[WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the first two "Vulcan's Soul" books]
The "Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul" trilogy by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz tells the true story of the Sundering of the Romulan people from the Vulcans. In doing so, it has also had to account for the existence of the Remans from Star Trek: Nemesis. The first two books deal with the exodus from Vulcan and then the years-long journey to find a new home. Epiphany, the third book in the trilogy, follows what happens when they get there and how everything plays out to present the situation we know in the "present day." It's a fitting conclusion, dovetailing all known facts nicely in addition to explaining the additional race that Shwartz and Sherman have created for the "current" timeline's story. They do a masterful job of tying it all together with few mishaps. is the engrossing tale of the 72 angels who fell with Samael from Heaven, and an unnamed angel who “found Samael in His new kingdom, and made the Fallen One an offer of allegiance.” Looking into the Face of God, the angel lost its name, its sigil, its rituals, its summonings, and almost its life - but angels do not die. Instead, “It would spend eternity as unlimited potentiality without possibility of use.”
At the end of Exiles, Karatek and his band of exiled Vulcans who had stayed most loyal to Surak's teachings were betrayed and left to scrape together survival on Remus, the sister planet to Romulus discovered by the expedition. They were forced to mine and produce minerals for their new "Romulan" masters - those Vulcans who had abandoned Surak's teachings. The prospect for survival is bleak, but a chance discovery makes it possible for them to survive, if perhaps at a cost that will rob them of all that makes them Vulcan. Meanwhile, in the post-Dominion War era, the expedition to the Watraii planet to retrieve the crown stolen from the Romulans (on which Karatek had been recording the history of the Sundering) as well as Admiral Chekov has succeeded, but the Watraii are still after them. The Romulan government is poised to fall if the conflict with the Watraii isn't solved soon. Ambassador Spock may hold the secret to reconciliation as the Watraii deception is revealed.
Once again, Shwartz and Sherman’s blend of action, political intrigue, and history flows smoothly off the page. There are no boring parts in this book; even the history holds the reader's attention. Whether it's because the reader is a Trek fan who wants to know exactly how the Remans became as they are in the movie or because the casual reader is simply entranced with the prose and wonderful characters, the historical portions are just as interesting as the "modern" ones. The chapter format is not as regular as in the previous two books, with there being two historical chapters in a row at times or vice versa. By doing it this way, the authors are able to have each section influence the other, making the prose flow even better.
The characterization in this book is masterful as well, with the odd exception of Ruanek (the Romulan exile whom the authors created in previous Vulcan books). He's not very prominent, but when he is on the page he's not really that interesting, with the exception of the hilarious "right of statement" scene when he delays Command Tomolok from opening fire on Captain Saavik's ship. Otherwise, he's rather superficial. But Shwartz and Sherman are the queens of Vulcan, and they capture the race’s characterizations perfectly. Spock is a wonderful hybrid of logic and emotionalism, able to walk the line with the ease that his many years have given him.
The historical Vulcans fight their inherent natures and turn some fan theories of what exactly happened during the Sundering on their heads. Many thought that those who didn't want to follow Surak were the ones who left, but this series shows why many of them did leave and how they managed to maintain their beliefs despite years of hardship. The occasional "thees" and "thous" are distracting - not because Vulcans have never spoken that way, but because they seem to be placed in the dialogue at odd times, and never in whole conversations. But with this exception, all the Vulcans are perfect.
The plotting, while excellent, does get a bit crowded at times. Romulan intrigue mixes with Federation-Romulan negotiations and the conflict with the Watraii, who tie into Romulan history as well. It becomes apparent about halfway through Epiphany what the Watraii actually are, but that seems to be planned and unavoidable. The only minor issue I have with the plotting is that much of the Romulan politics at the end of the book seem tacked on in order to set the stage for those already-published books that take place a year or two after this one. I like the continuity, but it seems a bit awkwardly placed in this book.
But the plotting, the pace, and the prose make the book hard to put down. This book will pass quickly as the reader just has to find out what happens next. With things changing so quickly in the "modern" story, you would think the reader would get whiplash from everything that's happening, but the authors handle the transitions well and the changes are never jarring.
I'm not sure Shwartz and Sherman could have fashioned a better conclusion than they did with Epiphany. It's a wonderful conclusion to the "Vulcan's Soul" trilogy, giving Trek fans the continuity they wish for but not wallowing in it anymore than necessary. Casual readers may not understand all of the nuances, but there is enough of interest in here that even they should find something worth reading (though I would definitely suggest starting at the beginning).
I can't wait to see what they have in store for us next.