Once again, I'm left with the sense of
loss, how I could have read an entire book and seem to be no further
ahead in character development or story motion, except perhaps in the
last couple of pages.
What is the Soul Key? It is a shard of an orb, as shards were taken
from all the orbs in the alternate universe before they were destroyed
by the evil human empire that Spock helped to bring down. A prophecy
held that the shard would bring about destruction, so the person who
took the shards somehow crossed over to the universe we know, and hid it
in a Bajoran village, where the woman with Kira's face stole it and
destroyed the whole village in Trill/Bajor. A cruel trick played by
trying to interpret prophecy!
What does it do? We don't know, yet. Iliana Ghemor, pretending to be
Intendent Kira, tried to use it to fool the Prophets into turning her
into the Emissary of that universe, since Sisko is dead. But it didn't
work, and they healed her soul instead, instead. That could be a part of
it. By the end of the book, she has
become the "Fire" among the Ascendants, the race that wants to kill
their own gods, the prophets, as well as any others who worship them.
But how did she get there in the midst of them? The Prophets have only
ever transported a fleet of Jem'hadar ships. What makes Ghemor so
special that they could transport her to the planet they plan to stage
Before that happens, however, we get a bunch of protracted scenes
showing how insane Iliana Ghemor from our universe really is. Her part
of the story takes up as Fearful Symmetry ended, at the end of
Leave Behind. From there, she observes the state of the galaxy, tries to
take advantage of it, until she learns of Taran'atar, and is told she
might be able to use the techniques the Obsidian Order tested on
Jem'hadar at Harkoum on him. She does, successfully bonding him to her
instead of the Founders.
Then she steals the orb fragment, and waits for Taran'atar to come to
her, after which she leaves for the Alternate Universe, all of which we
saw from our perspective in Warpath and the books that preceded it. The
author even mentions the Gateway book
Demons of Air and Darkness. It's
nice to know the earlier books aren't being forgotten, when preparing
for this new war.
In the Alternate Universe, Ghemor as the Intendent gets some
superficial scenes in front of Dukat and Martok, as well as the rebels
on Terok Nor. She actually bombards the capital city of Bajor, Ashalla,
pretending the rebels did it. When she discovers Kira and Vaughn, who
transported from our universe at the end of "side 1" of Fearful
Symmetry, she pretty much destroys the sanctuary, capturing several of
I really think the mirror universe has run its course. Hopefully the
authors realize this, and have given the universe a good wringing here.
For we meet even more characters we already know from our side. The
coincidences are ludicrous, and I think the authors know it. Vaughn
comments on the likelihood of meeting Prynn, which I find doubtful, as
if he expected it. He also meets himself, a dying man, and the leaders
of the Bajoran secret religious resistance, Winn and Opaka, and Jaro
from the second season Bajoran rebellion against the Federation. Shar
also appears for a short moment! The likelihood of any of them being born
after Spock's actions in Mirror Mirror are so remote, and to find them
on Bajor is even more so. But it's something we learn to expect,
so we accept it. But now I think it's been done to death.
As for our characters, not much happens on Deep Space Nine. Ezri, Nog
and Bashir figure out how to set get the wormhole to expel them into the
Alternate Universe, but with very little effort. The alternate Iliana
Ghemor gets a crazy idea that she should make herself look like the
Intendent, too, and joins them for the ride back. They also perfect the
hand-held device that was supposed to deprogram Taran'atar, which turns
out to be useless, because he has already deprogrammed himself.
Afterwards, Kira lets him go, and he tries to make his way back to the
Founders, not realizing what happened to them, of course, in
The most interesting part of the book came from Kira and Vaughn's
interaction with the sanctuary, where Winn and Opaka keep the remaining
orb fragments, and where Vaughn is forced to kill his mirror image so that Prynn
could get away. What was that for? Vaughn seemed to understand a little,
but I don't. Was he actually supposed to become the Emmissary? Did the
Prophets want Vaughn instead of Iliana? Regardless, I don't see how that
progresses either the story of Vaughn's character, or the alternate
universe. Because the two Ghemor's ended up becoming Emissary, instead.
Nothing Vaughn did in the alternate universe made any difference, except
that he came back hating Sisko. Hopefully we will get more information
in the next book.
When the Intendent attacks the sanctuary, Kira and Vaughn are
captured, though Prynn, Opaka and the shards escape. The prisoners are
brought up to Terok Nor, which the rebels surrendered after further
threats to bombard Bajor on their behalf. There, Taran'atar promises to
rescue Vaughn, and Kira is taken to see Ghemor. As the Defiant from our
universe emerges from the wormhole, Ghemor's plans start to fall apart,
so she blows herself, the alternate Ghemor and our Kira out the airlock and
into the wormhole, where they meet the Prophets together.
Kira is sent back to the Defiant, the alternate Ghemor to Terok Nor
as "the voice", and the formerly insane Ghemor from our universe,
presumably healed (though I'm not certain, as she is leading
-sabotaging? - a bunch of fanatics against the Prophets), to the
Ascendants as "the fire".
I felt that too much time was spent on the insane Ghemor, and not
enough on the characters who originally brought DS9 to us, who played
only cursory roles. There is a lot of fake swearing, which sounds fake
and is not needed. And I'm starting to really wonder if the DS9 novels
are really worth my time. Still, I'm curious about what will happen
next, so I'm guaranteed for a while longer. I just hope we get some real
character development and real story, as we did in several of these