In this gripping sequel to The Dark Wing (2001), Hunt does a better job of depicting character and handling zor mythology and interspecies relations than in his debut novel. Humanity and the winged zor are now staunch allies, but the lurking alien menace hinted at in The Dark Wing, the shape-changing, mind-controlling vulh, now roars on stage red in tooth and claw. In the best tradition of Honor Harrington, Commodore Jacqueline Laperriere, commander of an outpost on the planet Cicero, breaks the rules to save some of her troops and warn others. Later Jackie must re-enact the quest of Qu'u, the legendary zor hero, on the Plain of Despite, seeking an ancient weapon that holds the key to defeating the vulh. While the ending may be a trifle rushed, it offers plenty of surprises.
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This fine sequel to Hunt's Dark Wing (2001) reads somewhat like a collaboration of David Weber and Orson Scott Card. It sports a valiant space navy, represented by Commodore Jacqueline Lapierre, an officer well suited to sit at the same table as Weber's Honor Harrington. And it includes the implacable vuhl, a shape-changing, mind-controlling, insectoid enemy race that recalls the original foes of Card's Ender Wiggin. The alien zor, formerly implacable enemies of humanity, are now staunch allies against the vuhl. Lapierre and her zor exec, Ch'ke'te, elude an early vuhl attack, after which they must play roles out of zor legend to retrieve a legendary talisman that holds the key to their common survival. Imaginative twists include the facts that the human and zor quest team employs the telepathic assistance of Ch'ke'te's dead mate, Th'an'ya, and that some human POWs are finding out how to penetrate vuhl disguises. Gripping stuff that, fortunately, presages a further book. Roland Green
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