Shepherd of the Stars is a Mass Effect / Sword of the Stars FusionFic. It focuses on political drama, specifically the catastrophic results of a universe as chaotic as Sword of the Stars trying to integrate with the slightly more welcoming Mass Effect setting.
After a botched first encounter between the Turians and SolForce at Shanxi, both sides summon their allies for a climactic showdown... that never happens. Cooler heads prevail, with the original four Sword of the Stars races (known in-universe as the 'Orion Races') eventually joining the Council, some more reluctantly than others. But the hostility between the two factions never quite goes away, and when SolForce's new flagship mysteriously vanishes, it sparks a chain reaction that may lead to all out war.
Notable for its massive Codex designed to allow readers to easily understand the setting without having to play the Sword the Stars games, and for having three separate plot lines that each deal with a different threat against the Council and its (theoretical) allies.
Shepherd of the Stars contains examples of:
- Ad Hominem: Prince Stone Mind deliberately uses one early on in the story, claiming that the Council is discriminating against the Hiver Imperium because of their resemblance to the Rachni. In reality, the Council is angry that the Hivers tried to Rules Lawyer their way around the settings' FTL treaty and Stone Mind just needed an excuse to hang up on them.
- All There in the Manual: Technically, a lot of the Codex chapters can be skipped without missing too much plot, but several key events and setting details are only described in the Codex.
- Author Appeal: Word of God states that the author finds the different alien races to be the most interesting parts of the Mass Effect and Sword of the Stars settings. As such, the story goes into an sizable amount of detail describing the effects of their various physiologies and cultures on the setting.
- Beware the Nice Ones: The Liir, as the Batarians found out the hard way. The Council are also heading this way in the later chapters.
- Brainwashing for the Greater Good: The Liir deal with rogue Batarians (i.e. terrorists) by "[taking] away [their] pain." Meaning they rewrite their memories and changed the way they think. Another way is by "pain sharing" (such as giving them the memories of the slaves that suffered under the Hegemony) and making them feel repentant of what their society had done.
- Cooperation Gambit: The Morrigi helped the Batarians during the Batarian Extermination but in reality they were using their generosity to plant pirate broadcasting throughout the Hegemony. These broadcasts revealed the deteriorating situation of the Hegemony that the Batarian government had kept hidden from their people, causing the lower castes to openly rebel against their leaders. The Morrigi take advantage of the chaos by annexing the planets that they had been charged with protecting and then withdrawing their support for the rest of the Hegemony.
- Cultural Posturing: The reason the Morrigi and Asari don't usually get along. Both tend to try and out posture the other, and because of the Morrigi's incomplete records no one is sure whose civilization is really the oldest. Liara eventually stumbles onto information that confirms it to be the Morrigi, by over ten thousand years.
- Curbstomp Battle: The aforementioned Batarian Extermination. By the time the Liir actually attacked, much of the Hegemony was dying of the retrovirus the Liir covertly released. The Worst Case option for the 'Sleeping Giant' codex entry is also one of these.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The earlier chapters are very different in length, subject, and tone than the later ones.
- Emotion Bomb: The Morrigi's favorite trick, because of their affinity for Emotion Control. The Asari are rapidly learning how to do it too. Thane gets hit by a particularly nasty one midway through the story and has yet to fully recover.
- Fantastic Racism: Naturally, considering the two universes involved. Humanity tends to be the largest offender, but everyone participates to some degree.
- Final Solution: The Batarian Extermination. After enduring several years of Batarian slave raids and with all attempts at diplomacy failing outright, the Liir eventually declared them "Suul'ka" and released a lethal retrovirus to wipe them out. They then followed this up by invading/bombarding Batarian worlds to kill off any survivors. While the Council and other Sword of the Stars races were able to save the Batarians from total extinction, by the time the story starts ninety percent of them have been wiped out and the Hegemony no longer exists.
- Fusion Fic: Mass Effect and Sword of the Stars. Only the Protheans' frantic attempts to slow down the Reapers by blowing up relays beneath them, thus destroying most of the relays in the Orion Arm, kept the Sword of the Stars races from encountering the Council earlier than they did. The Suul'ka were also instrumental in the Reaper's eventual defeat, and in getting rid of the Protheans afterward.
- Gatling Good: Wrex gets his hands on a Tarkasian weapon that's basically a gatling shotgun. The results are predictable.
- Glamour: The universal-attractiveness of the Asari is explained as being a lesser version of the psychic glamour Morrigi males use.
- Humans Are Average: While Humanity has some of the story's most advanced technology, the Liir and Morrigi are still better at research. The Hivers have a stronger industry, the Tarkasians have better soldiers, and the Council's economy dwarfs SolForce's. Humanity's largest advantage is that while they aren't the strongest anywhere, they also aren't the weakest.
- Humans Are Special: Played with. Humanity's entrance to the galactic scene is credited with breaking the ancient stalemate between the Hivers and Tarka as well as setting up much of how the Sword of the Stars races currently wage war. At the same time, its largely implied to be a 'Right Person, Right Time' thing, rather than because Humans are in some way unique. The 'Sleeping Giant' simulation SolForce created to see how a war with the Council would turn out is painfully explicit about how badly it would end for them.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The Liir's reaction upon scanning the Last Stand arrayed to defend the remaining batarians and realizing the species was not Always Chaotic Evil.
- My Rule-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Prince Stone Mind's favorite trick. He's good enough at it that he was able to get the Liir Off on a Technicality for ATTEMPTED GENOCIDE.
- Not So Different / You Are What You Hate: The tactics used by the Liir in the Batarian Extermination is not so different from the Citadel Council's use of the Genophage in the Krogan Rebellion. It is this reason that Stone Mind of the Hiver Imperium defended the Liir on trial and allowing the Council to (reluctantly and controversially) find the Liir innocent in the Extermination.
- Pintsized Powerhouse: The Sword of the Stars races, as usual. Slightly averted in that Element Zero has allowed them to double the size of most of their ships, but this still makes them about half the length of their Council counterparts.
- Scylla and Charybdis: Liara is torn between preserving an ancient Morrigi temple containing crucial information about the actual fate of the Protheans or shutting down a defense system from destroying a ship full of innocent people at the cost of destroying the temple. She chose the latter.
- Shown Their Work: The author randomly generated Sword Of The Stars 2 tech forests for every major race and fully mapped out the technological development for each one. The exact composition for various fleets, the armaments for each ship, and rough estimates for their cost in Council credits were also created.
- Space Cold War: Between the Orion Arm and the Citadel.
- Third Line, Some Waiting: For the early part of the story, the plot revolved around Sara's attempts to collect Liara from the Morrigi and Tali's struggle to find the mysterious Geth infiltrator, while Shepard's investigation into Leviathan's disappearance largely happened in the background. Recent chapters seem to be bringing Shepard back into focus.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Liir believed what they were doing is right in the Batarian Extermination by wiping out an entire race that practiced slavery and piracy. However, they finally realized that not all Batarians are like that and willingly allowed to help rebuild their society.
- Wham Episode: Several, easily located because they lack the usual notation saying if a chapter is story or codex. The first one is when the Ghost Ship nukes Thessia. The second is when the Peacekeeper arrives. A minor one occurs earlier and marks the beginning of the actual plot, when Liara stumbles across evidence proving that the Reapers exist, and were killed off by Javik picking the Destroy option at the end of his cycle.