This is an odd one. Author John Vornholt drops two away teams comprising all the senior bridge crew onto a medieval world where everyone wears masks. They bumble around looking for each other and for the guy they were sent to find- Almighty Slayer, to initiate diplomatic relations. They get lost, they bump into all kinds of important people, and ultimately don`t do much of anything.
But, it`s not bad. Instead it`s just quite odd.
I have a feeling that this story did not originate in the Star Trek universe. Rather, Star Trek was bolted on to a pre-existing storyline and world. It`s as if the author Vornholt converted a pure fantasy story he had in his reject pile into a Star Trek one, just to get it published. I could be wrong, but that would explain some of the oddness I felt from this book. Here`s why I felt that way:
1- The world is quite fascinating and well-drawn. Imagine a feudal medieval world where everyone wears a mask depicting their social role and status. Everyone from the bearer of the Wisdom Mask (in this case, bossman Almighty Slayer) to the lowliest raider wears a mask. As a result, showing your naked face to anyone becomes the utmost reveal, more than any other part of the body. Only lovers ever get to see your face. This makes for some fascinating dynamics, when Picard hooks up with a rebel leader (in a way much more suited to Kirk or Riker, to be honest), when Riker kills some raiders and gets promoted to the Forest Mask, and so on.
All this mask action is happening because these people are descendants of a colonizing force of humans sent a few hundreds years back who were really into the theatre and Shakespeare. They took the idea of mask-wearing in theatre and built a whole society around it. It`s very interesting.
2- There isn`t much story. Everything that happens does so by coincident. That makes me feel like the author had a story already set out- a battle for succession taking place on this planet, that our crew stumble into, tag along for, and ultimately observe. Picard goes down with an away team and gets lost. They bump into a traveler who turns out to be Almighty Slayer himself, traveling incognito with a Peddler`s mask, heading for a showdown with the challenger to his rule, Piercing Blade. Quite a fortuitious coincidence! They tag along.
Riker comes down with another group, and they bump into Piercing Blade`s crew, and tag along. This coincidence is just too far really. Out of a whole world, both away teams manage to land directly on the most important people on the whole planet? Hmm…
Still, it`s quite fun. There are moments of good comedy, such as when Riker`s crew gets attacked by raiders. One of them goes to stab Data, who catches the sword-point with his bare hands. The raider desperately tried to tug it free, and Data just looks at him chidingly and says- “I will not give it back.”
There`s also a murdering psycho Starfleet ambassador thrown into the mix, but in the end he doesn`t do anything much.
An odd bit of Trek, but a fun one all the same. 3 stars.