Star Trek
Rihannsu Omnibus
The Bloodwing Voyages

Author: Diana Duane with Peter Morwood
Pocket Books
RRP: 11.99, US $16.00, Cdn $21.00
ISBN-13: 978 1 4165 2577 6
ISBN-10: 1 4165 2577 7
Available 01 January 2007

It is often said that the right person in the right place can change an empire; such a person is Commander Ael t'Rllaillieu, Captain of the Rihannsu warship
Bloodwing. To the Federation she is an enigma, a Romulan Commander who is willing to put truth and honour above the needs of the Empire. When she discovers that the Empire is nearly ready to deploy a weapon, which will destabilise not only her own people but potentially both the Klingon Empire and the Federation, she seeks out the one man she can trust, Captain James T. Kirk. What starts as a mission to destroy a single station leaves Ael with a price on her head and the threat of an all out war between the Romulan Star Empire and the Federation...

Rihannsu: The Bloodwing Voyages by Diane Duane and Peter Morwood is a collection of the, previously published, first four books in this series including My Enemy, My Ally, The Romulan Way, Swordhunt and Honor Blade. The whole lot runs to about seven hundred and seventy-five pages, which includes the thank you stuff, the main body of the book, a glossary and an afterward. As you can image this makes for a real brick of a book. However, amount does not necessarily equate to quality.

The first thing you have to understand is that the first book in this series was published in nineteen eighty-four, three years before the start of The Next Generation, which did much to expand the Romulan's culture and back-story. Therefore, the stories cannot be considered canon which, to be honest, is not really a problem. What divergence there is is mostly minor, if you ignore the latter part of the story.

The first story, My Enemy, My Ally (published in 1984), comes out as the strongest in the book. It's a relatively straight forward adventure story, full of intrigue and space battles, so beloved of the Pocket Book series. Ael is introduced as a woman who, due to her high moral values, is quickly falling out of favour with the increasingly young and aggressive new regime which is taking root in the Empire. Duane serves her new creation well, making Ael a strong character, with her own voice, more than a match for Kirk. Her motivation for the betrayal of her own people is well thought out and plausible, allowing the reader to view her as a sympathetic character. Duane likewise has a good ear for the vocal nuisances of Kirk, McCoy and Spock. So, ok, it's not a particularly deep book but is very enjoyable nonetheless.

It's strange, you would think that the same author, writing in the same series would produce continuity of style and form, but in Bloodwing this is not the case. The second book, The Romulan Way (published 1987), is a very different piece: Part Romulan history, and sociological examination, and part spy story.

Always a fan of strong female characters, Duane introduces us to Arrhae ir-Mnaeha t'Khellian who, in reality, is the deep undercover sociologist and spy Terise Haleakala-LoBrutto. Having lost touch with the Federation Dr McCoy is sent to discover if Terise has gone native.

Once again, as a stand alone novel, this would have been a delight to anyone who love fictitious histories and languages - though there is so much of this that there is little room to really expand Terise's story, leaving it a bit weak and threadbare. There is a veritable llheri'sian of tongue twisting names and sentences, which I'm sure were a delight to create but makes the book a bit heavy going unless you're a real lover of everything Romulan.

The last two books Swordhunt and Honor Blade (both published in 2000) are run into one, and when you start reading you understand why - as both books consist of little more than a series of meetings, some of which have some sort of conclusion, whereas others just happen with little or no impact on the overall narrative.

True, we are introduced to the continuing problems besetting the Empire, squeezed as it is between the Federation and the Klingon Empire; the internal strife of open revolution, for which Ael has become the focus; and, lest I forget, the possibility of a second Romulan war. But why it took Duane so long to come to the point is a mystery.

The last part of the book is so slow in getting to anything which would resemble tension that the moment has long since gone. Given the content of the story these books could have easily be condensed into one.

The series concludes in The Empty Chair, where hopefully Duane will pick up the pace.

Charles Packer

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