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Ruler of Naught by Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge

Published by Tor Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

This volume continues the saga begun in Phoenix in Flight. The Panarchy, one of the most elegant and well thought-out societies in science fiction, is in utter dissaray. Its capital, Arthelion, has fallen to the forces of the hateful Jerrode Eusabian, Avatar of Dol. The Panarch is a prisoner and awaits transport to the hell-world of Gehenna.

The only hope in all this disaster is the Panarch's youngest son, the scapegrace Brandon. He escaped his brothers' doom by skipping a ceremony. Now he is on the run, traveling ln a ship crewed by Rifters. In his hands is a sphere with contradictory physical properties, a vital piece of an alien weapon of incredible antiquity. Somehow he must find the proper authorities to deliver it, all the time avoiding Eusabian's restless agents.

Meanwhile, the scattered remnants of Panarchic authority struggle to reassemble themselves and strike a blow against the hated enemy, the occupiers of their beautiful capital world. Around a few charismatic battlecruiser captains a strike force forms, to move against the Dol'jharian forces around Arthelion and gain a secret weapon that may even the odds once again.

Meanwhile, Eusabian has a foe within his own camp. His only son, who spent years as a hostage in the Panarch's glittering court and absorbed more than a little of their ways, now moves to overthrow him. With infinite care and subtlety Anaris builds his power base, gathering allies and creating the mystique around his person which will assure that he is followed when he does make his move. His one modicum of security lies in the knowledge that Eusabian cannot simply kill him and father new children. Eusabian's gene-plasm was damaged in an earlier battle against the Panarchy, and since that day he has sired only monstsities.

All these threads and more weave together to form a subtle tapestry of story in one of the most fascinating and fully realized spacefaring societies of recent science fiction.

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Review posted December 15, 2000

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