Tor, Dec 2004, 25.95, 464 pp.
Humanity has colonized thousands of worlds; technology and medicine have made incredible advances; yet war still exists. The Skolian Empire is based on democratic ideals while conversely the Aristo Traders Empire is built on slavery. Hostility seems imminent between these giants.
On the planet Lyshriol, seventeen years old Soz has gone behind her father Eldrinson's back to take the preliminary exams to enroll in the Desham Military Academy where her brother Alhtor is a fourth year cadet. Due to her high scores on the tests and the upcoming need for warriors, the Academy waives the age and parental requirements enabling Soz to enroll. Soz's father angrily disowns both Soz and Althor.
Their father regrets his words almost immediately but before he can do anything about it, his fourteen year old son has run away. As he looks for the lad, an Aristo capture him. Somehow the Traders have bypassed security on this Skolian planet. The Aristo cripples and blind him; when he recovers he withdraws from everyone, even his beloved wife. Meanwhile Soz amazes everyone as she learns at an accelerated pace, but now she knows what happened to her father and vows to get revenge.
Soz is a very interesting character, who, if she lives long enough, will probably replace her half-brother as the Imperator when Korj is unable to fulfill those duties any longer. Like her sire, she is a strong independent warrior who refuses to accept any weakness as she expects to be more than just the best soldier the academy ever graduated. Her father has a long recuperative road to journey, but like Soz stubbornly refused to allow his captors the victory they expected.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner