336 pages
ISBN 978-1-894063-13-5
DDC C813'.6




Reviewed by Douglas Barbour

Douglas Barbour is a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Lyric/anti-lyric : Essays on Contemporary Poetry,
Breath Takes, and Fragmenting Body Etc.


With the publication of Pretenders, Part Three of the Okal Rel Saga, any readers unfamiliar with Lynda Williams’s planned 10 volume sequence should be happy to discover that they can now read the first 4 novels in their proper order. Williams has created a future history in which space-faring humanity has split into two factions: one a kind of democracy based on the physical sciences, the other a highly complex hierarchical culture based on biological sciences. It is politics of the latter stellar empire that drive the Okal Rel Saga, at a time when the cold war between the two cultures might heat up again.


There are many important characters among the ruling families of Sevildom, but central to their political games is Von, who is Avrel, The Courtesan Prince of Part One. In Pretenders, he is, as seems usual for the poor boy, being used by various factions vying for ultimate power in Sevildom, including his mother, a woman who gets off on power, even going so far as to sexually abuse the child she hasn’t seen for 16 years. But there are many others, all with their own agendas, secrets, and passions, including the almost sainted leader of two hundred years ago who returns through a “time-slip” in a faster-than-light space ship that can only be flown by the “pureblood” highborn.


Williams has constructed a complex if somewhat medieval culture, which operates under a traditional law of honour fighting called Okal Rel, and one must read more than one novel in the sequence to understand all its subtleties. The best advice is to now start with Part One, work up to Part Four, and then await, hopefully, for Part Five to follow in the proper order. Of their kind of space opera, these are definitely entertaining fictions.


Williams, Lynda., “Pretenders.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,