7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro

Title: Diamond Star

Author: Catherine Asaro

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Baen Books
Publication Date: May 2009
Hardcover: 512 pages

Stand alone or series: The most recent (13th!) book in the Skolian Saga, but arguably can be read as a stand alone novel.

Why did I read this book: I’ve had Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire books on my radar for a very long time, but have never taken the plunge. When I received an advance copy of Diamond Star, I decided to rectify this gap in my science fiction reading and plunge into this exciting series.

Summary: (from Amazon.com)
Del was a rock singer. He was also the renegade son of the Ruby Dynasty, which made his career choice less than respectable, and gave him more to worry about than getting gigs and not getting cheated by recording companies, club owners, or his agent. For one thing, the Ruby Dynasty ruled the Skolian Imperialate, an interstellar Empire, which had recently had a war with another empire, the Eubian Concord. For another, Del was singing on Earth, which was part of a third interstellar civilization, and one which had an uneasy relationship with the Imperialate. Del undeniably had talent, and was rapidly rising from an unknown fringe artist to stardom. But, with his life entangled in the politics of three interstellar civilizations, whether he wanted that or not, talent might not be enough. And that factor might have much more effect than his music on the lives of trillions of people on the thousands of inhabited worlds across the galaxy.


Frustrated and bored, Skolian Ruby Prince Del Arden sits out his diplomatic detainment on Earth. Del’s passion, keeping him sane is his music, for which he has an unparalleled talent – much to his family’s discomfort. Military appointed bodyguard Mac befriends Del, bonding over their shared love and ear for music, and soon Mac takes the young Ruby Prince under his wing. Mac happens to also be a talent agent, and when he asks Del to accompany him on a client audition – merely to see how the process works – Del hastily accepts. Through a series of comedic events, Del ends up alone in the audition room and is mistaken by the man-eating, gorgeous record executive Ricki for the prospective talent…and he blows her away by virtue of his haunting voice, devastating good looks, and poignant lyrics. Soon Del finds himself an intergalactic rock star – who also secretly happens to be a Ruby Prince. But when a powerful Aristo, one of the murderous enemies of the Skolians, shows keen interest in Del, the galaxy is poised on the edge of devastating war.

Catherine Asaro’s latest in the Skolian Saga is a soulful tale about fame, relationships, and the power of music. Diamond Star is a rock and roll saga in a futuristic setting to the usual tune – small town boy, ignorant of his own beauty and talent, makes the big time and falls prey to temptations. The story on its own isn’t terribly compelling, but there’s no denying that Ms. Asaro has a distinct, eminently readable writing style. Even though Diamond Star is a by the numbers rise to superstardom tale that has been told countless times before across numerous media, not to mention I’m not particularly fond of this sort of story, it is testament to the quality of Ms. Asaro’s writing that I never found myself bored. Furthermore, this is the first book I have had the pleasure of reading in the Skolian Saga and I never found myself lost. There’s sufficient background information given into the workings of the Skolian Empire, the threat of the sadistic Aristos, and the willful blind eye that Earth would turn towards the distant conflicts. Though the world-building elements weren’t as prominent or necessary to the story until the last third of the novel, I was intrigued by the tension between the Aristos and the Skolians, and am very excited to dive into earlier installments to the series to get down to the meat of the conflict.

Where Ms. Asaro truly shines in Diamond Star, however, is in her likable characters and the genuine emotion imbued in her writing. Del at first seems something of a Mary Sue character – unbelievably gorgeous, vocally talented, unconscious of his many charms, incredible in bed, etc and so forth. As the story unfolds, however, Del becomes less of a blandly perfect character and reveals many endearing traits: his endless desire to please his family and his heartbreaking past in particular. Almost against my will I found myself liking this character (a negative first impression fueled by the frankly horrid cover). I was similarly enchanted by the secondary characters, in particular Ricki (Del’s love interest) as the ball-busting executive, and fatherly Mac, tortured by the secret identity of his client and military charge. Even more interesting to me, however, were the briefly appearing members of the Ruby Dynasty! We meet Del’s brothers, his Aunt Dehya – the Ruby Pharaoh – and his mother. I found myself wishing that there was more of the formidable Dehya or Del’s hardassed brother – but again, this is something I am certain I will find in the earlier books of the series.

Finally, what’s a book about music without…music? It is a central component to this novel, as Del’s lyrics play a particularly pivotal role in the story. Interestingly, Diamond Star‘s release is concurrent with a cd from Starflight Music, on which all the songs from the novel are put to music. Ms. Asaro penned all the lyrics, which are then performed by Point Valid, an alterna-rock band from Baltimore. Although the music doesn’t quite fit with my musical tastes, the companion CD is a cool idea. The quality of the lyrics surpasses the melodies (just my own personal preference, of course), and even those who might not be blown away by the songs themselves can appreciate the comprehensive effort put into creating this music novel.

Overall, I highly enjoyed Diamond Star and plan on visiting Ms. Asaro’s earlier works very, very soon!

Notable Quotes/Parts: The lyrics for Del’s “Sapphire Clouds” are my favorites, more so than the eponymous “Diamond Star,” or the first hit “Emeralds.” Actually, “Carnelians” is the most poignant song in the story, but I’m not ruining that one for you.

“Sapphire Clouds”

Running through the sphere-tipped reeds
Suns like gold and amber beads
Jumping over blue-winged bees
Don’t catch me, please

Cause I’m
Running, running, running
Running, running, running
Running, running, running away

Flight of bubbles everywhere
Pollen dusting in my hair
No more troubles anywhere
Sapphire clouds above the air

And I’m running, running, running
Running, running, running
Running, running, running away

Memories fade in life’s strain
Winds of age bring falling rain
Cornucopia of lives
Of years and joys and grieving sighs

Recall sapphire clouds on high
Drifting in an endless sky
Childhood caught and kept deep inside
To treasure after days gone by

And I’m running, running, running
Running, running, running
Running, running, running away

Additional Thoughts: As I mentioned above, concurrent with Diamond Star’s release, a companion CD with actual versions of the songs from Starflight Music is available. You can purchase the songs on iTunes, or listen to the album online HERE.

