Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover

In Print
It should be noted that I really like Orson Scott Card. If you read my reviews regularly, you know that I really like Orson Scott Card. After working my way through the original Ender series on audiobook, sampling the Alvin Maker series and even wrestling with the dubious Empire, I must say that I always look forward to reading Card, knowing that his books will be reliably entertaining. Shadow of the Hegemon is no different in this respect, but I do have one criticism... Why all the children protagonists?

This novel picks up a few years from where the first novel of the Shadow series, Ender's Shadow leaves off. The battle school kids are a bit more grown up—say, in their pre- and early-teens—and they have all returned to their homes after the battle with the Buggers... only to face a new threat. When all of the kids from Ender's team are kidnapped—with the exception of Bean, who narrowly escapes an assassination attempt—the great political minds of Earth realize that international tensions are rising now that the Bugger threat has been eliminated. Among those great minds is Peter Wiggin, whose treatises written under the pseudonym of Locke continue to hold great sway in world politics. Will Peter's political ambitions and Bean's drive to rescue his friends bring them together as allies, or alienate them as enemies?

Book Cover

On Audio
The plotting in this book is all well and good. It's an interesting and credible political conflict and world war scenario inspired—as the author explains in the afterword—by Card's childhood fascination with the board game Risk. The characters are well-written and well-developed, as usual. The only problem I have with this book is the fact that Card puts children at the helm of every major world power. They're all Battle School kids, so it makes some degree of sense within the forward trajectory of the story, but so many of them? It makes the story significantly less credible in my estimation. I understood Card's reasoning for making Ender so young in Ender's Game, and I bought the genetic experiment explanation of Bean's superior intelligence. But to have kids behind the great power moves of the world on all fronts? Sorry, Card, but this time I don't see any good reason, except a couple of self-imposed plot constraints, why it couldn't have waited until these kids were older. At least in their late teens or twenties. The characters are all essentially adults, they just get the label and appearance of "kid" slapped on them. It's one thing to have a couple genius kid characters, but enough to run a world war?

Oh well, a Card book is better than most other SFF books any day, and the Audio Renaissance production is splendid as usual. Despite my frustrations with character age, this book is much recommended.


Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.