Warring States

The period between the death of a First Judge – the functional ruler of all Jurisdiction Space, first among nine Judges Presiding, with the power of veto and imposition against the majority rule – and the Selection of her successor is one of civil unrest and disturbance at the best of times.

This is not the best of times.

Chilleau Judiciary’s senior administrative officer has been murdered in the very heart of Chambers, and since Bench Intelligence Specialist Jils Ivers has been unable to ferret out the perpetrator, she knows that she is the default candidate for execution – so that justice may be seen to have been done, whether or not she is guilty.

In such unsettled times the question of whether the JFS Ragnarok is actively mutinous or merely misunderstood is on hold.  Ship’s Inquisitor Andrej Koscuisko – under sentence of death, if his one unsanctioned murder comes out — means to take this opportunity to steal the six bond-involuntary troops assigned to him as instruments of torture from the Fleet, and send them away to an uncertain future in Gonebeyond.

But the corruption of the Bench extends even further than its use of institutionalized torture as an instrument of State.  Before Jils Ivers realizes who killed the First Secretary and why, the rule of Law will be rocked to its very core; and the fundamental nature of the Bench will be changed forever.


"Matthews’ Jurisdiction novels are deeply focused on character, and intensely interested in anguish, the dynamics of absolute power, and the tension between conflicting – I hesitate to say “moral,” but perhaps “dutiful” will do – imperatives. I have yet to read science fiction by another author that takes these themes from a similar angle.”"

—Liz Bourke, columnist at Tor.com

"[Matthews] brilliantly uses science fiction's freedom of creation to...explore deep moral conflicts. "

—Denver Post