Genre: Sci fi, War
Score: Good

The Valdana Empire stretches across the galaxy, and for centuries its army has been the Tytania clan, a powerful group whose power now eclipses the Emperor’s. Their MO is to bring utterly overwhelming force, often with a fleet ten times that any independent planet state could hope to muster. Only a fool would dare to oppose them – until the day one of Tytania’s fleets is defeated by the clever strategy of a junior officer, Fan Hyulick.

Trouble is, Fan wasn’t supposed to win the battle. His world’s government had already made an agreement behind the scenes that a token army would be defeated, allowing Tytania to move in while everyone saved face; Fan’s only job was to die on time. Now he’s on the run, with a price on his head, dodging between friend and foe on a dozen worlds. To some he’s the leader that will bring their freedom; to others he’s a dangerous radical. But all Fan really wants out of life is a quiet drink and an omelette.

This series combines sci fi with the styles of aristocracy: costumes, decor, politics, ranks and so one. Tytania is ruled by a clan lord, and under him four dukes; there are various aristocratic power struggles going on behind the scenes. The bridge of a Tytania warship combines a big industrious space with a richly decorated drawing room shoved bafflingly onto one end, where the captain sits sipping wine. Their warships are shaped like weapons themselves, and beautifully rendered.

This has many of the elements that appear in my favourite sorts of stories: conflict between an established order and chaotic radicals, a connection between individuals and huge empires, cleverness overcoming a seemingly impossible obstacle. So why the relatively low score? The story lacks the courage to break things. It’s too fond of the world and characters it’s building to allow any of them to be harmed, either physically or psychologically. The characters who do die are telegraphed well in advance, just to make sure you appreciate them while they’re around. The upshot of this in plot is that both sides repeatedly make the mistake of leaving their enemy alive, of missing perfectly good opportunities.

Also, despite the pretty rendering, the space combat annoy me. Everybody uses energy weapons despite the prevalence of shields, whether in space or on land. It’s like they’ve never heard of torpedos, bullets, mines or even sabots – which are easy to arrange if you have space travel, you just need to accelerate. And they can’t hit the broad side of a moon. And the weapons make pew-pew noises in space. And their battle maps are 2D, and all ships encountering each other happen to be the same way up. It may sound irrelevant, but space is a different arena from land or sea, on a vastly different scale and with its own rules of combat, and a good sci fi anticipates those differences.