The undead Emperor has ruled the Eighty Worlds for sixteen hundred years. His is the power to grant immortality to those he deems worthy, creating an elite class known as the Risen. Along with his sister, the eternally young Child Empress, his power within the empire has been absolute. Until now.
The empire's great enemies, the Rix, hold the Child Empress hostage. Charged with her rescue is Captain Laurent Zai. But when Imperial politics are involved the stakes are unimaginably high, and Zai may yet find the Rix the least of his problems. On the homeworld, Zai's lover, Senator Nara Oxham, newly appointed to the Emperor's War Council, must prosecute the war with the Rix while holding the inhuman impulses of the Risen councillors in check. If she fails at either task, millions will die.
And at the centre of everything is the Emperor's great lie: a revelation so shattering that he is willing to sanction the death of entire worlds to keep it secret ...
Westerfeld's (Evolution's Darling) exceptionally smart and empathetic novel, the first of two in a series, confirms the buzz that space opera is one of the most exciting branches of current SF. In an interstellar empire of 80 human worlds, ruled by an emperor who lets selected humans cheat death, tensions between most humans and the resurrected elite, aka the Risen, are increasing. The Rix, a cult of cyborgs who worship compound AI minds, hunger to liberate the empire's worlds from mere human control. When a Rix raiding party captures the emperor's sister, Capt. Laurent Zai of the Imperial Navy must save her. Viewpoint rapidly shifts from character to character and from a vast perspective to an extremely small one that of the intelligence scouts Zai sends ahead of the rescue mission, nano-machines smaller than insects. Keeping the reader constantly off-balance, Westerfeld skillfully integrates extreme technologies with human characters. FYI: Evolution's Darling won a Philip K. Dick Award special citation.