Author: Ryk E. Spoor
Heroine: Captain Ariane Stephanie Austin
While certainly no physical weakling, Ariane's greatest strength is her driving, indomitable will and a refusal to allow anything to beat her -- even when she's uncertain of herself at times. Originally meant as a last-ditch, and assumed-useless, backup for AI pilots, Ariane was suddenly thrust into the position of leader of the little group of humans who found themselves stranded in the alien construct called The Arena -- and had to find some way to get them home. This led to confrontations and political maneuverings with, potentially, the entire human race at stake -- culminating with a one-on-one battle against Amas-Garao, a "Shadeweaver" with apparently supernatural powers who was assumed to be invincible, and whom she nonetheless defeated with a combination of luck, insight, and utterly unyielding drive that would not admit of the *possibility* of defeat.
There's nothing as sexy as a woman who's confident and playful at the same time, and that describes Ariane to a T; she's also a thrill-seeker, a professional space racer, and lover of adventure who has found that, despite the terrifying, real-life stakes in play in The Arena, she's more alive and HERSELF there than she was in the Solar System of 2375. That confidence and energy are enough to attract any eye. And the lovely blue hair doesn't hurt, either!
It was supposed to be a simple test flight, one that pilot Ariane Austin was on only as a last-ditch backup; intelligent, superhumanly fast automation would handle the test activation and flight of humanity's first faster-than-light vessel. But when the Sandrisson Drive activated, every automated system crashed, the nuclear reactor itself shut down, and only the reflexes and training of a racing pilot saved the test vessel Holy Grailfrom crashing into the impossible wall that had appeared before them, a wall which is just part of a monstrous enclosure surrounding a space twenty thousand kilometers across. With all artificial intelligences inert and their reactor dead, they had to find some other source of power to reactivate the Sandrisson Drive and—hopefully—take them home.
And that was only the beginning. As Ariane, Dr. Simon Sandrisson, darkly enigmatic power engineer Marc C. DuQuesne, and the rest of theHoly Grail's crew explore the immense artifact, they discover that they are not alone; they have entered a place the alien inhabitants call “The Arena,” and there is no way out without joining one of the alien factions . . . or winning recognition as a faction in their own right, playing by the Arena's rules – and by the Arena's rules, one failed challenge could mean death or worse – perhaps for the entire human race.
Surrounded by alien factions, each with its own secret plans and motivations, some wielding powers so strange as to be magical, Ariane sets out to beat the Arena at its own game. With DuQuesne's strategies, Sandrisson's genius, and her own unyielding determination, she's going to bring the Holy Grail home – even if she has to beat every faction in the Arena to do it!