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Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro

1/12/2010. Contributed by Kelly Jensen

Buy Primary Inversion (The Saga Of The Skolian Empire series book 1) in the USA - or Buy Primary Inversion (The Saga Of The Skolian Empire series book 1) in the UK

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Primary Inversion (The Saga Of The Skolian Empire series book 1) by Catherine Asaro. pub: Baen, 1995. 384 pages paperback. Price: $ 5.40 (US). ISBN: 978-0-81255-023-8.

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Do you ever read the last page first? I do it all the time. A number of people give me a certain look when I admit this. You know the one. You’re giving me it right now. But really, I can’t say as it’s ever ruined a good book for me? Ursula LeGuin puts it well, ‘It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.’ Every book is a journey and when you put ten or more books together, the journey just gets longer and longer and you never want it to end.

I started reading the novels in the saga of ‘The Skolian Empire’ backwards. My introduction to the universe created by Catherine Asaro was the twelfth published novel, ‘The Ruby Dice’. Interestingly enough, that novel was also my introduction to Jaibriol III, Emperor of Eube. ‘Primary Inversion’ is the first published novel in the saga and tells the story of Jaibriol’s parents, Sauscony Valdoria and Jaibriol Qox.

‘Primary Inversion’ opens by setting the scene for intrigue, action and the proper start of a story that will takes decades and many novels to unfold. As a debut novel, it’s an astounding accomplishment. In fact, it was nominated for the 1996 Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award and placed tenth on the list for the Locus Award for Best First Novel.

Sauscony Valdoria is a Jagernaut, one of the elite soldiers of the Skolian Empire. Her chance meeting on a neutral planet with the Aristo (one of the noble born Eubians), Jaibriol Qox, kicks off a series of events that will change her life and perhaps the course of two very disparate empires. The opening is tense. Soz (Sauscony) and her team are supposed to be relaxing when they run into their opposite numbers, a team of Trader soldiers and one Aristo (Jaibriol). He looks familiar, but they cannot pin down his identity. Exposing his secret unravels Soz’s own, for the reader, and delves into considerable back story. Then the plot moves forward. From there, the book swings through the highs and lows of a soldier’s life, from a marriage proposal to a battle in space that could re-ignite the war between Skolia and Eube and forever changes the life of nearly everyone involved. The middle part of the novel is almost like an interlude where Soz deals with her past and her present losses. This is where you really learn about her character and family, motivations and ambitions. From there, the book moves on to an exciting, edge of the seat conclusion. This story kept me enthralled throughout. I don’t often forgo food for a book, but I lost hours with this one, in the best kind of way.

Part of ‘Primary Inversion’ is an oft told tale – star crossed lovers – but Catherine Asaro tells it with the compassion I expected. I have read several of her novels in this series and another and what always draws me back, besides the depth of her stories and the quality of her writing, is the emotional pull of her characters. I like a little romance with my fiction, I think it adds an all too often ignored element to the story. Love is a powerful motivator which is perhaps why so many of the great sagas start with a marriage and usually one that reaches across bloodlines, politics and, in this case, empires.

The narrative style allows the author to lay the foundations of her universe in an entertaining way. There is a lot of information and history to absorb, but it only sparks the desire to learn more about the world and the people within it. The Skolians are not set up as a shining example of good and their enemies, the Eube, are not set out to be an all encompassing evil. They are close, but chinks exist in the façade. Just as there is light in the darkness, there are always shadows in the light and they are also exposed and explored.

I have ‘Catch The Lightning’, the second novel, on my shelf and I don’t think too long will pass before I pick it up and lose yet another day to the world created by Catherine Asaro. I’ve already read ‘Diamond Star’, the latest novel in the saga and while I don’t need any more encouragement to complete my journey, it is fun to see what’s in store.

Kelly Jensen

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