On a broken ship orbiting a doomed sun, dwellers have grown complacent with their aging metal world. But when a serving girl frees a captive noblewoman, the old order is about to change....
Ariane, Princess of the House of Rule, was known to be fiercely cold-blooded. But severing an angel’s wings on the battlefield—even after she had surrendered—proved her completely without honor. Captive, the angel Perceval waits for Ariane not only to finish her off—but to devour her very memories and mind. Surely her gruesome death will cause war between the houses—exactly as Ariane desires. But Ariane’s plan may yet be opposed, for Perceval at once recognizes the young servant charged with her care.
Rien is the lost child: her sister. Soon they will escape, hoping to stop the impending war and save both their houses. But it is a perilous journey through the crumbling hulk of a dying ship, and they do not pass unnoticed. Because at the hub of their turning world waits Jacob Dust, all that remains of God, following the vapor wisp of the angel. And he knows they will meet very soon.
Bear proves there's still juice in one of science fiction's oldest tropes, the stranded generation ship, in this complex coming-of-age tale. Rien, a handmaid in a feudal society, must care for the prisoner Ser Perceval a mutilated enemy who Rien discovers is her half-sister by an absent scion of the ruling family. Their quest for a safer home tangles with their society's own quest for safety, as the descendents of an artificial intelligence and the genetically engineered crew battle for control to save the ship from an impending supernova. Standard plot devices litter the familiar landscape: tarot, pseudo-angels, named swords with powers, and politics as a family quarrel. But Campbell Award winning author Bear uses them beautifully to turn up the pressure on her characters, who r respond by making hard choices. And as she did in Carnival and Hammered Bear breaks sexual taboos matter-of-factly: love in varied forms drives the characters without offering easy redemption.
Bear the Surrealist
I've developed a fondness for her aesthetic and imagination but I found myself frustrated by this book.
It's not as hard to be a prolific author when you're not overly concerned with reader comprehension. All of Bear's imagination and emotion are evident, but in chapter after chapter she refuses to define the paradigm. The reader is left guessing as to the nature of the characters and the details of their environment.
The physics of riding a super nova like a slingshot are dubious and not overly articulated, but forming a gestalt out on angels, viruses, distributed artificial intelligence, magical prosthetics, and melding personalities makes for a distracting read.
As stream of consciousness the book is revealing of the author's psyche but I would prefer a bit more structure and visual detail.