The Takamo universe is vast and familiar to those who play this role-playing game. To the unfamiliar, a new series of novels and short stories introduce and explore the history, politics, and geography (planetograpy? galactography?) of Takamo universe. KS Augustin's The Ice-Cold Heart follows the career of Benaltep, a Naplian co-emporer. In a series of vignettes that bounce between Benaltep as an old man writing his memoirs, and different stages of his career, Benaltep's story unfolds. For the most part, his reflections surround his rivalry with his co-emperor, the arrogant and manipulative Bonate.
I did not particularly enjoy The Ice-Cold Heart. The characters were cardboard cutouts of power hungry emperor-villains. Benaltep and Bonate were distinguished only by their scheming. Nothing about their character showed that they were qualified to rule more than a tiny village. Their hand-wringing and back biting made me think of rival warlords of Indian tribes or something, not rulers capable of overseeing sophisticated, far-reaching, technologically advanced worlds. Speaking of worlds, Augustin spent very little of the story actually developing these worlds. It was just these two guys, talking and talking, and plotting against each other.
The story does give some background on the political history of the empire and some of the major events. I would anticipate that it would shed some light on the other Takamo stories, and hope that they start fitting together, building a cohesive history. But as a stand-alone novel, my heart is cold toward The Ice-Cold Heart.
Thanks to Takamo Publishing for the complimentary electronic review copy!