A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows
by Poul Anderson
SFBC, 1974, 184 pp
A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows was written when Anderson was in his prime and takes Dominic Flandry, the near-pulp adventure hero of Agent of the Terran Empire, and turns him into a thoughtful, but still dynamic, Captain Sir Dominic Flandry, one of the Terran Empire’s top field agents.
The Emperor Gerhart (an analog of Vespasian) is not yet secure on the throne and Flandry is one of his most trusted agents for dealing with crises. The next one handed him seems really odd — a formerly reliable sector governor is resisting Imperial orders to disarm and now word has come back that his agents are fomenting rebellion on Diomedes, the planet where The Man Who Counts was set. It appears that he’s attempting to create a rebellion to draw off the Navy and declare independence for his sector.
Flandry is off on the chase, taking with him a woman who had been captured while spreading sedition on Diomedes. He discovered her as she was about to be sold as a slave on Earth. She turns out to be the sector governor’s niece — is this proof of his complicity or something more sinister?
As she and Flandry head to Diomedes, they fall in love – the first time for Flandry, heretofore always a tomcat, but never in love — and she convinces Flandry that the whole Diomedes game is a plot to set her uncle against the Empire.
They duly capture the enemy agents — Merseian agents led by the ever-resourceful Aycharaych — and head off to Denitza, her home planet to stop her uncle from being goaded into rebellion.
Not all goes well, however, and while Aycharaych is foiled, Flandry’s love is killed also and Flandry takes terrible vengeances. The twin vengeances with which Flandry ends the book are utterly justified and utterly right and tragic in the extreme. It’s a very well done book.