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Five-Twelfths of Heaven

(Roads of Heaven #1)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  361 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In a space-faring civilization where a single woman is increasingly sisenfranchised, the star pilot Silence Leigh is defrauded from her inheritance by a greedy competitor. Forced to ally with two men, Silence is dragged into a deadly political struggle, and is tantalized by the hints of the legendary Earth, as well as the dread and the glory of Magi's power. Her dreams of ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 339 pages
Published April 1st 1985 by Baen (first published 1985)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  361 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Bogi Takács
My review is now online on

Magical spacefliiiiiiiiiiiight!

Source of the book: Bought with my own money
Walter Underwood
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Jo Walton called this "polyamorous alchemical space opera", and she nailed it, though the three-way love story isn't even part of the story, just a casual plot element.

I really love space opera that just flows, and this nails it. Never even a paragraph of plodding exposition or clumsy "As you know, Captain..." monologue. I'm never a fan of worldbuilding without story, so this world gets a doube thumbs up because it is creative and essential to the story. Spaceships travel faster than light throu
Sunyi Dean
Nov 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fantasy
I have so many mixed feelings on this novel.

So... context first. I picked it at random off the shelves, and decided to read it because I liked the title. If you look at the cover, note that it shows a blond woman and two men, a ship in the background--that and the blurb make it sounds like a classic space opera type story.

The cover is bullshit. This is a science fantasy space-opera about a religious mageocracy who rule space travel through magic and enforce a highly unequal society, particular
Really one of the most original methods of space travel I've ever read, where pilots reach worlds by visualising symbols in a kind of musical alchemical phase shift.

I always find Melissa Scott very readable - I'm just interested in what happens next, although a lot of this story is just the protagonist, Silence, reacting to circumstance. She lives in a very woman-unfriendly part of the galaxy. Most of it has been conquered by the Hegemony, which strips most of the rights from women. Even outside
Justin Howe
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Science Fantasy where FTL travel is powered by alchemy, tarot cards, and a musical instrument that can be tuned to the music of the spheres. I couldn't help but imagine all the spaceships sort of looking like guitars, cellos, violins, etc.
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
My favorite part was how the people in the story relate to their technology metaphorically as magic, but you can totes tell it's science.

My least favorite part (and that almost cost the review a star) was how it started to feel like... magic.

I want to read a sequel and I want it to categorically state that you aren't 'born' a magus in this world, you study to become one, and the study involves physics.

Still, it's a "lost colonies" world and I love those, and I love "geas" whenever it gets used,
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this universe, Space Magic(TM) is - quite literally - space magic. Engineers are musicians, pilots are mystics and just about everyone else is a complete dickhead. Also, dubstep is a weapon of mass destruction, which is weird since the book was first published in 1985 and Skrillex and his ilk weren't even embryos then.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book of the Silence Leigh trilogy, followed in 1986 by Silence in Solitude and in 1987 by The Empress of the Earth. It was later released in a SFBC omnibus edition, The Roads of Heaven. But that’s a pretty naff title for the trilogy, even if it is, well, pretty accurate (it’s also used by the current small press Kindle omnibus). Because in the universe of Five-Twelfths of Heaven, it’s the music of the spheres which allows for interstellar travel. Starship have “harmoniums” (har ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and enjoyable science fantasy. I find Melissa Scott's writing style, characters, and world-building compelling, and I love the role of music in the magical technology of this universe. The very unusual method spaceflight reminds me a little of the Ninefox Gambit series, in that the authors pretty much throw out most of our current science and take a highly creative and colorful approach to the subject instead, which I heartily approve of. The ships in the story run basically on alche ...more
Abi Walton
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't know what to say about this book. I read it because it was written by Melissa Scott and also it intrigued me when wrote an article on it. But overall it was a disappointment, and I think mostly because Silence wasn't a fully formed character more a lense and the really interesting parts the marriage between Silence and her two husbands wasn't explored much.
Overall I have the second book but I'm not sure I will persist with the series.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did_not_finish, ebook
I liked the idea of magic-fueled sci fi and it's a truly unique system of space travel that the author has come up with. However, there's no in-depth story. It's more like a sketch of a story with the plot and characters outlined, but never filled in. Kept on hoping it'd get better, but at the 58% mark, I've decided to give up.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read this whole series at least 3 times. Scott has created a very ‘real’ world and the characters are well constructed. I like the way ‘unconventional’ relationships (in ‘modern’ Western eyes) are written as straightforward. It is really classy science fiction with strong human stories. Great
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun twist on genre fiction with magic mixed with sci fi. World felt a little lightly built out at times but overall the plot moved along well and the characters are fairly well realized. I liked the way pilots memorize space routes like wizard memorizing spells.
I came across a recommendation for this book series while I was looking for science fiction and fantasy books that include polyamory. The description of it by Jo Walton as a "polyamorous alchemical space opera" turned out to be spot-on accurate.

