It takes an excellent author to maintain a series successfully over four books but this is what R Peter Ubtrent does in this next novel in the absorbing and complex Dark Pilgrim series. And if anything, the quality goes up. The excitement continues with the Restoration now thrown into the broiling mix, working to bring down the Church of the Blessed Prophets which it sees as an “infection”. Lord Comte Mishi continues his rebellion against the tatters of the Imperium. The virus is still having a fiercely negative impact on humanity, as are the Drek and the Ynos. And Ailanthus is still fighting his fate, with an ever dwindling band of loyal supporters. He feels wholly inadequate for the responsibilities he will face as Emperor. All of the main characters reflect on what their status will be within the new order, if and when it finally comes.

This intricately constructed book has at its heart pain and relationships, and often the pain of relationships. There’s torture, both physical and emotional on a shocking scale. Trust too is an issue. It’s described as being nothing but exploitation at one point and this seems true. Alliances are brittle and self-interest is served. The galaxy seems to be wading forward into darker times. The truth concerning the history of the Dark Ages of Human Bondage emerges but as Ailanthus declares sarcastically, “Now that we’ve been enlightened, we all know better.” There seems to be no end to the darkness in sight. There is still a lot more to come in this astounding series.

Visit Peter’s website at ubtrentbooks.com.

Buy the book from Lulu.com here.

Not long ago I featured a guest post byPeter Ubtrent, a science fiction writer I admire very much. I’ve now read two more of his books and wanted to share my reviews of them with you.

First up, Seed of Power, which is the second book in the Dark Pilgrim series.Ailanthus, Tethys and their rather unlikely band of friends, having escaped from the horrific penal colony of K’ar Krack’a, begin to attempt to build new lives. But the world they find themselves in isn’t really much different, full of criminals and liars all trying to steal credits and simply survive. There is conflict and tension everywhere – between The Church of the Blessed Prophets and the struggling Imperium, between some of the various alien species, and within the Imperium itself. Too many people are after personal power or revenge. Rohini becomes a key figure in keeping the Imperium’s collapse at bay since the new Emperor is neither popular nor diplomatic. And he needs Ailanthus’ help.

The dystopian view of humanity so evident in Dark Pilgrim Rising continues in this novel, so when loyalty, courage and honesty do appear, they shine like beacons. Familiar characters are further developed and new ones introduced. Unresolved issues and hints that surfaced in the previous book are dealt with, but new ones emerge to intrigue us. Themes and subplots weave through the story, carrying us towards the exciting conclusion that leaves us wanting to continue following this imaginative and epic science fiction adventure. This talented author plunges the reader into a rich, persuasive and fascinating alternate universe. He packs more into a page in terms of linguistic ability and sheer entertainment than many authors do in an entire book.

Next comes Dark Throne. This is the third book in the absorbing Dark Pilgrim series. “I am Bhasan Volans, son of Deneb Aquila Volans, and I am the Emperor of the Imperium,” announces Ailanthus during a meeting with the Druzsni leadership. He’s only pretending at the time. Whether he is or isn’t, and whether he can or cannot bring himself to be assume this role, is the uniting theme of this book, set in a very disunited galaxy. Ailanthus feels nothing but antipathy towards the Imperium. Can he really be expected to lead it? Can he bring peace to the huge diversity of co-existing lifeforms that include humans, Kroor, Dwad Mehstiv, Ynos, Morype Slugs, H’Chalk and Druzsni. If that’s not enough, the Lord Cardinals of The Church of the Blessed Prophet continue to scheme and complicate matters in their attempts to retain control of both the Church and the Imperium. Can Ailanthus control them?

If it’s possible, I feel this book is even more neatly structured than its predecessors. It open and closes with references to the Ynos, threatened at first but posing a threat themselves at the end. There is betrayal throughout, in small and big gestures. Not only does Ailanthus face it, but he knows he will perpetrate it himself if he is to unite the warring galaxy. In the prologue we see Marines spilling out of their ship “like a virus”. Another virus runs rampant both through the galaxy and the book. The epilogue closes with the observation that humans are chaotic, but this meticulously organised and tightly constructed novel suggests the exact opposite, at least from this human author!

Do check out Peter’s website at www.ubtrentbooks.com. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but his book covers are brilliant.

Peter will be appearing on the Author Show on 22nd March. Listen out for the interview.