Still driven by his search for Man's fabled birthplace, Earl Dumrest accepts a commission to guard the Lady Derai, heiress to the proud House of Caldor, on the feudal world of Hive. On Derai's home planet, Dumarest had hoped to meet a living witness to Earth. But instead he finds himself in the lists of the deadly Contest on Folgone - with the Lady of Caldor as prize. And on Folgone, for the first time, Dumarest confronts the Cybers: ruthless, emotionless tools of a great Gestalt which holds the mighty of the universe in its grip - a power which may yet provide him with the key to his quest for Earth.
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Perfect for a long drive.
This is an easy story to follow (say while driving or doing laundry), and Rish Outfield makes it easier by bringing the characters to life. Dumarest is a tough-guy with a heart and soul -- the perfect lead for a Romance. Derai is no shrinking violet or damsel to be rescued. She has her own agenda and her own assessment of Dumarest. The clash is Epic!
The ending is the signature of this novel -- where Derai finally gets the whole situation straight in her mind and takes action that dismays Dumarest.
Dumarest himself is the most vivid character -- he is the only one who persists throughout all the books. This is the story of how Dumarest got lost out in the Galaxy, and is now so far from Earth (where he was born) that people (mostly human) don't know where Earth is. Here he gets a clue (from Derai) about who knows exactly where Earth is -- and who is responsible for the sorry condition Earth is in at that time.
The AHA! moment is at the end where Derai reveals that Dumarest must confront the Cyclan -- a galaxy-spanning organization of humans made into some sort of emotionless-computer people. Exactly "what" those people are is hidden from those they manipulate -- but in this novel the reader begins to see what the entire series is about: Dumarest vs. Cyclan over the destiny of Earth.
The Audible edition is worth the extra money because the reader is superlative. You can enjoy these novels in any order (there are I think 33 of them), but I recommend the publishing order because there is a story-arc gradually revealed. #1, 2, and 3 are in Audible - more coming I think.