Although it is the ninth book released in Catherine Asaro’s Saga of the Skolian Empire series, Skyfall is the first book in the series chronologically. The books in this series have won numerous awards, including the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2001 for The Quantum Rose. These novels are generally considered to be science fiction romance and contain a blend of space opera and hard science fiction. Skyfall was heavier on the romance side and lighter on the science fiction side than the other two books I have read in this series (Primary Inversion and The Radiant Seas). I would recommend newcomers to the series begin with the first published book, Primary Inversion. While it was very entertaining, I thought Skyfall was significantly weaker than both this novel and its sequel.
Roca, heir to the Skolian Empire, has just realized that her son Kurj plans to start a war. He sent her on a mission with only his people for protection and she has been delayed from returning home. She knows this is no coincidence since the council of the Skolian Empire will soon meet to vote on whether or not to go to war with their enemies, the cruel Eubian Traders. If Roca is not available for the council session, Kurj will cast her vote in her absence and there is a good chance the results will be in favor of the war. Desperate to prevent many of her people from dying, Roca escapes from her bodyguards and manages to get a flight to the planet Skyfall. In a couple of days, Roca will leave with a supply ship scheduled to stop at the planet and surprise Kurj by ruining his scheme.
Shortly after Roca’s arrival on Skyfall, the bard Eldrinson rides to the port, abruptly hauls her up in front of him, and brings her back to his castle. Roca protests at first, but she is intrigued by Eldrinson’s strong telepathic abilities which are similar to her own and ends up agreeing to visit him for one day. One day turns into two when a severe snowstorm hits and soon Roca is stuck on Skyfall until the next supply ship stops on the backwater planet – which could be months away.
Skyfall is a very straightforward, easy to read novel. The science in this one is slim and limited to infodumps on Roca’s internal computer that performs various useful functions such as regulating her temperature and helping her to learn languages quickly instead of focusing on theories as in The Radiant Seas.
The characterization in this novel is also somewhat thin compared to the others with the exception of Kurj, who is the type of complex and conflicted character I always enjoy reading about. His chapters were my favorites in the entire book. Roca is a much more passive and perfect heroine than her daughter Sauscony and therefore not as interesting. Our heroine looks like a 20 year old in spite of her 50+ years of age (which is not unusual for Skolians but adds to the character’s aura of perfection), is drop dead gorgeous, kind, loved by just about everyone, and peaceful. She is very much the stereotypical female character, and even though there is an explanation for her willingness to be kidnapped by Eldrinson, it makes her seem like a helpless woman unlike the strong, determined Sauscony. Roca was likable but she did not seem unique or very well fleshed out.
The writing in this one also seemed more awkward than other books, partially because there were a few infodumps but also because much of the dialogue was stilted. This was to demonstrate the fact that Eldrinson and Roca did not actually speak the same language and did not always communicate clearly through spoken language in spite of their empathic/telepathic bond. Although it was not without merit, this did get annoying at times.
It may sound like I did not enjoy this book, but I actually could hardly put it down and the pages flew by. It was definitely fun to read, but it certainly was not as good as the other books in this series that I have read. I did find it interesting to read about the details of some of the events mentioned in the other novels even if I had a basic idea of how the story would end.
Skyfall is not the best book in the Saga of the Skolian Empire, but it is a worthwhile read for learning more about events a generation before the Radiance War.
Reviews of other books in this series: