The Star King
A DIKlassic review*
originally published on November 1, 2000
The Star King, Susan Grant’s second novel, proves that her first terrific romance, Once a Pirate, was no fluke. This is an author who writes romantic and exciting books that conjure up exotic locales and peoples. Grant is equally at home creating an advanced civilization light years away as she was conjuring up a pirate’s ship off the coast of Spain, and that’s no small feat.
When fighter pilot Jasmine Boswell is blown out of the sky by friendly fire over an Arab desert, she awakens with only haunting memories of a dream about an interlude with a beautiful man. But was it simply a dream, or was she actually transported in those terrible moments to the planet Balkanor where she rescued the Crown Prince from a certain death?
The Vash civilization has been pacifist for thousands of years, and Prince Romlijhian B’Kah has been forbidden by his father from seeking out and destroying the cult leader Sharron. But Rom believes Sharron dangerous and goes after him anyway, becomes sterile due to radiation poisoning, and loses his brother in the process. His father will not forgive him for cutting off the family’s male blood lines and he is sent into exile. Rom becomes a intergalactic smuggler, blaming himself for his brother’s death, and is haunted by the beautiful dark-haired woman whom he believes is his destiny.
In the nearly 20 years since this incident, Jasmine has married, had two children now in college, and divorced. When Earth is visited by the Vash, she decides some change is needed in her life. Though her ex-husband had managed to tamp down her spirit and her self-confidence, she talks herself onto Rom’s ship as an intermediary between American businessmen and the Vash commercial interests who traffic in salt. The beer she brings from her friend Dan’s brewery is just the icing on the cake.
When Rom sees Jas, he believes she is the woman the Great Mother sent to save him years ago. But why didn’t she finish the job? Perhaps his angel of mercy was really an angel of death. As for Jas, she is unwilling to believe her past experience was more than a dream. Their attraction is powerful, though each have different reasons for wanting to explore it. For Rom, it is about revealing secrets while for Jas it is a chance to discover whether she’s the cold fish her husband always accused her of being.
Eventually, both are able to see one another with more clarity. Rom is impressed by Jas’ skill as a pilot and by her courage in general. Jas sees beyond Rom’s arrogant good looks and sees a heroic man who risks his life to benefit others. They fall in love and Rom plans to take Jas on a sort of intergalatic Grand Tour after he takes care of some business. Though Rom’s bodyguard tries to protect Jas during her brief stay on a local planet, evil forces from the past threaten not only her safety, but the safety of the Vash civilization and quite possibly Earth as well.
The resolution of this evil and how Rom and Jas find their happily ever after is as exciting and fun as watching any of the Star Wars movies. Author Grant is masterful in her creation of the Vash culture where religion, politics, and commerce are seamlessly related. Readers will pick up subtle similarities between the upbringing of Vash royalty and some Arabic cultures, and Sharron and his cult will bring to mind the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinri Kyo. And, anyone who remembers Luke’s blindfolded laser-sword training will recognize Grant’s homage to George Lucas in the scene where Jas and Rom play a game with sens-swords in the dark.
As heroic characters, Rom and Jas simply shine. Both are complex and strong individually, but as a couple, they are fantastic. Descriptions of what Jas sees throughout her travels are extremely well done – the other-worldly is easily visual in Susan Grant’s words. There are some wonderfully funny moments as well – a hulking bodyguard with a name that is guaranteed to make you laugh, and a running gag involving beer. If you’re looking for some excitement and adventure, The Star King will provide it – in spades.
*This book just missed being a DIK but, since it’s free on all platforms, we thought we’d publish it anyway.