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The Quantum Rose
Catherine Asaro
serialized in Analog (May, June, and July/August issues)

The Quantum Rose
Catherine Asaro
Catherine Asaro is a physicist at Molecudyne Research. She earned her PhD in chemical physics from Harvard, and a BS from UCLA. She also writes science fiction, a blend of hard SF with space adventure. Her debut novel, Primary Inversion, is in its second printing, Catch the Lightning won the 1997 Sapphire Award, and The Last Hawk is a Nebula nominee along with her novella, "Aurora In Four Voices" (Analog, Dec 98). The books are stand-alone novels, but take place in the same universe. Her husband, John Cannizzo, is the proverbial NASA rocket scientist, and an excellent resource for a writer of romantic space adventure!

Catherine Asaro Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Radiant Seas
Excerpt: Primary Inversion
Excerpt: Catch the Lightning
Excerpt: The Last Hawk

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jeri Wright

On an obscure and almost forgotten world of the Skolian Empire, where legends of past wonders contrast harshly with the constant struggle for survival, a stranger's whim saves a young woman from one unwelcome marriage by plunging her into another.

Fans of Catherine Asaro's Skolian Empire novels are in for a treat when The Quantum Rose appears as a three-part serialization in Analog's May, June, and July/August issues and from Tor in 2000. As with the other novels in the series, The Quantum Rose is a stand-alone. It is not necessary to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one, though it is interesting to see how the characters fit into the overall picture.

Kamoj Quanta Argali, governor of the Argali Province, has been contracted to Jax Ironbridge, governor of the neighbouring Ironbridge Province, since childhood. It is a matter of custom and practicality. Argali is impoverished, even dying, after seasons of drought and famine, and the long killing winters. Jax's corporation, or dowry, is the largest in the northern provinces, and the merger with him offers Argali's best hope of survival. Kamoj accepts her duty, but fears his cruelty, both for herself and for her people.

An unexpected offer from the mysterious outlander called Havyrl Lionstar shakes Argali to its very foundations. He offers wealth such as Kamoj has never seen; by tradition and law, she cannot refuse. Despite the legends associated with the stranger, stories hinting at otherworldly origins and a face so horrible he is only seen masked, she is relieved at her escape from Jax.

Kamoj finds the legends to be based on fact. The staggering wealth that made up his dowry, which Argali could not have matched even by beggaring itself, is as nothing to him. Havyrl does come from another world, and some of his abilities are astounding. He has an ability to read her thoughts and feelings. He lives in a ruined palace made new again by ancient machinery that hasn't been understood by her people for generations. His people have medical technology so advanced that it seems like magic.

Yet none of this astonishes Kamoj as much as the man himself. A man with immense power, yet great kindness. A man whose sleep is interrupted by horrible nightmares, yet who does not strike out at others to relieve his own pain. The bond between the two of them is of a type that Kamoj had not even dared hope for, and of a strength that she could not even have imagined. When Jax Ironbridge strikes back to reclaim the woman he believes to be his rightful property, this bond will be her only protection against ties of culture and tradition.

The Quantum Rose is a science fiction romance; a blend I particularly enjoy. I am strongly drawn to both the world-building aspects (piecing together the world and the culture) and the romance between Vyrl and Kamoj, two vulnerable people who find something they need in each other. The relationship is the heart of the story, yet at the same time Catherine Asaro creates a unique and intriguing world with much to interest me. So much of the culture and the people comes across in short sketches and images, and I found the speculation about the origins of the settlement on Balumil both fascinating and an intricate fit with the individual story being told.

Kamoj's character was somewhat problematic for me. She is not the kick-ass kind of heroine I've come to expect, and even though her attitudes are explained not only by culture but also by genetic tinkering, I have a hard time with a heroine who waits for the man to rescue her. I loved the novel, and I did enjoy her, but I also wanted to shake some sense into her more than once. It was good to see that while she made it hard for him, Vyrl refused to give up. (The same thing could be said in reverse, as well, but perhaps I expect more of female characters. What can I say?)

The Quantum Rose is thought-provoking, entertaining, and very, very enjoyable. Asaro begins with interesting scientific and cultural speculation, and then draws in the reader by making the story human and personal for a most satisfying read.

Copyright © 1999 Jeri Wright

Jeri is a voracious reader who believes that paradise could well be a quiet afternoon, unlimited chocolate, and a novel to lose herself in. She reads and reviews all types of fiction, and enjoys sharing her life long passion for books with like-minded readers.

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