Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro

The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro
Published: Tor, 2000
Series: Book 6 of the Saga of the Skolian Empire
Awards Won: Nebula

The Book:

Kamoj Argali is the young ruler of an impoverished province on a backward planet. To keep her people from starving, she has agreed to marry Jax Ironbridge, the boorish and brutal ruler of a prosperous province. But before Argali and Ironbridge are wed, a mysterious stranger from a distant planet sweeps in and forces Kamoj into marriage, throwing her world into utter chaos.” –WWEnd.com

I read the first novel of this series, Primary Inversion, about fifteen or so years ago.  Since then, I have read Catch the Lightning (I think not long after it came out), and have wandered away from the series since. My tastes have diverged from science fiction romance, but I figured the 2014 challenges were a good opportunity to check out the Nebula Award winner of the series, The Quantum Rose.

The Book:

The novels that I’ve read of the Skolian Saga seem to stand alone fairly well as independent stories, but I believe it helps to be already familiar with the universe. In the case of The Quantum Rose, the mysterious stranger explains the lay of the galaxy to his young bride, so it is possible to understand the wider political situation without having read previous novels. All the same, I think it would help to already be invested in the situation between the Skolian Empire, the Traders, and the Allied Worlds of Earth.  While most of the story is driven by a romance on a backwater world, there is a return to interplanetary politics in the latter part of the novel.

Most of the novel is driven by a pretty conventional fantasy-style romance, where some of the science fictional elements enforce various romance clich├ęs.  For instance, the physical beauty of the lead characters—as well as the submissiveness of the heroine and the dominance of the male villain—are the result of genetic engineering.  There are also other standard romance elements to the story: a love triangle, a heroine who feels compelled to marry for the good of her people, and a traumatized hero in need of sexual healing. On an interesting note, though, the interactions of this particular love triangle mirror quantum scattering theory, which is explained in more detail in an essay after the novel. I thought that was a neat idea, but it didn’t help the fact that the romance was extremely predictable.

The novel was definitely a light read, but there were things I enjoyed along the way.  The main characters were fairly likeable, and the plot moved along at a nice clip.  Along with the romance, there was also a fair amount of action (occasionally involving Kamoj being kidnapped).  In the setting, I thought it was fun seeing how Kamoj’s home world had adapted old concepts into new social constructs, where they no longer really understood the original meanings.  I think this novel would probably be more suited to the tastes of romance fans (or science fiction romance fans) than it was to mine, but I still found it to be a pleasant story to read.  

My Rating: 3/5

The Quantum Rose tells the story of a young female ruler on a backwater world, who is swept off her feet by an off-worlder telepath of the Skolian Empire’s ruling family.  I think The Quantum Rose stands alone well enough to be read outside the series (though it does contain spoilers of previous novels), but some familiarity with the general setup of the universe would come in handy.  The story is mostly a conventional sort of romance, so I think it would probably fall more into the tastes of romance fans.

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