This is one of the books that I tucked into during November for Sci Fi Month – before I realised that I’d run out of days. However, reading and writing a review about an enjoyable, entertaining space opera adventure is never a hardship…
Emperor’s daughter Mercedes is the first woman ever admitted to the High Ground, the elite training academy of the Solar League’s Star Command, and she must graduate if she is to have any hope of taking the throne. Her classmate Tracy has more modest goals — to rise to the rank of captain, and win fame and honor. But a civil war is coming and the political machinations of those who yearn for power threaten the young cadets. In a time of intrigue and alien invasion, they will be tested as they never thought possible.
This book is written from two viewpoints – and is one of the reasons why it works so well. We get an insight into Mercedes’ life and the strains of being the first young woman ever admitted to a male bastion – Solar League’s Star Command – to prepare her for the task of ruling in her father’s stead. And no – this isn’t your classic female heroine panting to knock down the barriers to women having more freedom in society, as Mercedes was perfectly happy with her court life and spending time with her highborn female companions. She is appalled when her father informs her that she will be attending The High Ground.
Her desperate reaction is also mirrored by another reluctant candidate from the other end of the social scale. Her father’s skilled but poor tailor is thrilled when his only son, Tracy, is selected as a scholarship student to attend The High Ground. Tracy isn’t so impressed – he hates the whole rotten system and has no intention of being part of it on any level, until he realises the problems it will cause his father if he walks away.
Snodgrass has been very canny in selecting both these characters as it means we see two lives at both extremes of this rigid, very hierarchical society, both with their own constraints and pressures that oddly, end up being similar even though the causes are quite different.
I’m aware that I’ve given the impression that this is one of those stories all about the social structure with lots of chat, meaningful looks and not much else – it isn’t. In amongst the classes and the difficulties of fitting in, there is plenty of action – and when it all properly kicks off with a life or death event pulling in both main characters and most of their friends and foes, I simply couldn’t put this one down.
I really enjoyed this one and am delighted to find yet another talented female author writing my favourite kind of fiction – I’m definitely going to be tracking down the next book in this series.