Daw, Aug 2008, $24.95
Chaos is the operative word in outer space in the distant future. The Human Confederate Star System (CSS) is at war with the Marillon Empire, which controls numerous avian based inhabitants. Harmony and its colony plants have closed itself from the rest of the universe; refusing to allow their orbs to be polluted. However the two confrontational empires will not allow the Harmony Empire to remain neutral because both hostile sides need Badger Metal only produced on Harmony; that metal makes navigating and communicating much easier in hyperspace.
When a quake hits a Harmony factory, worker Sissy sings to the core of the planet to stop the tremors from reoccurring. She gives voice to the prophecy and comes to the attention of the High Priest Gregor, who seeks a new High Priestess since the incumbent just died in the quake. The people adore Sissy for the changes she is bringing to a world that thrives on status quo to a dangerous fault. Jake, a CSS agent, hopes to exploit her and steal the Badger Metal formula. Instead he finds himself in love risking his life and mission to protect Sissy from assassins who might be local traitors supporting the Maril he anticipates will soon invade. However, when Sissy learns the true history of her planet, she vows to break the strangling caste system in order to save her people by retuning to what the founders hoped for their future.
This stand alone space opera is exciting and filled with action, but caste (pun intended) driven. Readers obtain a full spectrum of the political, economic, cultural and social engines that run the harmonic Empire. Sissy is the glue who holds the story line together as a lowly Worker caste becomes the Temple High Priestess; she and readers learn on the job what she is supposed to perform and as important what to do regarding the future threat to and the ancient history of the planet. A bright star in the outer space galaxy of science fiction, C.F. Bentley provides a strong tale.