care for him. However, as time passes she arranges an escape for them, but in the end, they are betrayed by her supposed best friend, and only she escapes. She nearly dies in the journey, though is finally found floating in space, and pregnant.
She tried for years to find the man who fathered her child, for deep in her heart she loved him, but no trace of the mining community was found. When she is on a mission to find him again, she is kidnapped by a pirate, who turned out to be the very man she is seeking. But the young man who touched her heart is no longer. She finds a harder man, who commands a pirate fleet that is a threat to the Intersystem.
As they fight together to destroy to Automons control of mining communities, such as she was taken to had left to be a breeder, she sees there are many facets the Lord of the Dark Sun, but still does not know if she can trust him and his motives for seeking her out.
It is a romance I found hard to put down, even though there was a slight emotional distance in the first part of the book. When you only had Ariana's view the minor's world, it lacks the power the rest of the book has. Ariana's telling you about everything from her naive view was emotionally distant and un-involving. However, as the book took off, when Piel brought her two main characters together for the second time. It is a book that will appeal to romance readers and Sci-Fi people both.
on 13 February 2003
The basis of this story is a good one. For a start, it carries the weight of a successful series behind it and the benefit of meeting again with old friends. Ariana is the daughter of Arnoth and Sierra from my own favourite of the series 'The White Sun'. The book opens with her capture by the Automon, a large group of machines, who have captured her ship and her shipmates. They are taken to a mining planet where they are to be companions to the men there - ultimately their only value being to breed replacement miners. Ariana hooks up with the leader of the tribe and eventually the two fall in love. After an escape that goes horribly wrong, Ariana believes her lover to be dead. Ten years later they meet again - the pirate calling himself Damen is in fact her long ago lover. Now the leader of a significant pirate force that works against the Automon, the two nevertheless are on opposing sides - Ariana as the daughter of the leader of the Intersystem worlds, and Damen as the pirate leader of a force that has obtained vast quantities of the most valuable fuel in the known systems by theft. Damen must get Ariana to trust him, but it's not a good start that he has kidnapped her and is holding her hostage….
The story is interesting, but it's a pity I can't say that about Ariana. Immature and oblivious is how I'd describe her, and quite seriously flawed as a leader. She talks of duty, but doesn't live that example by her own people as she rapidly forms an attachment to Damen at the beginning of the book instead of looking after her shipmates. The deaths of those she knows hardly appear to touch her, except for Damen's. She is vain, weak and silly, and essentially thinks she has qualities that are not borne out by her actions. I think the only redeeming feature is that even when she comes to agreement with Damen, she is quite clear of her intention to return home, sacrificing even her own happiness for what the reader knows is her daughter's sake.
There is much to enjoy about this book if the reader can overlook what I found to be a severely lacking leading lady. The secondary characters are great - Nob and his likeness to the lingbats, and Fia's story (clearly waiting for it's own book) should be a fantastic one - I wanted to know Fia far, FAR more than Ariana and look forward to reading more of her. The sensual aspects of the story are well described, as usual for Piel. The world building continues to be distinctive and believable and an integral part of the story, rather than simply providing a setting. That Damen and Ariana can laugh at their own vanity is endearing. If Ariana weren't so completely unaware of undercurrents in any given situation - to me unforgivable in any 'ruler', which Ariana is set up to be - I would like her a great deal more.
For me the writing is great, the story line is both funny and compelling. There is depth and complexity to this work that is perhaps less obvious in the previous stories. However, I found Ariana irritated me no end. I'm fiercely hoping that Piel will tell Fia's story, because you can bet I'll snap it up, but of all Piel's female leads, I like Ariana least.