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Schism : Part One of Triad by Catherine Asaro
Review by Barry Newton / Gayle Surrette
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765309513
Date: 01 December, 2004 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Schism is the most recent of Catherine Asaro?s tales of the Skolian Empire, and its ruling Ruby dynasty. Part one of the dyadic novel Triad, Schism lays background for the war between the Eubian Aristos and the Empire of Skolia which has been chronicled in nine stories to date. Eube and Skolia are homes to complementary, yet divergent branches of humanity. The Skolians are highly empathic, developing a technological society, which prized individuality. The Eubians operate a slave economy; their Aristo ruling class deriving sadistic pleasure from the pain of others. For this, the psionic Skolians serve best of all.

In a complex, multithreaded plot, Althor Valdoria, a third-year cadet at the Dieshan Military Academy, lands on his feudal home world, Lyshriol, to visit his family?and to fetch his sister. Sauscony, at seventeen, has been admitted to the Academy on the basis of her unprecedented preliminary test scores and her noble bloodline. Her empathic abilities position her as a possible heir to the Imperator, and her advanced training has become a matter of some urgency.

As always in this series, Asaro writes with emphasis on family. Events of huge portent are reflected in their effect on individuals, and the emotional responses of their family members. Sauscony?s selection as an academy cadet, for example, creates an unwelcome rivalry with her brother, who was previously the only evident heir to their half-brother Kurj, the Imperator. Althor represses his attraction to Shannon, who closely resembles a recent lover.

Schism stands well as a novel in its own right, but is a welcome addition to the Saga of the Skolian Empire. Highly recommended.

Impressions of a first time C. Asaro reader:

I'd never read anything by Catherine Asaro until I read Schism. It's not like I hadn't heard of her writing, in fact, I'd even bought one of her books years ago but for one reason or another it never migrated to the top of the 'read me' stack.

Schism is Part One of Triad but the sixth novel in her Skolian Empire series. You don't need to have read other books in this universe to understand this book. The story starts out slowly introducing you to the characters, the world, the empire and it's key players. And it's interesting. The world of Lyshriol is lush and very different from Earth but you can see it in your mind's eye as it's laid out before you. I wish I could say the same about the characters. Reading Schism is a bit like reading a Russian novel everyone has several names depending on who is referring to them. The Bard of Lyshriol is called Eldrinson, Eldri, Eldrin, King of Lyshriol. I had to keep checking the list of characters in the back of the book to figure out who I was reading about. Since several of the characters also looked like each other there was even more confusion.

A schism is a breaking into factions. Eldrinson's family is fractured. Some of his children have left the planet to train as warriors at the military academy, one to get married, and one is preparing to leave to study at a university, one wants to search out his genetic group in the hidden mountains of Lyshriol. Eldrinson is a patriarch and tries to control his children and keep them safe. He disowns one of his sons because he'll take his daughter to the military academy over his protests. When a younger son runs away thinking the family squabble is all his fault, Eldrinson pursues him and is captured by an Aristo looking for a psychic provider to torture.

Throughout the book, I found myself getting frustrated with these characters. I think most of them needed a good dose of common sense. But, for a writer to get me to care enough for the characters to actually wish I could beat them with a 'clue' stick means that I have to give Schism a hearty recommendation. The book is long with lots of texture and detail and could be probably one third the size if plot was all that mattered but you need this size to support the examinations of the relationships between and among the various characters.

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