Synopsized From Back Cover: Return to the early years of the Skolian Empire. Strife has riven the Skolian royal family. Sauscony, the eldest Skolian daughter, is ready to seek her fortune as an officer-in-trining in the military. When her father forbids her to undertake such a dangerous path, a wedge is formed as Soz chooses duty over family…
I’ll pick up at this point: Soz’s father Eldrinson disowns Soz and her brother Althor who is also in the military academy. Hence the schism in the family. Eldrinson quickly regrets his action, but can’t make amends because the family is immediately upset again—another son runs away, feeling he’s the reason for the disowning of Althor. Several days into the search, Eldrinson himself is kidnapped by an enemy, who decides to torture him (feeding off the pain of an empath). Now Eldrinson’s wife is dealing with a missing husband, a missing son, and two children at the academy who will soon be put in harm’s way.
Asaro had put together an entertaining space opera here. It was published in 2004, and it’s a prequel to many of the other books in her Skolian Saga. I don’t even know where I picked it up, but it was in my pile so I read it. Unfortunately, I think I’ve only read The Last Hawk and The Radiant Seas, and that was so long ago that I didn’t remember anything about her world.
Luckily, I didn’t have to know much. Asaro provided enough backstory for me to enjoy the story (and I never even looked at the historical annex). I checked to see if the sequel had really been published; it had, it’s called Final Key. Silly me, however, I kept looking for three books, since the subtitle is “Part One of Triad.” Well, the “triad” she’s referring to is the triad of empaths that Soz will form (later). Additionally, Soz is featured heavily in other books because she will rule this empire—but I enjoyed the book just fine without knowing her future. 😉