Catherine Asaro is my favourite author and her Skolian series, of which Diamond Star is the latest chapter, is my favourite series. However, I often get incredibly anxious about reading her books, sometimes putting it off for months, and I’m never been completely sure about why. I am coming to the conclusion that it is a combination of the fact that I really connect with these books, meaning I tend to have a very intense reaction to them, and the fact I find her bad guys particularly nasty, so that the more they feature in a book, the more anxious I feel about reading it. But I love the books. The characters speak to me and I really respond to them. I care about them all and want to know what happens to them. If I was a writer (which I’m not, and certainly wouldn’t ever be one of Catherine’s talent) and I was trying to “write what you love and want to read”, these are they books I’d want to write. They just hit all my buttons, even if they terrify me a little bit as well.
Borrowing the blurb from www.fantasticfiction.co.uk:
Del was a rock singer. He was also the renegade son of the Ruby Dynasty, which made his career choice less than respectable, and gave him more to worry about than getting gigs and not getting cheated by recording companies, club owners, or his agent. For one thing, the Ruby Dynasty ruled the Skolian Imperialate, an interstellar Empire, which had recently had a war with another empire, the Eubian Concord. For another, Del was singing on Earth, which was part of a third interstellar civilization, and one which had an uneasy relationship with the Imperialate. Del undeniably had talent, and was rapidly rising from an unknown fringe artist to stardom. But, with his life entangled in the politics of three interstellar civilizations, whether he wanted that or not, talent might not be enough. And that factor might have much more effect than his music on the lives of trillions of people on the thousands of inhabited worlds across the galaxy.
As I read the book, I really wasn’t always sure if I liked Del or not. I certainly didn’t dislike him, but he could be an incredibly frustrating character at times. He could be pretty immature and needs to do some growing up. Most of her other characters have been much more mature and this is something new. It's done well, but I wanted to slap him occasionally. I think this is completely intentional, but he's still sometimes frustrating. Not annoying, because he's totally in character all the time, but frustrating because he has so much potential he isn't living up to yet.
Of course, that’s part of the power of the character. For a lot of complicated reasons I don’t want to spoil, he’s missed out of a childhood really and he’s a grown man who is still finding his way out of adolescence with all of an adult’s weight on his shoulders. I found it particularly poignant that, for him, all that his family has suffered (and we readers have suffered it with them through the earlier books) has happened all in one brief, crushing moment, where in reality it has been spread out over 40 years. For them, there has been time to come to some sort of terms with it all and move on, even if only to the next crisis. For Del, it’s all happened to him at once and I doubt he’s had time to work through any of it. That’s why he takes the action he does at the end of the book, full of anger and also confusion I think, and it works perfectly. It’s probably also the beginning of some healing of all the pain, so it will good to see where his character goes in the aftermath of that.
Apparently, Catherine’s next Skolian book is to be called Carnelians. “It's another stand-lone, like Diamond Star. However, it fits in with Diamond Star and another book called The Ruby Dice, because all three [sic] involve the same characters and universe.” (Catherine Asaro on Paraoddity)
Firstly, I’m not sure what the third book mentioned here is as Catherine has only named two, but I’m not sure that I care. More Del, more Kelric, more Jai. Yay, I’m going to be happy (even if that whole anxiety thing happens again). But my real point is that I can see Del needing another book. His story doesn’t feel finished here. This chapter of it is, but he’s still got growing up and healing to do, probably quite a lot of both, and his character arc has plenty more places to go. But now that I have finished the book, I find that I do like him. I’m well established in his corner and I want to see him do that growing and become the man he can be. He’s made mistakes, but he learns from them and I want to see that keep happening. (Although a bit from Kelric’s point of view, to see his real feelings for Del, not his always stoic reactions as interpreted by Del in his frustration and anger, would be good too.)
One other small comment – it was nice to have an aspect of the family tree that has always been confusing finally explained. Maybe in the next book we could have an update of the family tree and the timeline (with the “location” of the newer books added to it ).
This is a slightly jointed review – I apologise. I started with a bang, then rather ran out of steam. Rather than leaving the draft sitting around for months, I decided to post what I had, so here you are. I hope it was interesting and/or useful.
Skolian Saga, Book 13 (in publication order)
Qualifies for: 100+ Reading Challenge
Skolian Saga (in publication order):