The Price of the Stars – Debra Doyle

The Price of the Stars – Debra Doyle & James MacDonald

The Stars Asunder is an excellent title for an SF book. Unfortunately, it’s also book five or six of this series (the Mageworlds), and more unfortunately it was the only book my local library had at the time, which was about ten years ago. At the time, I was in a read-everything phase, and gamely attempted to chow down–with no success. Book six was just not an accessible enough jumping-in point. However, book 1 exists and I finally stumbled across it. I’m both happy and unhappy that I did. So my alphabetical traverse through my ebook library has reached the Ds and fortunately this one packet seems to have the entire series, in nicely numbered order.

It reminds me of Star Wars and James H. Schmitz. In fact: I’m pretty sure it’s meant as a Star Wars post-OT with the serial numbers filed off story. It’s got the powerful and popular once war-hero Domina married to a now-General, once-pilot and privateer who flew the Web in six hours flat (well actually closer to seven. Or six and a half. Note: hours, not parsecs, good grief). It’s got his ship from the days of his youth, the Warhammer, an archaic craft with outsized engines and more firepower than a cruiser twice its size, which he’s worked on and knows every screw and bolt and scratch. It’s got the ersatz-Jedi: the serene, staff-wielding Adepts, and their hated mortal enemies, the Mages. It’s got, not furry but still fiercely honorable and dignified saurian hunter-killers who speak in growls that humans can understand but find hard to make themselves.

It’s got a heroine who is tough and talented, but not so much that she doesn’t heed her mysterious and hypercompetent mentor or her navicomp, who is fiery and feisty and authoritative and smart, good in a fight, yet still vulnerable to injury–physical or emotional. It’s got her brothers: the Adept Owen (OK, IF THAT’S NOT A DIRECT SHOUT OUT I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO SAY) and the towering Ari. It’s got a young and inexperienced Adept with the unenviable position of bodyguarding said Ari. It’s got hoverbikes and gamblers and crime lords and raids and radio chatter (I really love radio chatter in fiction. In real life, it’s mostly “who was that for?” and random bursts of static when somebody presses the button accidentally.) It’s got a mysterious mentor and a complex backstory (or at least the pleasant illusion of one–the Magewars sound interesting and well thought-through). It’s got a swift-moving plot with intelligent heroes and also intelligent–though yet unseen (I’m on page 151/289) villains. It’s got gunfights, plane chases, space chases, knife fights, gambling dens, eye patches, and gunbelts tied down low. It’s got pacing and humor and and gun duels, sword-staff duels, mage duels, and heroes in long coats firing guns akimbo (that scene bears mentioning twice!)
It’s got emotional resonance.

It’s made me laugh and thrill and rush home to read as much as possible on break and then get really sad, because it’s made me want Star Wars–real Star Wars–again, and I won’t ever get it.

But this is one of the closest–and hands-down the best-written–analogues thereof I’ve seen yet.

Rated: The stars are ours!

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