Grad student Danae Panya’s has something beyond just her research project in mind when she applies to have Triplet’s most experienced Courier guide her through the highly restricted inner worlds and their respective environments of technology and magic. But any plans either of them have will have to adapt to conflicts from both the inhabitants and environments of their destinations.
Timothy Zahn is my favorite author, and it’s nice to have a chance to check out works from early in his career that I have not yet read.
I’ve repeatedly praised Zahn’s touch regarding how much detail to provide to make his setting’s come alive without overwhelming the reader or slowing the pace too much, and the world-building here is phenomenal. The worlds of Triplet and the unique natures of each are quite imaginative and intriguing. I actually wanted even more information about the workings and “rules” of each place, but there were reasons for some of the ambiguities. Experiencing Shamsheer and Karyx along with Danae was thoroughly engaging and fascinating.
Unfortunately while Danae and Ravagin start out equally intriguing to Zahn’s worlds, neither they nor the story quite reach their full potential. About midway through the book the slow building suspense and atmosphere give way to a rather by the numbers action/adventure tale. It’s good, but more events driven than character driven which makes things feel just a little shallow by the end. Zahn would become masterful at balancing plot and twists with character development in later novels.
There are also characterization issues, as I feel Danae in particular never got her due in terms of growth or having her motivations given proper weight. She wasn’t quite as selfish or naive as the narrative needed her to be for certain exchanges to feel right, so the resolutions between her and other characters struck me as a bit forced.
To be clear, I enjoyed Triplet overall and do recommend Zahn fans check it out. It’s just that the sense of wonder and engrossing edge to the tale dips a bit in the second half (where it really should have been ramping up), causing this not to reach the heights it seems like it could have.