The first book in the Skolian Empire saga by the Nebula Award–winning author. “Fast, smart, speculative . . . another stellar debut.” —Los Angeles Daily News
Soz Valdoria, a bioengineered fighter pilot—and first in line for the military command of her people—has found refuge with her squad on the sanctuary planet of Delos. It offers a respite from the war that rages between her Skolian people and their enemies, the Traders. Looking for rest and relaxation, they must still be on their guard for the Trader soldiers who also visit the sanctuary.
In a bar, they confront the worst of the worst: an Aristo from the Trader ruling caste, seemingly on the prowl for a “provider” he can use for his barbaric impulses. His presence takes Soz back to her days as a prisoner of war, when she became the plaything of a sadistic and soulless Aristo.
And yet something is off about this Aristo. Unable to ignore her instincts, Soz searches the city until she finds him in a secured mansion. Breaching its fortifications and eluding its guards, she discovers a devastating truth: this man is no true Aristo. He is a genetic anomaly like Soz, one of the few people who can handle the massive neurological demands of the psibernet, the technological marvel that gives the Skolians their only advantage over the Traders. This false Aristo, this sheep in a wolf’s clothing, is heir to the Trader throne. The emperor created him for one reason—to take control of the Skolian network and conquer Soz’s people.
But Soz has never felt such a connection as she does to this Trader heir. It may prove her—and the universe’s—undoing . . .
“This is one of the best SF first novels in years.” —Booklist