This imaginative science fiction novel does a nice job of exploring the difficulty of forming alliances in a climate where suspicion and backstabbing has traditionally been not only encouraged but virtually required in order to get ahead. A chilling depiction of a society where one is always being spied upon, filled with tangential references to the character who has provided fodder for excellent tales of space battles and struggles against tyrants and aliens. This novel was not quite as enthralling to me as those in the the main series and I had trouble establishing a rapport with any of the characters (although Drakon’s assistant reminded me of another frighteningly emotionless female in another science fiction series by David Drake). There were several major battles and skirmishes described with the author’s usual dexterity but the book seemed more of a transitional story than the usual rousing space adventure that I have come to expect. The major developments that end the story remind one of the cliffhanger endings that characterized several popular movie series, prompting many groans and hope that the sequel will appear quickly.
“The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight” by Jack Campbell is related to his acclaimed science-fiction series “The Lost Fleet” which has two different sets of stories but are all connected by the larger-than-life ‘Black Jack’ Geary. This particular novel addresses events in the Midway Star System that take place during the ongoing collapse of the Syndicate Empire which did not survive its encounter with the unpredictable actions of the Allliance hero, Geary. CEO Artur Drakon forms a secret and unprecedented alliance with CEO Gwen Iceni in an attempt to overthrow the representatives of the Syndicate Empire, the Internal Security Service (ISS), who are unflatteringly referred to as ‘Snakes’. Each of these two powerful people must not only orchestrate a rebellion that could only have been imagined in their wildest dreams but must contend with their preconditioned mutual distrust and fear of assassination and decide whether they can trust their closest assistants who each has a possibly divergent agenda. Even if they are successful at this endeavor, it is inevitable that there will still be an ongoing struggle for control of the star system and the battle may extend even further than they ever imagined.
TARNISHED KNIGHT follows the events in the Midway Star System during the same period as DREADNAUGHT and INVINCIBLE. For the first time, the story of the Lost Fleet universe is told through the eyes of citizens of the Syndicate Worlds as they deal with defeat in the war, threats from all sides, and the crumbling of the Syndicate empire.