Simon R. Green,
Deathstalker Legacy
(Roc, 2003)

I have two tests for a book where I haven't read the previous books: does it stand alone with adequate and unobtrusive backstory and does it make me want to go back read the earlier books in the series. In the case of Simon R. Green's Deathstalker Legacy, the answers are a resounding yes and yes.

For 200 years, the Empire has known a golden age, thanks to the efforts of the legendary Owen Deathstalker and his companions. Unknown to the various inhabitants, however, this time of peace and prosperity is drawing to a close.

The beginning of the end happens when newly crowned King Douglas, a reluctant monarch, chooses as champion from his elite Paragons not the flashy Finn Durandel but rather Lewis Deathstalker -- homely, serious and dedicated to his work as a Paragon and keeper of the king's justice. He is as reluctant to accept the post of champion as Douglas is to accept the crown. Even so, Finn's ego is thoroughly crushed, and he sets about his self-appointed task: to topple the Empire.

Finn nearly succeeds, but the chaos he creates is nothing next to the long prophesied Terror approaching the Empire through space. The empire needs its Champion more than ever, but Lewis Deathstalker has a personal problem: he's committed treason simply by falling love.

Green keeps the action moving at a swift pace and his style is light-hearted and lively. He creates fantastic characters, among which one of my favorites is the alien, Saturday, who seems to resemble a Tyrannosaurus Rex and waxes poetic about war. The humor is well woven into the narrative, often balancing more shocking scenes and surprising the reader with incongruities. It's also nice to read a saga that doesn't take itself too seriously.

The reader gets enough backstory for the narrative to make sense, and it is well presented. The book -- and presumably, the series -- seems to be a nifty blend of the best elements of high fantasy and space opera. After reading Deathstalker Legacy I went off in search of the first book, and I anticipate happily reading the whole saga over time. I can't say that about many books that are fifth or sixth in a series. Deathstalker luck might always be bad, but its good fortune for Green's readers.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 12 July 2003

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