Author: Showandah S. Terrill
Publisher: Shorthorse Press
Unique Elements: The only male to rule Equus in 700 years
Series: Dragonhorse Rising
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Number of Pages: 316 pp.
MSRP: $28.99 HC/$9.99 Epub
Special Discount: Click Here
Purchase Sites: Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Reviewed by: Jo Ann Safranik
Final Score: 5 Moons (out of 5)
Imagine being a young man—yes, on the planet, Equus, 100 is young— content with your role as a quantum computational genius and teacher of kindergartners, and suddenly, on that 100th natal day, being declared, without warning or recourse, the absolute ruler of a sprawling galactic alliance faced with a deadly threat. Ah’Krill Ardenai Morningstar—until that fateful morning Ah’rane Ardenai Krush—has, following 700 years of rule by the priestesses of the Great House—risen to become the Thirteenth Dragonhorse, the only secular ruler the Affined Equi Worlds and the Seventh Galactic Alliance will know for 150 years.
Conscience of the King is a unique new sci-fi offering that creates fully fledged worlds full of completely believable characters attempting to live their best lives. The book is part of a series the reader will be committed to, once this first one is finished.
Newly promoted Ardenai is hosting a delegation from the non-Alliance Lebonathi worlds. Their representatives exhibit some very disagreeable habits, and have ostensibly come to present a most—by Equi standards—inappropriate gift. But what are they really after, and do they know anything of the missing Senator Konik’s whereabouts? Konik, though not Equi, has long been a trusted friend of Ardenai, the Great House, and the Alliance. Is he exactly what he’s seemed for decades, or does he harbor a cleverly hidden agenda?
The book’s conclusion, satisfying in itself, allows for a smooth segue into the next book in the series.
In addition to being an enjoyable read, this book is also a hopeful one. In this alliance of numerous planets, many of whose inhabitants are decidedly non-human, and on whose worlds cultures and customs vary dramatically, we see the perfectly reasonable and congenial ways these disparate groups of beings have come together to parley, to work—even in the close quarters of space-going vessels—to govern, and to enjoy one another’s company.
Enemies and dangerous, unsavory scenarios are believably drawn, intrigues ringing true. Wrongdoers are aware that Ardenai wields absolute authority, and brooks no nonsense—but he is also supremely intelligent, deeply knowledgeable, intuitive, kind, compassionate, and just. Only those of malicious intent need fear his power.
The author has a flawless ear for dialogue, whatever the situation, and the plausible blending of complex futuristic technologies with the agrarian ethos of Equus, the various side stories and subplots all meld seamlessly.
Connoisseurs of good fiction writing, and of science fiction in particular, will find the story addictive. Ardenai’s world—his relationships with family members and friends, their pursuits, even their meals, are so realistically and appealingly rendered that the reader is immediately held captive, and putting the book aside is like coming back from spending time with real people in a wholly physical place.
Readers who enjoy intrigue, creative problem-solving, subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) humor, clever asides, strong women characters, independence, great action sequences, and a vision of a future far in advance of where we currently are will find themselves fans of this series.
Conscience of the King is a stand-alone winner, but for enriching extra content, check out the series’ website at dragonhorserising.com. Criollo’s and Wren’s journals, the Dragonwhore pieces, and The Day the City Shook novella all add immeasurably to the saga in terms of both content and ambiance. There are even Equi recipes, adapted for Terren use! AND there is a Dragonhorse Rising Facebook page, where you can hear from and communicate with the author.
Story: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Dynamics: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Audience Fit: 4.5 Moons (out of 5.0)
Final Score (not an average): 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)