Verdict: Diamond Star manages to hit the right notes. This is a compelling, romantic science fiction novel, and certainly recommended for existing fans, and newbies to the Skolian series. I’ll certainly be back for more.

Rating: 7 Very Good

Reading Next: Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

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  • KMont
    May 12, 2009 at 3:46 am

    Maybe it’s because I haven’t had my coffee yet, but I’m confused. The book sounds like it’s all about the hero, and not so much about a romance. Would that be right at all? Because as far as I can see, a love interest is only mentioned in passing? Ricki? Is Ricki a guy or girl? I only ask because it seems the norm these days to give women characters cute, male-sounding names and I often go in expecting a guy, only to see a woman and blah blah.

    I dunno, Thea. I can definitely tell you liked it well enough, but I’ve got to be honest, it’s not sounding very appealing at the moment. The cover, the hero’s name (sorry, it’s just awful), and frankly, I’m disappointed he’s detained on Earth of all places, though I bet it makes enough sense to the story. But I’m a bit tired of scifi romances that rely on Earth as some kind of detainment area or refugee camp, etc…

    Like I said, not a drop of coffee yet. Hey, it’s the norm to blame coffee. πŸ˜‰

  • Gerd Duerner
    May 12, 2009 at 7:29 am

    I find it funny that you don’t like the cover, because quite frankly I love it.
    A seventies style Glam-Rocker in a futuristic setting that’s a priceless image, one which instantly catched my eye and stirred my interest in what the book might be about, and from what I gather the book lives up to it. Certainly sounds like something I’m apt to enjoy reading.

    Oh, and the name, Del Arden? Really?
    I guess Prince Aura wouldn’t have had the same ring.

  • Thea
    May 12, 2009 at 10:04 am

    KMont – This isn’t so much a romance as it is a rise to fame story, with intergalactic political entanglements, family angst and a bit of romance along the way. Ricki is a woman and Del’s love interest, but this certainly isn’t a book where the main focus is on a love pairing. Plus, the relationship between Ricki and Del is…unconventional, so romance fans that have very strict sort of guidelines for a romance (hero can only be with the heroine and vice versa) will be grossly disappointed. It’s a futuristic sci fi novel about music first, with strong [i]relationships[/i], one romantic amongst the many friendship/familial storylines.

    Does that help? I’m pre-coffee too, and just want to emphasize this is in NO way a SFR along the lines of Linnea Sinclair or anything, so readers don’t go in expecting that! Phew. :mrgreen:

    I can agree on the annoyance with Earth as always the detainment camp setting, but if you’re willing for a change of pace, [i]Diamond Star[/i] is much better than its cover lets on πŸ˜‰ Although I have a suspicion that the earlier books in the series may be better…I’ll let you know when I finish [i]Primary Inversion[/i].

    Gerd – To each their own! :mrgreen: I’m glad the cover works for you – and yes, to be honest, it did catch my eye too (albeit in a different way πŸ˜‰ ). If you’re in the mood for some sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll (and political implications of intergalactic proportions) then you’re in the right place!

    And actually, Del’s full name is Del-Kurj Arden Valdoria kya Skolia. LOL. But his stage name is simply Del Arden. Prince Aura works too though :p

  • KMont
    May 12, 2009 at 11:39 am

    OK, I see now. My sincere, thankfully post-coffee apologies! I could have sworn the genre label on your post read as Science Fiction Romance. Gar.

    And that name lol! Lordy, I was only referring to his title=name you used in the review: Skolian Ruby Prince Del Arden.

    But “Del-Kurj Arden Valdoria kya Skolia” is making me twitch!

    As for the cover – I still see Blades of Glory, unfortunately. Let’s blame American pop culture, which, as we all know, needs not actually enter our mental fields, but can make a truly horrific and lasting impression through commercials and movie trailers alone. Damn you, Blades of Glory! I haven’t even watched you!

  • Thea
    May 12, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    KMont – Dude, Blades of Glory is freaking hilarious. And on HBO a lot these days :mrgreen:

    [I]Coach: What have you two got that no other team does?
    Chaz: Twin Dongs.[/I]


  • Li
    May 12, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    *skim skim skim* Rating = 7… Yay!

    As you’ve probably guessed, I still haven’t finished Diamond Star. I was distracted by Lee Child’s latest. I’m glad you enjoyed it though.

    Re names, I don’t mind her character names in the Skolian series, but the ones in her fantasy series (Luna imprint) make me twitch. Mel Dawnfield is one, possibly Brightstar for another family name, IIRC. As much as I love the Skolian books, I have not managed to get into the Lost Continent books at all.

  • Kristen
    May 12, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Yay, glad you enjoyed it Thea! I haven’t read this one yet since I’m still getting caught up on some of the older books in the series. None of the ones I’ve read in the series so far take place on Earth – in fact, it’s barely even been mentioned – so that’s an interesting departure. The Skolian and Trader conflict is very interesting. There’s a lot more about it in Primary Inversion and The Radiant Seas. My favorite book in the series so far is The Last Hawk, though.

    I have to agree with Li about the names in Asaro’s fantasy series being far worse. The prince is named something crazy like Muller Hightower Heptacorn Dawnfield. I did like the first book in the series but it wasn’t the same caliber quality-wise as the Skolian books I’ve read.

  • Tiah
    May 12, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Okay, I just can’t get over that cover. It makes the book look silly. Great review btw!

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