Epiphyte Book Review up to review index
1998 Nebula final ballot

The Last Hawk

by Catherine Asaro

hardcover edition

Kelric Valdoria loses everything in the first chapter of Catherine Asaro's The Last Hawk. He was a powerful telepath, an elite space fighter pilot, and the potential heir to an interstellar empire. Then his spacecraft is shot down and crashes on the planet Coba. His ship is destroyed, brain damage impairs his telepathy, and the Cobans, fearing imperial attention, imprison Kelric on their planet.

Coban society is severely matriarchal, and the only path to power for a man is to play Quis in the service of the ruling women. Quis is a complex three-dimensional dice game, the universal obsession on Coba. By modelling concepts and situations in its patterns, Quis functions as a communications network, political battleground, and racial memory. Kelric's profound talent for the game makes him a precious commodity, sought after by the most powerful women in Coba. His influence in the Quis tips the balance of power from one corner of Coba to another until he finally shatters that balance.

Kelric has an unlikely combination of gorgeous good looks and strategic brilliance -- imagine Kevin Sorbo falling out of the sky to become the world's greatest living chess grandmaster -- but he's an unexpectedly vulnerable character. For most of the story, Kelric is secluded from mainstream Coban society in one way or another, but the characters who touch his life and the ongoing struggles modelled in the Quis give both Kelric and the reader an idea of the world outside.

Beyond the gimmick of gender role reversal, Asaro depicts the edges of an interesting and genuinely different society. This is the third book in her Skolian Empire series, but it is self-contained and stands well on its own. The Last Hawk is an absorbing story of romance and power that will appeal to fans of Anne McCaffrey and Sharon Shinn.

-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
January 1998

hardcover edition
Publisher: Tor
Date: November 1997
ISBN: 0-312-86044-7
Binding: hardcover
Pages: 447
Price: US $25.95, Canada $35.95

  up to review index
Sep 2001 / CMS