eDiscover is a new series on Tor.com that highlights sci-fi/fantasy titles recently brought back into print as ebooks.
Can we talk? I’ve got something of a proposal for you. It’s about the new Star Wars movies you want to produce, that trilogy that will pick up where the original left off. Now, I think you may be on to something. Star Wars is, like, Elvis huge, and I’m not opposed to the idea of more movies just on general principle. (We can all agree that some ideas should not be attempted, but this isn’t one of those articles.) The thing is, Disney, you have a LOT to choose from when it comes to Star Wars material, to the tune of what, several hundred novels, comics, games, and Holiday Specials? But I have a story for you that doesn’t come from the Extended Universe. Hear me out.
Imagine if Princess Leia, former Rebel leader, diplomat, war hero, is assassinated. Her grieving husband, Han Solo, former smuggler and war hero, sells his famous ship, the Millenium Falcon, to their daughter, Jaina. The price our heroine must pay for getting her own ship and being allowed to make her way in the galaxy as a starship captain: hunt down those responsible for her mother’s death and make them pay. So, taking on a certain long-missing Jedi as her co-pilot, she fakes her death and sets out to unravel the mystery of her mother’s killer. Meanwhile….
Wait, what do you mean, that sounds familiar? Oh yes, because I just loosely described the premise for The Price of the Stars, the delightfully awesome first installment of Debra Doyle and James D. MacDonald’s Mageworlds space opera series. And believe me, while the parallels exist, it’s an extremely entertaining read, and the start of something great on its own.
The Price of the Stars was originally published by Tor 20 years ago (and, just so we’re clear, Jaina Solo and her brother Jacen made their debut as babies two years later, in Timothy Zahn’s 1994 novel, The Last Command, making them the newcomers) and while it’s occasionally been hard to find, it’s always been one of the great modern space opera series.
The comparisons to Star Wars are easy to make. Beka Rosselin-Metadi is the grown daughter of one of the galaxy’s most famous couples. Her mother, Perada Rosselin, is the Domina of Entibor, a title made hollow following the destruction of her planet during the Magewar some decades past. Her father, Jos Metadi, is the infamous captain of the privateer ship Warhammer, given the rank of General during the Magewar. When Perada is assassinated, Jos sells her the Warhammer so she can ferret out the mastermind behind the death. She’s joined by the Professor, a man of mystery whose loyalty to her parents is unquestionable. Together, they fake Beka’s death and the destruction of the Warhammer, all so Beka can resurface as Tarnekep Portree, a male dandy with a taste for violence and a knack for killing people—the sort of person who might run in the right sort of sordid circles.
(Phase One: Star Wars homage with a noir edge. And a crossdressing heroine. Intrigue! Mystery! Murder!)
Along the way, Beka gets herself in and out of trouble, always with the Professor by her side. Then they start gathering people essential to the larger plan. Like her brother, Ari, whose current stint as a medic belies his childhood raised among the saurian-like Selvaurs of Maraghai. Llannet, a young Adept, skilled in manipulating the patterns of the universe. Jessan, a Space Force Lieutenant and minor aristocrat. With her team assembled, Beka is finally able to infiltrate all levels of society, and can finally track down the man who ordered her mother’s death.
(Phase Two: Interstellar heist! A little bit Ocean’s 11, a little bit Leverage, but with spaceships and plenty of fighting. People in disguises! Drama! Maybe a little romance! And what is the Professor’s dark secret, and how does it relate to the Magewar?)
And then they have to break into the most heavily-guarded, secure private fortress in the galaxy to extract their target. So of course everything goes wrong.
(Phase Three: All-out action. People die! Justice is met! And a greater threat is revealed! Uh-oh… cue the sequels.)
Yeah, it’s like that. In one book, Doyle and MacDonald set up the universe and story beats that fuel a seven book series published from 1992-2002. (The first three books comprise Beka’s story. #4 serves as a prequel, set during the Magewar. #5-7 spin other stories set in the same universe, fleshing out other characters and times.) The Price of the Stars is a wild ride, one which transcends its inspiration and starts kicking butt from the first page. Beka Rosselin-Metadi is a tough, resourceful, fierce heroine, both as herself and as the deadly, debonair Tarnekep Portree, and it’s her quest to avenge her mother and protect what’s left of her family that truly drives this first installment.
Witty banter, dangerous characters, clever plans that go horribly wrong at the drop of a hat, a fully-realized universe brimming with intrigue and action—it’s all here. In some ways, this has always been my favorite book of the series, and it’s obvious that the authors were having way too much fun as they wrote it.
So there you have it, Disney. There’s a story worth telling. (And since you’ve proven amenable to adapting other authors to your franchises, like Tim Powers for the Pirates of the Caribbean series, this isn’t the most outrageous thing you could consider…)
As for the rest of us, those who would rather read quality space opera, good news: The Price of the Stars is available as an ebook from all of the usual places. The authors kindly maintain a page that links to all of their books in electronic format, so drop by and see what they have to offer.
I wish to give credit where it’s due: While I may have seen the parallels and homage to Star Wars in this book, I’m not the first to say so. Other reviews went there long before me, and they also have some very good things to say about this series. Check them out.
And in conclusion, you may also enjoy this Mageworlds FAQ, again hosted by the authors.
Michael M. Jones is a writer, editor, and book reviewer. He lives in Roanoke, VA, with a pride of cats, way too many books, and a wife who occasionally steals whatever he’s reading. For more information, visit him and an ever-growing archive of reviews at Schrodinger’s Bookshelf. He is the editor of the recently-released Scheherazade’s Facade anthology.