The Radiant Seas: Better than previous books

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Radiant Seas by Catherine Asaro science fiction book reviewsThe Radiant Seas by Catherine Asaro

The Radiant Seas is the direct sequel to Primary Inversion, Catherine Asaro’s debut novel which introduces her Skolian Empire. Readers should note that the book Catch the Lightning was published between Primary Inversion and The Radiant Seas, its sequel. If you’ve just read Primary Inversion (which you need to read before picking up The Radiant Seas), I advise skipping Catch the Lightning for now (or forever). This review will contain spoilers for Primary Inversion.

The Radiant Seas begins a short time before Primary Inversion ends — as Sauscony (from the Skolian Empire) and Jaibriol (from the Eubian Empire) are escaping the Skolian imperial palace by putting their ship into inversion and disappearing. Everyone thinks that Sauscony was chasing Jaibriol (they’re supposed to be enemies) and that they died during the inversion attempt but, in reality, they survived inversion, got married on the ship, and were dropped off on an uninhabited planet which they named Prism. There they started a family.

This story spans a couple of decades as hostilities between the Skolian and Eubian empires escalate. Each blames the other for their heir’s supposed death. There is lots of political intrigue as rulers and politicians with agendas plant spies, learn the secrets of their friends and enemies, threaten to talk, blackmail each other, try to ally with Earth, etc. These are interspersed with domestic family scenes during which we learn a lot about Sauscony’s and Jaibriol’s extended families (e.g, Althor, Kurj, Viquara, Quaelen, Dehya, etc.). Notably, we get a lot of introspection from Kurj who is devastated by Sauscony’s “death.” He develops quite a bit over the course of the novel and actually becomes somewhat likeable, or at least understandable.

There are skirmishes, explosions, implosions, captures, assassinations, torture, rescues, and major sacrifices. Important characters die. Meanwhile Sauscony and Jaib are quietly raising and educating their children on that lonely planet… until they are suddenly forced to return. Then the Radiance War begins.

The Radiant Seas takes a while to get going. I didn’t feel invested in the story until about halfway through when Soz and Jaib return from Prism. But, Asaro uses that slow period to provide details about her world and its characters that greatly improve upon the world-building we’ve seen in the previous two novels (if we’re going in publication order). I came out of this book feeling like I understood Asaro’s world and characters a lot better. The writing is also better and the plot is noticeably tighter and more complex in The Radiant Seas compared to Primary Inversion and Catch the Lightning. It helps that the romance was not the focus, as it was in the previous novels because I never believed in those insta-love mind-meld romances. Unfortunately, though, I’m still not too fond of any of Asaro’s characters, even Soz and Jaib, which is a definite impediment to my enjoyment of the story.

I continue to listen to the audiobook version of this series which is narrated by Anna Fields. I don’t like her voice for Jaib and some of the other men, and I think I can sometimes here other faint sounds in the background of her recording, but that doesn’t detract too much from the production. The production isn’t great, but it’s fine for people like me who like to do most of their reading in audio format. The Radiant Seas is 15.5 hours long.

I liked the ending of The Radiant Seas. It’s left open and I want to know what happens next. I hope I’ll find out in a later installment.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. “…I advise skipping Catch the Lightning for now (or forever).”

    I almost snorted coffee out my nose. :)

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