Surprisingly to me, the books are heaviest on the alchemical element. Much of the world building and plot has to do with space travel that is controlled by musical harmonies and manipulation of mystical symbols. I can't recall reading anything else quite
Possibly the best explanation for FTL (faster than light) spaceship travel in any SF book ever. Scott invented her own science for this and it's marvelously creative and sustained throughout the entire series.

But I don't read SF for the science, I read it for the adventure. This book has plenty of that as well. It starts with a familiar set-up -- If a society fairly similar to the Saudis with burkas and other heavy restrictions against women, was the basis of a strong empire that had taken over
Sharon Iliffe
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Had this on the shelves for a quite a while and decided to read last week. I love Silence Leigh; she is a woman struggling to reach her goals while operating in the confines of various patriarcies. The author does not write her as a perfect strong woman; Silence has moments of weakness and acknowledges her flaws, but she is also very self aware and does what she has to do to get to where she wants to be. It is interesting and satisfying to me that Melissa Scott doesn't downplay the effect that a ...more
Mar 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Roads of Heaven trilogy book I
Part space opera part sufficiently advanced science indistinguishable from magic and part social commentary.
FTL is managed using harmonics-sound powered flight. It is the math of sound they use to plot routes tuning the vessel with hyperspace known as 'purgatory' in ship board slang.
Some of the social commentary on requiring women to be Roads of Heaven trilogy has come into relevance once more. Here it is the Hegemony that accords women few rights on its planets.
Aug 09, 2010 rated it liked it
I haven't read much sci-fye in a while. Adam remembered this book fondly (it is out of print), so I dug up a copy on Amazon (actually it wasn't that hard). So... the plot wasn't that interesting, but the world itself, and especially the flying mechanism, were. Flying works by tuning a ship's keel to the song of heaven. Ships then enter purgatory, which is closer to heaven, where the navigator can "steer" the ship using memorized signs/symbols. Something like that... anyway, that part was cool.

Mar 14, 2015 rated it liked it
It took me a little while to get the hang of the space travel in the novel, which is all to do with harmonics and sound and an esoteric way of navigating hyperspace - but the novel flows really well, the imagery of space flight is really compelling, and I loved Silence and the two men who become part of her life.
Oct 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, sci-fi
I'm not usually a space opera fan, but Melissa Scott has made this one interesting enough that I have bumped the rest of the trilogy to the top of my already overburdened reading list. On to the next installment...
C.J. Moseley
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, the Neo-platonic imagery used by the pilots guild, the hermetic magic, the space opera scale, the glorious hegemony culture, even the polyamory sub-plot that creeps in is treated with the same delicate care making it all utterly fantastical and yet believable.
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
Silence Leigh joins the Sun-Treader. I believe I got this recommendation of a forum thread about readalikes for the Vorkosigan Saga. I disagree with that comparison, but the book is ok. The beginning is really quite strong, and then some bumps. Mainly set-up for the next two, from what I can tell.
May 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Another re-read: pretty fair but somewhat clunky.
Chris Crewdson
Aug 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
This had a distinct flavor to the sci-fi that I really appreciated and a strong female protagonist. My only real complaint is that it was over too fast.
Jan 02, 2008 rated it liked it
read 10.01.86
Carrie Naughton
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. See my review over at Luna Station Quarterly
Douglas Baughman
Sep 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It was totally different. There is an uniqueness to it.
Melania Ramona
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Original and interesting.
rated it it was ok
May 15, 2014
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Scott studied history at Harvard College and Brandeis University, and earned her PhD. in comparative history. She published her first novel in 1984, and has since written some two dozen science fiction and fantasy works, including three co-authored with her partner, Lisa A. Barnett.

Scott's work is known for the elaborate and well-constructed settings. While many of her protagonists are gay, lesbia

Other books in the series

Roads of Heaven (3 books)
  • Silence in Solitude (Roads of Heaven, #2)
  • Empress of Earth (Roads of Heaven, #3)