The first book in a space opera SF trilogy the Conquerors Saga.


Publisher: Bantam Books

Publishing year: 1995

Format: Print

Page count: 389

Humans have spread out to space and live more or less peacefully with four non-human species, Pawolians, Yycromae, Mrachanis, and Suundali, in a Commonwealth of planets. The species each have their own culture. Indeed, Yycromae were about to conquer the Mrachanis when the humans interfered. The human Peacekeepers patrol space.

One of the strongest Peacekeeper groups meets four unknown alien ships. The humans send a greeting, but without provocation the aliens attack, wiping out the force seemingly easily. Afterward, the aliens destroy every escape pod launched, slaughtering everyone. Except for one man. Commander Pheylan Cavanaugh is taken captive.

Pheylan’s father Lord Steward Cavanaugh, a former member of the Commonwealth’s Parliament, takes his son’s supposed death hard. When he tries to get Pheylan’s body back, he hears that the body and the escape pod have disappeared without a trace. He refuses to believe Pheylan is dead and his remaining children agree with him. Unfortunately, without any evidence the Peacekeeper Command must assume Pheylan is dead and so can’t look for him. The Cavanaughs’ take the matter into their own hands.

It’s very dangerous for civilian ships to go to the attack site. Cavanagh employs several former Peacekeepers, and he uses their ties and his own influence to secretly gather ships and a group of elite soldiers under false orders to go and look for his son. His other son, Aric, joins the mission even though Aric runs the Cavanagh’s business and doesn’t have any military training. Cavanagh puts one of his bodyguards, and former Peacekeeper officer, in charge. Melinda Cavanagh is a doctor and she heads to the outpost nearest the attack site and brings supplies. At the same time, Cavanagh and his bodyguards head to one of the alien Mrachani’s worlds to find out more about the mysterious attackers. The Mrachani have legends about encountering them.

The book has two main plotlines: Pheylan is a captive and is sent to a world that the attackers control. He learns a little bit about his captors’ culture and the reasons behind the attack. Of course, he tries to escape. Meanwhile, Pheylan’s dad, brother, and sister are scheming to mount a rescue operation. The senior Cavanaugh’s political enemies are watching him carefully and try to block him at every turn.

The book has many POV characters. While there are some action scenes, most of the story is politics. While a couple of main things are resolved at the end, the war is just heating up and many things are left open.

Cavanaugh and his family know that they’re potentially committing treason, but they are still determined to find Pheylan. Unfortunately otherwise, they weren’t really memorable characters.

World-building is the book’s strongest point. All the several aliens have their own cultures and customs. Many of them resent humans who the aliens think are quite imperialistic and arrogant. The humans have also a superweapon, CIRCE, which they’ve used only once and then dismantled, only to be assembled again when the Commonwealth is in grave danger. The threat of CIRCE keeps the more aggressive aliens peaceful. This is, of course, reflective of the state of the world in 1995 when the book was first published.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it when I was younger.