A couple years ago I bought five unread Star Trek novels at my library’s sale. I finally finished reading the last of them! The Romulan Way by Diane Duane and Peter Morwood was probably the most unusual of the bunch…though not, unfortunately, the best.
This is really two books in one, with alternating chapters. The main plot focuses on Arrhae, housekeeper in a Romulan noble house…and secretly a Federation spy. Her cover and her loyalties are thrown into question by the arrival of a captured Starfleet officer, a certain Leonard McCoy. Interspersed with Arrhae and McCoy’s story are chapters detailing the history of the Romulans–or the Rihannsu, in their own language.
I think this book is the Romulan answer to Spock’s World, also by Diane Duane. That book alternates an Enterprise story with stories from Vulcan’s history. However, while that history is (mostly) told as short stories with a mythical tone, the history here reads like something from a history text–and sometimes a rather dry one. It’s unfortunate, because there are clearly fantastic adventures of death and betrayal and the conquering of worlds…but it’s all told with a decidedly scholarly remove. I wound up skimming a lot of these sections.
Arrhae’s story was better, as I found her situation decidedly fascinating, and she was a very different character than we usually see in Starfleet. The political maneuverings of the Romulans, and the various plots underway by Starfleet, were confusing at times (Romulan names are hard to remember…) but I followed the gist of it and there were some exciting moments. This was originally published as an independent novel, then later rebranded as a sequel to Duane’s earlier novel, My Enemy, My Ally, with characters from that book showing up here–not having read it, that may have added some confusion.
McCoy, of course, I love, and he was in fine form here (writers have been known to stumble on him more than the others, I don’t know why). However–Kirk and Spock (and everyone else) never even put in a cameo, and McCoy all by himself is, well, only a third as much fun!
Star Trek books are in a way of niche appeal, though it’s a pretty big niche. I think this particular book is really for a niche within the niche. For a fan who loves the world of Star Trek, who loves knowing about the alien cultures, this is an amazing book. If you’re more about the characters (me), well, it wasn’t a bad book by any means–but I don’t think it’s staying on my bookshelf all the same. I’m much, much fonder of Duane’s other Dr. McCoy-focused book, Doctor’s Orders.
Buy it here: The Romulan Way