A book in the Star Trek Novel Verse, one of the foundations of its continuity. It expands on several canonically established but underexplored events in the Star Trek timeline — the Romulan attack on Narendra III and the destruction of the Enterprise-C among them. Its main plot, though, features the courtship between Spock and Saavik.
From the back cover:
2329: Now a diplomat for the United Federation of Planets, Spock agrees to a bonding with Commander Saavik. More than a betrothal, less than a wedding, the sacred Vulcan rite is attended by both Spock's father, Sarek, and a nervous young Starfleet lieutenant named Jean-Luc Picard.
2344: Ambassador Spock receives a top-secret communication from the heart of the Romulan Empire. Decades before, Spock had met and betrayed an honorable Romulan commander during the so-called "Enterprise incident." Now she needs his help to prevent a catastrophe that could threaten the peace of the entire quadrant. Spock risks everything by traveling incognito to Romulus itself, but his covert mission becomes even more perilous when both Saavik and Picard cross the Neutral Zone in search of him. Enmeshed in the treacherous political intrigues of the Romulan capital, undone by a fire that grows ever hotter within his blood, Spock must use all his logic and experience to survive a crisis that will ultimately determine the fate of empires.
This novel contains examples of:
- A Father to His Men: Female example. Commander Charvanek is a mother to her troops. So is Rachel Garrett, for that matter.
- Arc Welding: The characters from Star Trek: Stargazer (established in the novel Reunion) are weaved into the events surrounding the Romulan attack on Narendra III, and the loss of the Enterprise-C.
- Ascended Extra: The character Ruanek had previously appeared in another novel in a relatively minor role. He proved so popular with readers that he made a re-appearance here, his role greatly expanded. He would go to appear in several short stories and the Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul trilogy as well.
- Becoming the Mask: An interesting example with Emperor Shiarkiek. He was always more comfortable as a scholar than an emperor, and over the years "played" at scholar more and more until he forgot his true responsibility as emperor (at least that's how he sees it. He might be being a bit harsh on himself). He also feels that his true identity — defined, as with many Romulans, by his personal honour — is now lost to him."I was a fool, a fool, so seduced by my scholarly research I forgot what I was. Never do that, never forget. For once you do, once you begin trusting others with what should be yours, you never, ever win it back."
- Blood on the Debate Floor: To the shock of the other senators, Praetor Dralath murders a member of the government on the Senate Chamber floor. There's a reason why a character in later books says that Dralath caused more damage to Romulan honour than any other leader she remembers.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: Spock has to deal with the fact the Romulans are a Hot-Blooded Red Oni to the Vulcan's more cool logical Blue Oni. This includes honor duels to the death during the middle of missions and the fact whether something is immoral is less important than it being dishonorable.
- The Caligula: Romulan Praetor Dralath is a violent, petty, cruel dictator who wants to start a war with the Klingons.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": With actual rabbits — I mean keeriks, sorry. Keeriks.
- Cool Old Guy: Emperor Shiarkiek is a lovable scholar and decent fellow kept in agony by the insane Praetor.
- Culture Clash: Much of the book is Spock attempting to deal with the Romulan honor-obsessed violent passionate culture while he, himself, struggles with Pon'Farr overwhelming his natural stoicism.
- Decadent Court: Establishes the Romulan capital as this, and followed up on in later novels.
- Eccentric Mentor: Emperor Skiarkiek comes close, with his aged body, eccentric personality and odd conversational tangents (plus his preoccupation with flesh-eating fish) combined with a deep wisdom and a good nature.
- Epic Fail: Dralath's attempts to deal with the speech by the Narviat results in him revealing that he's been drugging the Emperor and confirming all of the accusations made against him.
- Evil Chancellor: Dralath, as praetor, is essentially this to Shiarkiek, the emperor (although the praetor has the real political authority, the emperor's figurehead status is still taken very seriously and his spiritual influence is extreme.) Dralath even tries to manipulate public opinion by using a drugged-up Shiarkiek as a puppet.
