"Homo homini lupus" (Man is wolf to another man): the initial quote of the book is, in my opinion, the key to reading, the backbone of the themes most represented in the novel. Everyone exploits others for their own objectives, which are rarely clear, especially those of Captain Lee, a fascinating figure cloaked in mystery whose intuitions are the driving force of her actions engulfing things and people in unlikely scenarios. And as a reader I could be the last victim of this woman's seduction powers: who is she? What are her interests? Those who find themselves in her crosshairs feel trapped and those who are ignored by her seem to seek her; a complex woman who reveals herself, gradually, page after page.
The character of Captain Lee has a past that cannot be healed and that pushes her to be always on the move. Her sense of duty moves guides her towards the issue of social differences, in favour of the weakest, but her many burdens lead her to be alone and lonely. Despite supporting her most sincere friends, she does not accept the interference in her personal space that she considers inviolable and untouchable by friends and relatives, who ultimately accept her as she is. It’s only when she meets Cohen that something changes in her.
This novel has as many characters as it has locations: each planet has social, economic and political stratifications that recall eras such as feudalism or nineteenth century's pomp. Whilst the planets boast advanced technologies, the legacy of these historical periods remains in the language: governors or executives, address each other with the title of Lord, Lady. In some planets, clothing also follows those styles, as does etiquette. The social stratification is undermined by the internal struggles due to the class differences; the most extreme fringes unite in rebel groups but even in this case nothing is ever as it seems.
Throughout the narrative, the plot will follow the events and intrigues of the Kappa Corporation, the Alliance, the Union and the Empire. I was impressed by the way power is arranged in the Imperial Court and salons which is the preserve of women, wives of dignitaries, dukes, skilled and fine strategists; each weapon in their arsenal, including beauty and aptitude for sex, is used to reach their goals. The women steal secrets and information, are trained at the Court and can manipulate the opinion of their husbands who will then decide the fate of the inner and outer planets. The mixture of space, futuristic technology and dynamics that go beyond time limits has won me over: despite technological advances there are tensions that are inherent in the nature of mankind, like the power struggle: some take advantage of others, some stand up for justice and want to fight to restore the balance of economic and social equalities. There are planets that do not have primary goods and those who are trying to gain power by pitting the factions against each other. The situation is complex, with internal struggles and external challenges, decisions and truths which are difficult to accept: will those in charge be able to understand who is the real enemy and how to deal with them?
The author uses a reference style in regard to narrative patterns and suggestions on which she grafts her own originality, guided by maturity and awareness, managing to describe a world in turmoil. The settings are varied and detailed: in this first volume, a great importance is given to the construction of the world created by the author, with descriptions but also many moments that help reconstruct the history of the various planets, their social hierarchy and the past of the various characters. The protagonists gradually reveal themselves, some appear more humane, others reveal an ambitious nature, are career-driven and ruthless. Cohen and Captain Lee stand out among everyone else, but they are not the only ones: I enjoyed David, Michael, Prince Max, characters that certainly intrigued me; since the political game is the focus of the plot, there are fewer moments of intimacy or leisure for these characters, but the glimmer that the author opens on them and on the world they live are believable and compelling. Even in seemingly stasis moments, these characters can never quite relax, they are always vigilant and make sure that the situation never degenerate; fun is short lived. Yet, I could not help but wonder: who is Elizabeth really when she removes- if she really will - her armour? It’s easy for her to take her clothes off, since sex is also a mere tool in her skillful hands, but what if she was really naked? A woman who fights against the "slavery of thought and action", but has a soul hurting because of personal loss? What did she really go through in her past?
In the last chapters, the threat to integrity, to the core of identity as a species, unites all the factions involved and is unsettling: a truth that cannot be divulged in order to avoid the collapse of society. Nothing is ever what it seems. With a style capable of recreating a new world and above all a new humanity that address important issues, the author takes us into a science fiction novel, the first volume of a series that promises to be exciting.