It follows the same kind of plotting arc as the prior book: the first half of the book develops characters and themes and presents the conflicts; the second half of the book accelerates into action! Adventure! Blasters!
This is a solid, fun adventure with a good balance of character and action. The forces of menace are reasonably drawn in, although things are pointing towards a larger conflict or conspiracy to come.
About this cover art on my paperback copy published in 1994. Would I have thought this looked cool in the early nineties? It sure looks dated now…
Heris Serrano discovers that her employer Cecilia is not merely the eccentric rich lady. There is a lot of politicking amongst the ruling families. Cecilia displays greater depths and knowledge of the political landscape, but this sadly leads her into an unwise warning to the king of the ‘realm’…. for which she gets poisoned.
The poisoning leaves Cecelia in a coma, and Heris is accused of having caused this ‘stroke’. Last book’s idle rich kids Brun and Ronnie step forward with a daring escape plan.
Heris’ civilian relationship with Petris seems to be stalling. The awkwardness is deliberately written-in, but it does make them less believable as a couple. When they got together so quickly at the end of Hunting Party, there was little time to see them interact though they’d served together in the RSS for years. In this book again they are rarely together. Does Moon’s writing talent not cover romance as successfully?
Compassionate Hand, also known as the Benignity and Black Scratch, are the menace du jour. A quibble – that’s just too many names to saddle a nascent space empire with.
Thematically, we learn that dangerous drugs are being used by the bad guys, along with the rejuv anti-age treatment. Human cloning, though illegal amongst the Familias Regnant, is more common that Cecelia or Heris had known.
Heris and her crew encounter another RSS ship commanded by Arash Livadhi, an officer with whom Heris had had a brief affair, uncomfortably close to where they are skulking.
Space-chases and battles ensue, etc.