Shadow Lord

Laurence Yep

reviewed by Carolyn Kaberline

Young Prince Vikram is on his way back to his home planet of Agira via the Enterprise. Far down in the line of succession he’s been sent to Earth to learn new ideas that may benefit his planet, which his father, the king, is trying to modernize. The prince, who has enjoyed fencing bouts with Sulu, requests that the helmsman accompany him to his planet while the Enterprise continues its mission of delivering medical supplies to Beta Carinae. While there, Sulu will help modernize Agira’s star charts and help cement relations between the planet and the Federation. Despite Kirk’s belief that "whoever goes will have to be able to charm a bull out of its hide," Spock, fascinated with the planet’s astronomical system, also asks to go.

Kirk finally assigns both to the task, knowing that it will be 30 days before the Enterprise will be able to return and pick up the two crewmen; thus Spock’s wisdom may be needed. The prince and his party along with the two Enterprise officers soon find themselves in the center of a bloodbath as the current ruler—the prince’s father—is overthrown and all of Vikram's brothers slaughtered. It is only through the help of a few people loyal to the prince that they manage to escape. But now they must face a torturous journey to the prince’s home city for confirmation of his lineage and help to put him on the throne. The prince, who has seen enough of the galaxy to want no part of ruling his homeland, must also be persuaded to take his rightful position as the new leader of the kingdom, a kingdom that greatly resembles Europe in the Middle Ages.

The rest of the book is a record of this journey and the prince’s realization that he can’t return to the life of ease he had before; it’s up to him to continue the modernization of his planet. As Vikram rallies forces to face Rahu, his cousin who has assumed the role of king, Spock is injured and must be left behind. And when the prince himself is unable to lead his forces into battle because of an injury, it is Sulu who must take over and face the possibility of breaking the Prime Directive.

While it is unusual to see both Spock and Sulu as the main focus of a Star Trek novel, the two carry the story well. For the most part this is a coming of age story—not just for Vikram but for Sulu as well. And as Sulu worries about some of the decisions he is forced to make to put Vikram on the throne and avoid a bloody civil war, we see him begin to question his ability to be a starship captain in the future.

In general, this is a fast paced novel with good characterization and a strong plot. The 279 pages in the paperback edition should keep the interest of all readers and leave them wanting to revisit Vikram sometime in the future to see how his attempts at modernization fare.

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