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The Rifters' Covenant by Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge

Published by Tor Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

The fourth volume of the Exordium saga brings Brandon new responsibilities and new challenges. At the close of the last volume, an act of Dol'jharrian treachery slew his father, the Panarch Gelassar. Now Brandon is the new Panarch, ruler of the Thousand Suns. But the power of that position comes at a price. Never again will he be his own man, free to come and go as he wills.

But there is a war on, so the full weight of the ceremonies that surround his new position don't descend upon Brandon at once. The forces of Jerrode Eusabian, Avatar of Dol, still hold the Panarchic capital of Arthelion. Until it is liberated and the Dol'jharrians sent back to their homeworld, Brandon cannot truly call himself Panarch. And in the fight to do that, Brandon may yet enjoy a little freedom.

But before he can take on the enemy, Brandon must first secure his own position among his supporters. In true Duoloi fashion, this will involve multiple levels of intrigue, all carried out in stunning elegance. The sublety and sophistication of his own culture will make these enemies far more dangerous in many ways than the straightforward terror and brutality.

Brandon must not only steer clear of the schemes of a secret death cult, but also discover the truth about one of his former compatriots. Lokri stands accused of a shocking and brutal murder. He insists upon his innocence. Is he just an amoral liar, or was he framed by a sinister conspiracy?

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Review posted December 15, 2000

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