As governor of the poor Argali Province, young Kamoj Quanta Argali is in the unenviable position of having to marry for wealth. The last of the advanced technology left by Balumil's legendary settlers has begun to fail, and Argali Province is in desperate straits. So even though she dreads Jax Ironbridge, Kamoj has agreed to his offer of marriage and alliance. Life seems to have made her choices.
But when Kamoj's clandestine swim is interrupted by the appearance of the mysterious Havyrl Lionstar and his men, her life changes more quickly than she could ever have imagined.
Kamoj walks home from her swim only to discover that Havyrl has left an unimaginably large dowry with her uncle for her hand in marriage. The laws of their society offer her no choice. Havyrl's offer far exceeds that of Jax. Unless Kamoj can
better the offer of his dowry herself, she must accept Havyrl or be ready for war.
Havyrl Lionstar has already "forced" them to rent out the run-down ancestral Argali Palace, and this appears to be just one more step in gaining control over the entire province. The mystery surrounding him and his sudden appearance have spawned legends that he's loathsome, is centuries old, arrived on this world on a ship from the skies, has a metal face, and lives in a haunted building. But Kamoj has no choice but to marry this powerful stranger.
How this marriage between strangers turns into one between soulmates makes for a truly wonderful love story. Vyrl whisks Kamoj away to the repaired and renovated Argali Palace, which is run by technology so advanced that it verges on the fantastic. She learns that Vyrl married her not for her land, but merely because he was taken by her beauty and emotions at their one encounter.
At Argali Palace she comes to understand her tortured and kind husband. Kamoj begins with discovering his face under the mask he always wears in public and continues on to find the reason why he's become an alcoholic. Truly, Asaro made a delightful choice by relying on the powerful elements of The Beauty and the Beast story in constructing The Quantum Rose. Did I mention that Kamoj thinks of her full name as translating to Bound Quantum Rose?
The surprises in the story come from learning the true identity of not only Vyrl, but the origins of the entire "lost colony" of Balumil. The Quantum Rose is directly tied in to the Skolian Empire saga, and if memory serves, takes place shortly after the end of The Radiant Seas.
Catherine Asaro has a fascinating way with her exposition, using ever greater revelations to give deeper meaning to all the actions that we might have dismissed as unimportant earlier in the story. The gulf that seems wide between Vyrl and Kamoj at the beginning of the story only increases as more of the characters' background is revealed (their cultures, age, social status.) Yet both Kamoj and Vyrl are similarly damaged by others' attempts to force them into roles neither desires. These two wounded people need each other's love to heal and to overcome the chains of their genetic destinies.
The Quantum Rose is a pure gift to fans of everything from fantasy romance to romantic science fiction. Asaro uses dazzling imagery, superb storytelling ability, interesting science, and intriguing drama, to spin a story that will keep you turning the pages. You won't be able to read The Quantum Rose in hardcover book form until perhaps 2000 (when it will also be accompanied by a sequel). So grab your copy of the serialization in the May, June, and July/August issues of Analog magazine.