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Review of THE SUNDERING STAR by Janny Wurts

the sundering star

Opening note, The Sundering Star can only be purchased directly from the author’s website https://www.paravia.com/JannyWurts/bo…

One might be forgiven, reading the first few paragraphs of “The Sundering Star”, that you had mistakenly picked up some sci-fi novella reminiscent of “Star Trek”, rather and a book that is intricately related to author Janny Wurts’ seminal “Wars of Light and Shadow” Series.

But rest assured, dear readers, if you were looking for that sort of book – one that formed part of the “Wars of Light and Shadow” universe, you were not in the wrong place.

Jaw proceeding to swiftly hit the floor moment when I learned that “The Sundering Star” is set approximately 20,000 YEARS PRIOR TO the events of “Wars of Light and Shadow”!!!

In the novella, Wurts whisks us off to a place where Scathac, a world separate from that of Athera in the main series, exists. The planet of Scathac itself is painted by the author as a very bleak place, almost uninhabitable, deathly blazing hot in the day and frigid at night, where malnourished animals roam amongst volcanic ridges and flowing lava.

But one thing this seemingly barren and inimical environment has is precious minerals. The minerals are utilized in building ships capable of light speed. Thus Scathac becomes a highly strategically important location.

These minerals are of course, being extremely valuable, subject to those who want to exploit them. A mysterious and reclusive tribe native to Scathac, who inhabits the planet, are, at first, thought to be primitive, and merely a speed bump for mega trade organizations such as PanTac. PanTac is the group who capitalizes and exploits the minerals from Scathac.

PanTac has been created via the amalgamation of two other governments outside Scathac. PamTac has been involved in a long conflict with two competing governments.

The space military and intelligence entity Worldfleet, enforces PanTac’s mandate of mining anything useful from Scathac. A small mining outpost staffed mostly by miners, is maintained by Worldfleet on Scathac.

Susan Amanda McTavish is a young high-flyer in Worldfleet, who has passed all their rigorous background checks and biometric assessments. At odds perhaps with much of their mandate, Worldfleet claims to value integrity and honesty above all else (the reader must suppose that only applies WITHIN the organization, and not necessarily to outsiders).

So that vaunted high moral standard, somehow doesn’t preclude Worldfleet from being PanTac’s henchmen, and also from conducting numerous clandestine operations, that appear decidedly in the purpose of self-interest.

McTavish’s capabilities soon get the attention of the upper echelon of Worldfleet, for a specific purpose.

“The surgical mind unveiled by her psych tests brought a specialist’s assignment to Cultural Liaison. There, her alert manner and linguistic fluency drew the acquisitive notice of Covert Intelligence.”

But McTavish is a spy within a spy, and when Worldfleet dispatches her on a secret mission to seek terms with the native tribe on Scathac, and relocate them off-planet due to the threat of impending disaster, she discovers there is more to the mission than meets the eye. Worldfleet believes the tribal people of Scathac have magic, which of course Worldfleet also wants at their disposal.

Yet, McTavish’s real name is actually Jessain, and she is a Koriani sorceress, sent by her superiors, who desire access to the tribal magic too.

Looming large, and ominous, is a newly created, diabolical weapon that can destroy worlds, trained on Scathac.

And Jessain, and the tribes on that planet, are squarely in its sights.

In just 25 pages, which for many sci-fi or fantasy books is merely a chapter, Wurts, once more, accomplishes the seemingly impossible, and makes us care deeply about a character’s fate. And it’s not an easy character, in my opinion, to care about, at first glance.

Of course, my viewpoint is slightly tainted because of what I have learned thus far of the Koriani in the main series, and from other novellas relating to the main series that I have read. Even though, at this point in the history of the enchantresses, Jessain makes them sound much more benevolent than my other reading of them.

Nevertheless, even though Jessain’s mission from the Koriani seems mostly one of mercy, even humanitarian, there is the underlying usury that seeps through to cloud the reader’s insight into Jessain’s motives. The very implication of being a ‘spy’ normally can imply something potentially sinister.

But we soon learn that Jessain has in fact far exceeded the Worldfleet standards for integrity. She is much more than just an ambitious Worldfleet officer. She is much more than a scheming Koriani.

She is a wonderful, complicated, fascinating character, torn between multiple objectives, who is faced with an earth-shattering, convoluted decision, and impossible moral dilemma, that puts much more than her very life at stake. Wurts’s makes us care about Jessain personally, as much as the decision in front of her, because of the author’s fantastic characterization.

I won’t say more about the tribal characters that appear in the book, but rest assured, they too are extremely well drawn.

If you read enough of Wurts’ books in the “Wars of Light and Shadow”, certain themes, like empathy and justice will be extremely prevalent, and overarching. Another theme one may find in Wurts’ books are those of choice, and free will.

In Sundered Star, the protagonist Jessain is confronted with choice on an immeasurable scale. That is the main theme of the book: making the choice that does the greatest good, or perhaps – though it can appear as the same thing – merely the least harm.

Wurts’ writing continues to be transcendent, and truly I go to some other place in my mind whenever I get to lose myself in her prose again.

“The stars blazed down, pinprick cold, on a hostile landscape, veiled under darkness….gusts rolled down off the volcanic heights, bitter and burning with chill…At each step she felt Scathac itself rejected her trespassing presence.”

The uniqueness of the worldbuilding in this novella is that we plainly read a sci-fi novel that is directly connected to what seems to be, at first blush, a high fantasy series.

We are provided a brief look into Worldfleet, what its mission is, and its structure. We are treated to things such as compass with satellite tracking, space rockets, starships, mechanized all-terrain vehicles, and more that squarely placed “The Sundered Star” as in the sci-fi genre.

In an alternate world, with characteristic beautiful, evocative, uniquely lush and lyrical prose, incredible characterization, intrigue, advanced technology, moments of poignancy, danger, despair, tragedy, and ultimately hope, Wurts takes readers of her main series far, far back into time and space. Long before humans came to Athera, and the Mistwraith’s geas settled, and two opponents, one representing Light, the other Shadow, grappled, with the fate of humankind in the balance.

Readers of this book who have read the “Wars of Light and Shadow” MAY discover some absolutely startling reveals that will be highly relevant for the main series.

Reading this book is a watershed moment for me, as I truly begin to slowly understand, in reading this novella, a sci-fi book, just how massive, daunting, and wondrously staggering the worldbuilding is that Janny Wurts has created for the “Wars of Light and Shadow”.

I absolutely can’t wait to read and understand even more.

Read Some of Our Other Reviews of Janny Wurts Work

Review – GRAND CONSPIRACY by Janny Wurts

Review- BLACK BARGAIN by Janny Wurts

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