A series of Sci-Fi books by Deborah Chester, published by LucasFilm, that tells the tale of how a single slave, Ampris, leads an uprising against the reptilian Viis, whose cruel empire is undergoing a Gotterdammerung, and becomes a legend. It read largely like a cross between the Book of Exodus and the story of Sparticus, the slave-gladiator who attempted to bring down the Roman Empire. In Space!The first book The Golden One tells of Ampris's birth and "adoption" by the future Empress of the Viis, Israi. Ampris enjoys a priviliged life, sort of, but it comes to an end all too soon once she starts reading forbidden records.The second book The Crimson Claw chronicles Ampris's fight for survival in gladiator rings. She uses her celebrity and influence to plant the seeds of La Résistance, but falls as hard and as quickly as she rose.The third book The Crystal Eye shows us how Ampris, now living free with a small band of abiru, becomes a legend and confronts her old friend Israi for the last time.Oh, and did we mention that no humans exist anywhere in the series? That's right: Only aliens. Aliens who didn't make the cut for Star Wars. Several interviews from when the series debuted claim that the books were INSPIRED by a book of unused Star Wars aliens released a few years earlier. Apparently, all-new races ended up being developed and none of the cast-offs made the cut.The website (which is still up as of March 2014!) suggests that LucasArts was looking for successor to Star Wars and used this series as a proof of concept. It sold poorly, however, and Lucas instead went on to make the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Try to imagine What Might Have Been if our first fully computer-animated live-action characters were Ampris and Elrabin instead of Jar-Jar Binks...
Provides Examples Of:
Absent Aliens: Inverted. Everyone is an alien. It's the humans who are absent.
Action Girl: Ampris. Some may argue that her actions in the third book constitute Faux Action Girl, but at least when she's in the gladiator rings she's definitely kicking ass.
Badass in Distress: Ampris as the Crimson Claw, after a condemned Zhrel engineer, whom Ampris was desperately trying to talk to rather then just kill, manages to get in a lucky shot and severs her heel tendon, permanently ending her gladiator career and crippling her for life.
The Beautiful Elite: The Viis, who actually judge individual worth by attractiveness, ugly aliens have to wear masks in public to avoid offending them. "Ugly" Viis are a separate social class called Rejects. The Rejects join the Freedom Fighters in Book 3, playing a crucial part in helping Ampris cause the entire Viis empire to BSOD. They turn her offer of joining the abiru on Ruu-113 down, however, preferring to stay behind and remold Viis society instead.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Velia, Elrabin's mate, who should've been punched in the face numerous times by Ampris for her screechy and unhelpful behavior. (But isn't.)
Condemned Contestant: At the low point in her gladiatorial career, Ampris finds herself being forced into the role of mercenary executioner, killing untrained political prisoners and unarmed convicts. She doesn't take it too well, though her brief attempt at going on strike was met with unmerciful torture.
Creepy Child: Ampris's halfArroun/half-Viis kids count as this for other races. Leads to Wangst, naturally.
Deadly Gas: Zeron gas makes repeated appearances, and becomes a Chekhov's Gun during Ampris' imprisonment in the lab.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Ampris earns this not for herself, but for the rest of the abiru who make the pilgrimage to Ruu-113. Ampris dies on the surface of their new world. Counts as a subversion, since there's definitely a build-up.
Foreshadowing: Lots of it in Book 2. Ampris thinks early on about crippling a rival by severing her heel tendon - no points for guessing how Ampris' gladiator career ends. More foreshadowing of that end, in the form of a helpless, barely-armed Gorlican nearly running her through in a blind rush, happens during her last games.
Galaxy's Most Beautiful Viis: Israi, and that's the primary reason why she's the sri-Kaa, or Kaa-in-waiting. The Viis empire has some serious issues over appearances, and they ultimately bring down the empire when the exploding Reject population joins the abiru freedom fighters.
Book 2 has Ampris taking it in her last gladiator bout. She'd already faced a Gorlican that, as an utterly untrained, condemned prisoner, nearly managed to take a chunk out of her in a desperation rush. In a later bout, she faces a unarmed Zhrel engineer in a similar situation, lets her guard down to attempt to talk to him, and gets rushed a second time - this one resulting in an injury that cripples her for life.
Book 3 has this in spades, especially when Ampris makes perfectly sound leadership choices, delivered in a reasonable tone, and gets treated like a howling tyrant even though she's been leading one particular group safely and successfully for twelve years.
