Children Of The Star might be the best novel I’ve read since Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov. It is similar in some respects. There is a mysterious and reclusive group (the scholars) subtly guiding society. There is mention of telepathy. There are secrets that must never be told or else they would endanger the survival of the entire human race. There are secrets inside of secrets inside of other secrets wrapped around and twisted through still other secrets. Everybody has secrets they aren’t telling the others.
It goes much further than sociology and political science. The book is heavy on spirituality. The main character, Noren, learns through his heartbreaks the meaning of faith in a way I would not have even understood myself just four years ago. Sometimes faith is not trust in spite of evidence, but trust because there is no better alternative. There are also moral dilemmas on every other page, such as when and when not to interfere in the affairs of other cultures, reminiscent of the prime directive from Star Trek.
The only thing I can say against the book is that at times it seemed to drag just a bit while Noren thought through every possible facet of an issue before making a decision. The book is more philosophy than action. At the same time, this additional detail really helped me to identify with the character and feel everything he went through. In the end, it becomes worth it.
Engdahl also makes excellent use of foreshadowing. We must think in the same ways because I correctly guessed where a certain character was from from the first time she was introduced and I guessed how the scholars were chosen by noting what went into the city and what went out of the city.