Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: DAW; 15th Annv edition (November 1, 2001)
Category(ies): Science Fiction
OK, after the Modesitt novel, this may have seemed better than it was.
The scenario? Two empires fighting across the stars. On one side, the Braxin, dominated by the tiny Braxanna elite. They live for war, with a brutal barbarian disregard for civilised norms, despite their love of art and technology. On the other side, the Azean StarEmpire, mostly human (though of a different race to the Braxin), who have been attacked by the Braxin so many times over the centuries that they now have academic disciplines devoted to determining when the Braxin will break the latest temporary peace in the otherwise eternal war.
The world building is so deft that three pages in, you already partway understand the Braxin — Friedman is utterly confident in the way that she describes both societies from inside. The story itself is of a pair of characters, one male, one female, one Braxin, one Azean, and how they are bound together in mutual hate that surely must lead to mutual destruction. Yet somehow, you understand both of them. This is a hate so deep that it is almost love, they depend on each other so much.
It is told over a long period, and we follow both of the main characters from childhood. It can be difficult at first to settle the timeline that is being followed, for although it is linear, it proceeds by fits and starts. There are points where someone sets off to do something, and the next paragraph, it's years later and the person is back.
This is first class world building. It is also a novel full of passionate emotion, with memorably larger-than--life characters.
No, on consideration, it is that good. Read it.