The Ruby Dice
Baen, Jan 2008, $23.00
The war between the Eubian Concord and the Skolian Imperialate was devastating to both empires. Many died including the then rulers of the Eubian Concord; whole worlds destroyed. Even when there are no armed combat between the two empires, hostilities are high and everyone remains on a constant state of alert expecting the other side to renew the fight.
Jaibriol rules the Eubian Concord; Kelric rules the Skolian Imperialate. Neither wants war as both understands the consequences first hand. However, both struggles with keeping in line powerful groups demanding the conquest of their rival. Each also hides a devastating secret that if revealed would lead to their ouster and their most likely respective replacement would renew the conflict, killing trillions. As their internal enemies seek weaknesses, Jaibriol hides his taboo skill of Psion as he would go from ruler to slave and Kelric has told no one about having a wife and kid as his people would destroy their homeland.
The latest Skolian Empire tale is an exciting outer space thriller that for much of the tale focuses on the two leaders. The respective crisis that confronts Kelric and Jaibriol makes both seem genuine as each fear for their people if war reignites between them yet feel doomed as if this is the inevitable outcome. Fans of the series will appreciate this character driven entry that looks deep into the pair of rulers, but newcomers will be lost in space in spite of an overly done but cleverly designed history (mostly through the rulers looking back).