Also in the third book, Ampris captures Israi in the Palace Archives during an incognito database search. She tries to convince Israi to free the slaves but fails, and cannot ransom her back because that would only cause a palace coup. Knowing that retaliation with extreme prejudice is imminent, Ampris lets Israi gothen prepares the Myal archivists to abandon ship. She could have easily kept Israi locked up incognito long enough for an orderly evacuation but did not. It's a moment of supreme stupidity from an otherwise very smart character, just so the author could Shoot the Shaggy Dog yet again.
Idle Rich: The Viis, and how. It's a big part of what destroys their empire.
Lady of War: Ampris, who is probably the most educated and sophisticated Aaroun in the galaxy, ends up being trained as a gladiator - and she's so good at that she's almost immediately bought by one of the top teams in the Empire.
Magnetic Hero: Unfortunately for Ampris, her magnetism has a tendency to waver when she most needs it.
The Not-Love Interest: Only their different species prevent Elrabin from being the no-brainer match for Ampris.
Pet The Aaroun: The Kaa's most sympathetic moments involve small kindnesses to Ampris when she was a cub. Sadly, when she starts imbibing forbidden knowledge and participates in a tragic, lethal prank by Israi, he still ruins Ampris' life without a second thought simply to punish Israi, indirectly inflicting the deathblow to his own empire.
Pet the Kelth: In between all his hardships, Elrabin actually gets the gang assassin Scar to like him. Scar's obviously not happy when Barthul gives the order to lead Elrabin right to the police, but he's Barthul's Dragon, and does it without hesitation.
A big moment comes in the second book, when Elrabin's revealed as Ampris' new servant (and confidant) when she's bought by the Blues gladiator team. Last we'd seen in Book 1, he'd been condemned as gladiator bait.
The Promised Land: Ruu-113. The Zhreli consider it akin to Mecca and continuously sacrifice themselves to keep the one gate to it closed — until, at last, they open it for Ampris and her band of escapees.
Royal Brat: Oviel, Israi's scheming brother, is a real piece of work.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Seriously, Ampris gets repeatedly kicked, almost from birth: stolen from her mother, raised by the unfeeling Viis, betrayed by her best friend, enslaved as a gladiator, maimed and discarded, experimented upon and artificially impregnated, gives birth to two ungrateful jerk-brat halfbreeds, and when all is said and done, dies right after she arrives at the planet she brought all the races to in order to liberate them all.
Spy Speak: Ampris creates a code from her species' native language.
Too Dumb to Live: Really, the way the abiru behave towards concepts like 'cooperate to survive' or 'maybe slavery sucks' is this. This is sadly reflective of how citizen psychology is twisted in totalitarian governments in the Real World; Stockholm Syndrome abounds, the underground are extremely paranoid and betray each other all the time, etc. Solidarity comes very, very slowly, and when it starts to rear its head it is ruthlessly crushed, often by massacre. As the Viis do to the Freedom Fighters in Book 3..
While waiting for Ampris to recover from her latest kick to the face, we get to see Israi's ascension to the throne and ruling of the Empire.
The first novel splits its focus between the early lives of Elrabin and Ampris, up until their first meeting.
Type Casting: With the different species. Aaroun (catlike, heavy boned and muscled, temperamental), Kelth (foxlike, nervous and sly), Myal (monkeylike, highly intelligent, and rather meek scholar class), Toth (bovine, Dumb Muscle), etc. Averted on occasion with examples such as Barthul the utterly ruthless Myal drug lord and his Dragon and Elite Mook, Scar the Kelth.
We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Lampshaded. The Kaa has robots that can do everything the slaves do, but they don't work very well, and he, and presumably the rest of the Viis, prefer the "human" touch. It's revealed in the 3rd book that the Kaa used so much manual labor to disguise how their technological infrastructure was crumbling.
We Are Struggling Together: For heaven's sake, can the abiru please get along for three minutes? It may be understandable that they distrust each other, but even when solidarity is all but forced on them by Viis massacres, they STILL want to fight each other more then fight the Viis.
A common feature of all three books, such as with Ampris' gladiator team, the family she was sold into slavery for after the Kaa kicked her out of the palace, and the grandaddy of all, what happened to the abiru that did not manage to get on the cargo ships headed to Ruu-113, such as those off the homeworld Viismyel.
Averted with the denizens of the palace itself, however, especially Bish and the archivists — though Bish does not live to see Ampris' return to the palace.