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The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword
by Jack Campbell (John G. Hemry)
Ace Books; $26.95, 369 pp
Published: October 2014

Sometimes the best defense is a strong offense; but there’s another saying: if it looks too easy, it’s probably a trap. Both of these prove true in spades when The Free and Independent Midway Star System launches an attack against Syndicate-controlled Ulindi.

After barely managing to fend off an attack lead by one of the Syndicate’s deadliest CEOs, President Gwen Iceni and General Artur Drakon, themselves former CEOs who rebelled against the ruthless oppression they were required to inflict on others, are trying to help other planetary populations gain freedom.  Some planetary systems are actively appealing to Midway, others seem on the verge of declaring independence and risking harsh reprisal. The Syndicate has been cutting losses, leaving devastation in their wake. So when Gwen and Drakon obtain information that the Syndicate’s presence on Ulindi is vulnerable to a strike mission, they plan accordingly, only to discover, far too late, that the leaked information had been a lure, and even more vital information had been withheld.

Great characters and gripping action kept me enthralled from start to finish. The author reveals a bit of Roh Morgan’s past, and she plays a pivotal role, sent as a solo agent to commit sabotage and disrupt the Syndicate power base. Another character reminded me strongly of Bill Mumy’s Lennier on Babylon 5 in one critical scene. Can you spot it? Some scenes are very moving. I loved when an exhausted Artur Drakon talks to survivors of the forces levied against his battalions – that’s probably my favorite part of this story.

If this hasn’t been mentioned in previous reviews, kudos to Campbell/Hemry for depicting men and women as human beings, not stereotypes. And thanks too for the humor – I was sputtering with laughter at some of the exchanges, especially when Marphissa, Diaz, and Bradamont are dealing with a damaged battleship. 

Echoes of Arthurian legend reverberate strongly in this magnificent series, and it is fascinating to see how elements of the old story play out in new ways. There have been so many versions over the years, from the old French lays to T.H White’s tragi-comedy (only the independent children’s book The Sword in the Stone is comic; The Once and Future King is relentlessly tragic), from Mists of Avalon to Mercedes Lackey’s Gwenhwyfar, even a little known but lovely homage by Adrienne Martine-Barnes called The Dragon Rises. So far, I like what Hemry has done tremendously, and I hope he continues to redeem the legend and break fresh ground. Click here for a review of The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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