- General Ripper: Admiral Volskiar, with the Klingons as his "enemy X":Think, Romulans, of our colony worlds. Think of the honest, hardworking, loyal men and women who ask nothing but to serve the Empire. Now picture foreigners imperiling those Romulan men, women, yes, Romulan children. And such invaders do threaten, brutish creatures who know nothing of honour, nothing of glory: Klingons! Klingons who know nothing but blood lust! You ask, how can this be? Have we not dealt peacefully with the Klingons, even purchased warships from them? Yes! We made that mistake! We let them sell us faulty ships — but no more! That was all part of their plan to weaken us, then overwhelm us.
- Good Is Not Nice: Narviat, the reasonable and honorable praetor who overthrows Dralath. He's a good man, but he's a Romulan noble who thrives in the cut-throat world of the Imperial court. As such, he's not the Starfleet sort of hero. Indeed, his primary appeal is not so much that he'll be an ally of any sort to the Federation but rather that he's too sensible to start pointless wars. Spock reflects:Yes, Narviat was ambitious and, in his own honorable way, ruthless — no surprise there, not from a member of the Imperial family who'd survived so far. He was also far less venal and warmongering — more sensible, was it? — than Dralath.
- Karma Houdini: Volskiar, as the father of Sela, lives to see many more decades and does so in good standing. This despite the fact he's a mass murderer, rapist, and dog of the Praetor.
- Moral Myopia: Volskiar actually thinks that if he's nice to Tasha Yar, that she'll fall in love with him.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: The Romulan military officer Volskiar. Other Romulan command officers, like Tal and Charvanek, have less black-and-white outlooks.
- Patriotic Fervor: Volskiar and several other Romulans encourage this in their troops at every opportunity.
- Planet of Hats: The novel tries to avert this with the Romulans. Some are essentially warrior-politicians (Narviat, Dralath as a darker and more bloodthirsty variant), some noble soldiers of the Proud Warrior Race type (e.g. Charvanek, Tal and Ruanek - and he's of a different caste to the first two, and so expresses the tendency differently), and others are little more than thugs. Some Romulans are gentle scholars, some of them quite stuffy, some are slang-talking street youth with a lot of idealism, some are just getting-on-with-things servants and workers.
- Playful Hacker/The Cracker: Kerit is either, depending on how you look. She'd probably be a definite Playful Hacker in most cases; she's really just having fun. She doesn't mean any harm and treats attempts to access restricted systems as a game. Then again, she is helping bring down the government here, so there's little doubt from Praetor Dralath's view she's The Cracker.
- Professional Killer: Spock notes the body language of several Romulan youths, which suggests to him that they are this. One of them is Neral, who will one day be praetor (though he becomes somewhat more honourable).
- Right Under Their Noses: During the early stages of the revolution on Romulus, Spock proposes a plan along these lines:Ruanek: "Audacious, hells, yes! But how in the name of all those hells are you going to get in? Just walk right up and order the gates to open?"Spock: "Precisely."
- Secret Test of Character: The Oriki try a few on Spock, though he quickly sees what they're doing. One test involves them offering meat, the Oriki being anxious to see if he sticks to his vegetarian ideals or takes the meat so as not to offend them. Spock politely remains true to himself, and thus passes the test.
- Scarpia Ultimatum: Tasha Yar must submit to the Volskiar's attentions to keep her remaining Enterprise-C crew members alive.
- To Be Lawful or Good: Many of the Romulans struggle with this; Tal most notably. Charvanek is always "good", Volskiar is always "lawful" (even when the law is as corrupt and immoral as it is here,) and Tal is caught between them.
- Unusual Euphemism: The Romulan youth are fond of "doubleshine!," which seems to be their equivalent of "bull**it".
- Wife Husbandry: For readers of other Star Trek novels, in which Spock first met Saavik as a naked, savage feral child, took her home with him, and taught her important things like reading and wearing clothes, the implications may be disturbing.
- Working Through the Cold: Saavik and Spock are both suffering from Pon'Farr and due to various issues, can't be there for each other. Which means, unfortunately, both are insane and dying in equal measure.
- You Can't Go Home Again: After helping Spock back across the Neutral Zone to safety, the Romulan soldier Ruanek is unable to return lest he be tried for treason. He's reluctantly forced to make a new life on Vulcan. In later books (the Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul trilogy), he becomes an academic, and marries a Vulcan healer (a woman he meets at the end of this novel).