Ossus Library Index
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A novel by Timothy Zahn
(1996, Bantam Spectra)

The Conqueror's Saga, book 3

The war between the humans and Zhirrzh threatens to ignite, while some try to bring critical information to light, and others try to spark a confrontation.


-- 2nd reading (hardcover)
March 18th to April 5th, 2014


The story continues in a way that is very satisfying, and comes to a predictable conclusion. The reason for the war was revealed at the end of the last book, so it was only a wait to see how long it would take for that information to percolate to the right people. Fortunately, both sides had reasonable rulers, and it didn't take long to call a truce. The author's style is consistent -he writes good politics and battles, and no character is wasted.

Spoiler review:

This book really was just a waiting game, to see how far either side would go before the realization that the war was a terrible mistake took hold, and who would be the one to end it. Given how reasonable the people in charge and who were involved in the story were throughout the first two books, there was really no doubt as to the second part. But all the main characters were separated, and given this author's style in making things as hard as possible for any character he creates, it's no wonder that it took so long for everything to come together.

Lord Stewart Cavanaugh's son Pheylan and bodyguard-former-Copperhead Aric start the book at Aric's court-martial, from which they all escape unscathed. Their political adversary Van Diver, who isn't much of one, is disgruntled, and plots to follow them, hoping to catch them in more illegal activities. I did like the computer's point of view -Max's precision with numbers especially gave him a sense of machine intelligence.

Cavanaugh is captured by Bronski (who still wants him imprisoned for knowing that the super-weapon CIRCE doesn't exist), after being ambushed by massive Bhurtalla en route to a rendezvous with a friend. They go to Mra, where they trace the location for the meeting between the Zhirrzh and Mrachani, and are captured (due to interference by Van Diver).

Pheylan's older brother is stolen away, and ends up in Ychromae space, helping them rearm their fighters in anticipation of a Mrachani attack. But he is then captured by Bronski's associates, but can't escape Ychromae before the Zhirrzh attack it, manipulated by the Mrachani. The battle decimates the Ychromae fleet, until two of their ancient -and illegal- super-ships show up. Combined with the chance arrival of a human fleet, which contains Aric as part of its unit, they drive off the Zhirrzh. The little human things in this part of the story seemed a little forced. It was obvious that Bokamba would end up as Aric's crewmate once they were shown to be odd-numbered. It was also obvious that Bokamba's attitude toward women in battle would cause Aric to go in rescue of them when they got into trouble. This only allowed him to see the Ychromae ships in action from a close vantage point. We never get to see Aric's second court-martial for disobeying orders.

What's pretty cool about this book is that we now get a Zhirrzh point of view, like in Heritage, as well as a human one. The Zhirrzh were forced to withdraw, we learn, because the commander of the fleet thought the Ychromae ships were CIRCE, obviously not knowing anything about the weapon. The Overlord Prime himself orders the withdrawal, also not knowing anything about the weapon.

The interclan politics from the last book continues here, with Speaker Cvv-Panav putting together his own alliance with the Mrachani, and preparing to attack Earth, with his ships being towed through hyperspace by the Mrachanis, so human detectors wouldn't see them coming.

Pheylan, meanwhile, revisits the planet where he was imprisoned, and then sets back out to Dorcas, where his sister is trapped. Coming in close to avoid the blockade, he crashes, and is captured by the Zhirrzh. But these Zhirrzh have come to realize that humans are not the monsters they were led to believe. Thrr-Gilag has arrived with the illegal fss cutting, and rescues Prr-Zvesti with it, also bringing Melinda to the Zhirrzh camp to heal Pheylan from the crash injuries. When the Dharr investigators arrive searching for the illegal fsss cutting, they bring things to a head. But Prr-Zvesti himself manages to contact the Overclan Prime, revealing his knowledge of the radio waves and their use among humans.

Thrr-Gilag's father, trying to follow the people who set his wife up with her scandal in the last book, ends up on the ship to Mra, where he finds Cavanaugh, and breaks his silence. Between Prr-Zvesti and Thrr-Rokik, who are able to communicate directly with the Overclan and Cavanaugh and Melinda, they manage to negotiate a truce. This was probably the best part of the book, as both Elders find their uses, and have to get around various roadblocks to communicate with each other and the humans and overlord. Cavanaugh has a nice and tricky way to stop the Mrachani from towing the Zhirrzh, also -leaking that the last piece of CIRCE was shipped off Dorcas past the blockade. The Mrachani knew that CIRCE didn't exist, but freaked out when they heard the information, having doubts, and left the Zhirrzh ships stranded.

Inside the Mra mountain, the Mra tried to frame humans by attacking the Zhirrzh, draping the ship with metal so the elders couldn't return home, and blaming it on CIRCE. But Thrr-Rokik was not within the ship, so he could travel around and report on their well-being, thwarting the plan. Aric's copperhead attack on the mountain freed the Zhirrzh, allowing the ship to escape.

The ending was a little too easy, but it was thrilling nonetheless, especially as we see the Mrachani plans thwarted. The book was a lot of fun, bringing conclusion to most of the characters, and a partnership between the Zhirrzh and humans. A very good read, with insight into a wonderful alien society, even if they did behave rather human at times.


-- First reading (paperback)
September 3rd to 13th, 1996


Amazing conclusion to the trilogy.  The political wrangling was so intense, it had me wondering if there was another book to follow, because it didn't seem they could get out of the mess by the end.  But they did (in an unexpected way).  I was exhausted!


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