Having finally arrived on Kutath during the course of Shon'jir, Sten Duncan's 'coming of mri' has been accomplished, but getting a planet-full of mri used to a human who two mri have accepted as one of them? That takes some time to achieve, and that's how this book begins, along with that pesky armada of human/regul allies arriving to disturb the peace.
Although some people may have been perturbed by the last book's inclusion of vacant (yet habitable) planets leading to Kutath, I really didn't think it was that sinister. I realize in this sci-fi universe, things might not work under the same rules as our universe, but there are planets capable of life that simply have no lifeforms adrift in our universe. Finding several in a row in a universe capable of intergalactic travel might be eerie, but the way that it was emphasized in this book was a bit out of hand, in my opinion.
The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'When the Mri, a proud and noble race of warriors serving as mercenaries in exchange for a planet to call home, confront the human enemies of their employers, they encounter a method of warfare alien to their system of honor. No match for the Mri one to one, despite their similar physiology, the humans fight without honor, driving the Mri to extinction with superior numbers and firepower. Both the humans and the regul - former employers of the Mri whose trade disputes with humans sparked the war in which the Mri were slaughtered - see them as nothing more than professional warriors, the most dangerous killers in the galaxy. They take no prisoners, they have no fear of death, they keep the company of dangerous beasts. And yet there is a deep and powerful truth at the heart of Mri culture, hidden even to the warriors, who are the hand of contact with the outside world. True secrets of Mri culture have never been known to the outside, until one human being makes direct, personal contact. To understand their ways, he will have to become more Mri than human....'
We learn some interesting factoids about Reguls in this book. From previous books, I've learned Regul elders are the only valuable Reguls- if they are Regul young, and remain sexless (yep, that's a thing) they can be killed/neglected with almost entire impunity. Regul young are almost like drones of the beehive, as they still are capable of movement, so they do the physical work, while the Regul elders are almost completely reliant on their 'sleds' (think space age Hoverounds). When some unfortunate circumstances transpire in this book, some of the Regul young are spurred into their puberty/sexual maturation, which led me to this Goodreads update. Luckily for the Regul, they can choose their biological sex as they go through their maturation process, although they pretty much are only capable of 'breeding' for a short time after they hit puberty.
My relationship with Melein has been slightly ambivalent due to having no chapters written from her perspective, but with Kutath, it seems my impressions of her have improved. She seemed so soulless in the last book, but you get to see more of why she keeps that facade in this book, when tough decisions come knocking. I think of the mri, I obviously prefer Niun, as he shows the most emotion, but Melein comes a close second due to her queen-bee-ness in this book.
Kutath is as excellent as I thought it would be, but I had hoped for a bit more. Nonetheless, this series has proven itself to be an engaging science fiction expedition for those of us fascinated with alien species and diplomacy. If you find yourself craving something like epic fantasy, but set in space, look no further than The Faded Sun Trilogy.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent conclusion to an excellent sci-fi trilogy!
Content: Ages 16+ for violence, non-graphic Regul breeding, and questionable use of explosives.
Page Count: 256 pages