The Ruby Dice (Saga of the Skolian Empire) Mass Market Paperback – 30 Apr 2009
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About the Author
Catherine Asaro has an M.A. in physics, and a Ph.D. in chemical physics, both from Harvard. She has done research at the University of Toronto, The Max Planck Institute, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. A former ballet and jazz dancer, she founded the Mainly Jazz Dance program at Harvard and now teaches at the Caryl Maxwell Classical Ballet. She has written ten novels in the popular Skolian Saga, the latest being "Schism" (Tor, 2004) as well as two near-future technothrillers, "The Veiled Web" and "The Phoenix Code." She currently runs Molecudyne Research and lives in Maryland with her husband and daughter. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However, those unfamiliar with the series should not start with this one. The series has gotten to a point where you really do need some background to follow the story. And there are many excellent books leading up to this one to choose from.
After filling in the gaps in her last few Sklolian Empire novels, Catherine Asaro moves things forward in this tale, in which Jabriol III, Emperor of Eube, and Kelric, Imperator (military chief) of the Skolians--both of whom are harboring secrets--scheme to create a peace between the formerly implacable enemies.
As always, Ms. Asaro's readers will be treated to another well written tale that blends science, military strategy, politics, relationship issues, and family matters.
Also involved heavily in the proceedings are two of my favorite characters--Jabriol's fascinating and endlessly devious wife, Tarquine, and one of Kelric's many wives, redheaded Ixpar--who makes a fiery return to the author's pages.
The action here is slow to build, and some readers may start to go into "get on with it!" mode; but I was fascinated by that slow buildup, with all the political maneuvering that's involved here--much of which is caused by both Jabriol's and Kelric's need to protect secrets. But the stunning ending is fast paced and well thought out. And the author leaves, as always, a few loose ends that will doubtless be tied up in a book or two or three.
By the way: If you are new to the series, it's probably best if you start with "The Last Hawk," which many Asaroistas feel is her best, and "Radiant Seas" is a must, too. But why not just start at the beginning, with "Primary Inversion"? There's a time line in the back that lists all the novels in the series and places them in their proper places in the chronology. Listed there, too, are some shorter works in the series. I hope there are plans to collect them in an omnibus volume.
In previous Asaro books, I've gotten the impression she's fallen in love with her own creations (i.e. Soz), so ended up disliking that character. Not so with this one - both Kelric and Jaibriol struggle, mistrust and have difficulties.
This is, however, not a book for those new to Skolia. I recommend seeking out some of Asaro's earlier works to get oriented to that universe first.
Jabriol is a psion who has to hide his true nature, since psions are regarded as the lowest of slaves among the Eubians. He has claimed the throne at the risk of his life and his sanity in order to try and stop the worst of Eubian atrocities, if possible.
Kelric has had a past of captivity mixed improbably with love on a distant planet. He has to hide his past from those he loves to protect others he loves. He also, wishes to do the best he can to keep his people from another brutal war with the Eubians.
Both men need to deal with their lives, domestically, and with a precarious situation between the Empires. There also seems to be strange phenomenon affecting the fabric of space that may be related to the mysterious Locks that allow the Psions of the Skolian Empire to communicate across space. And someone is out to assassinate Kelric, as well as the usual attempts on Jabriol's life.
Jabriol's position is harrowing. The Highton culture he leads is cut-throat and hazardous as it is, but if he lets his control slip even a little, it would likely mean his death--or at the very least, a life of pain and slavery. He's been ruling for ten years and the strain is getting to him. Also the lines between good and evil are beginning to blur.
Asaro's tales of the Skolian Empire continue to enthrall. Here are two of the most intriguing of her cast of characters, and their story, with the fate of humanity at risk, is every bit as intriguing as they are.
The Radiance War is over. Eube and Skolia are at peace; except, of course, for a few shots between Eubean slave raiders and the Skolian Imperial Space Command. Jaibriol III is on the Carnelian Throne and the Aristos are fairly well behaved toward their Emperor.
In this novel, Kelric is the Imperator of Skolia, commander of all the armed forces. Yet he cannot save the live of his wife Jeejon. She does not have the nanomeds that make the Rhon so long lived. Kelric is with her when she dies.
Dyhianna (Dehya) Selei is the Ruby Pharaoh. She now shares power with the Skolian Assembly.
Jaibriol III is the young Emperor of the Eubean Concord. He has been on the throne for ten years, marrying his most powerful opponent. He is also a Rhon psion. He has barely survived the emotional noise of the Aristos around him during the past decade.
Tarquine Iquar is Jaibriol's consort. She is also his Finance Minister. She is the smartest woman he knows and she has a quiet mind.
In this story, a decade after the war, Kelric returns to Coba to rescue an Allied Space anthropologist. He had been a Calanya on the planet, so he somewhat remembers the language. He lands at Viasa, skidding across the plateau and crashing through a retaining wall. Then he gets Jeremiah Coltman aboard and flies into space.
A year later, Kelric returns to Cabo and visits his former wife at Karn. Ixpar is still Minister -- chief executive -- of Coba. He also meets his children, who had been taken from him at their birth. Kelric brings his wife and children back to the Skolian public.
Jaibriol is still pushing for a peace treaty with the Skolians, but his Aristo subjects do not agree with his plans. They give him plenty of praise and compliments, yet avoid taking any positive action. Tarquine, however, is fully engaged in the Aristo intrigue, helping Jaibriol in many ways.
The Janq Line is trying to take over the export corporations in the Ivory sector. Somehow they lose many slave raiders to the ISC. Jaibriol is fairly certain that Tarquine had sent an anonymous tip to the Skolians, but the Janq believe someone else betrayed them.
Jaibriol believes that his consort loves him, but he is not really sure. Tarquine is a mystery to him despite his empathic ability. Still, she is wheeling and dealing for his benefit.
Kelric begins to suspect that the Eubean Emperor actually wants to make peace with Skolia. So, when an opportunity arises to meet with Jaibriol on Earth, Kelric agrees and travels to Earth. Both men have to rein in the hostilities between their bodyguards.
This tale brings the possibilities of a peace treaty to both empires. Naturally, almost everybody is against the idea on both sides. Most people remember their losses and want revenge.
This story is filled with intrigue and action. Jaibriol and Tarquine have to deal with the arrogance of their Aristos, whereas Kelric and Dehya are opposed by their own military. Read and enjoy!
Highly recommended for Asaro fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of political intrigue, cultural clashes, and tangled romance.
-Arthur W. Jordin