The Wages of Justice
by Kate Saundby
For a number of years The Wages of Justice has been one of the Internet's best kept secrets, probably because of author Kate Saundby's bad luck with publishers. This is a true shame, not only for Ms. Saundby but for anyone who enjoys reading well-spun tales. Wages is a rollicking adventure story that freely crosses genres from science fiction to romance to fantasy to old-fashioned story-telling of the first rank.
Julian is a celebrity in the world of entertainment. The death of his father forces him to leave a world of easy applause to return to a world of intrigue, Nublis. As heir to the throne, Julian always knew he would have to go back. But it's too soon. He's not ready. But he has to be--he is now Emperor of Nublis.
Nublis is an isolated world where Law rules, not lawyers. The Wages of Justice opens as an indulged and self-indulgent off-worlder, a young man who has, in the past, literally gotten away with murder, is being tried for that crime in front of the Archon of Nublis. The young man is only mildly worried--his father is a Very Important Man and, from experience, the young man knows justice can be bought, or subverted. Too late, he comes to the realisation that what works elsewhere in the universe, won't on Nublis. The Archon doesn't know whom he is judging--he only knows the crime. And for the crime of murder there is only one possible sentence, with no appeal--death.
The Very Important Father vows revenge, and convinces his allies that Nublian values pose an intolerable threat to the way of life in the rest of the universe which means Julian takes power facing an external enemy, intent on the total destruction of his world. There also is an enemy within, determined to depose the new Emperor. And even the source of Julian's strength, the ancient Nublian system, acts against him. Many of its traditions are barbaric, and wasteful. Julian has to save what is good in it, save his world--and stay alive.
To attempt to describe the twists and turns of the plot would not only be unfair to the reader, but almost impossible. Ms. Saundby manages it beautifully. Her characters are complex, and delightfully human. Yes, there is good and there is evil, but neither is absolute. The only thing that's absolute in this novel, is justice.
For those who like stars in their reviews, I give you one--Kate Saundby.