Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Traviss, Karen

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

Icon made by Freepik from


(?   -    ) UK-born soldier, advertising copywriter, journalist and author, in US from the early years of the twenty-first century, who began publishing work of genre interest with "Orchids" in Neverworlds for February 1999, with occasional short work appearing until around 2007. From early in her career, however, she has focused on Series: the non-tie Wess'har Wars sequence comprising City of Pearl (2004), Crossing the Line (2004), The World Before (2005), Matriarch (2006), Ally (2007) and Judge (2008); and sequences of Ties, mostly set in the Star Wars universe.

Though in many ways contributory to the British form of Space Opera as it has developed since about 1990, the Wess'har Wars tales are distinctly American in tone and strategy: an exceedingly complex pattern of conflicts and alliances amongst at least five Alien species (including humans) is unpacked through the highly proactive behaviour of several clearly (and attractively) drawn protagonists, whose individual actions are more consequential upon future events than usual in British examples. City of Pearl (titles are not Traviss's forte) introduces the series's main protagonist, Shan Frankland, once an environmental hazards investigator but soon a plenipotentiary envoy from Earth to a planet whose various races include a colony of fundamentalist humans. Her attempts to engage with the resident alien – who boasts a Nanoware-enhanced capacity to eliminate entire races which transgress against complicated rules of inter-species conduct – are drawn in broad strokes, as is the romance that develops between them, over many pages of intercourse and morphs due to Genetic Engineering and the influence of the c'naatat, a parasite capable of imparting Immortality to its hosts, plus other, McGuffin-friendly gifts: including something like Identity Transfer. As the series progresses, the scale broadens, climaxing in Judge, where planet Earth stands at the bar of interstellar justice, and the central characters of the series finish their exploration of the sf toolkit while (perhaps more interestingly) achieving a state of balanced, assured Identity.

The Star Wars sequences – Republic/Imperial Commando, Legacy of the Force and Clone Wars – are deft but necessarily simpler. Most of these titles, ten to date, stand outside the main line of the series history, and are consequently freer than some titles closer to the line of films. Traviss has also contributed to two Videogames, Gears of War and Halo: Combat Evolved [for discussion of this work, see the individual games]. Her facility with Ties may have generated a sense that Traviss is at heart a journeyman writer, a capable fulfiller of contracts; but the Wess'har Wars books thrust forcefully into more dangerous territory, where hard questions about human nature may be asked. It is to be hoped that there is yet much to come. [JC]

Karen Traviss

born Portsmouth, Hampshire



Wess'har Wars

  • City of Pearl (New York: HarperCollins/Eos, 2004) [Wess'har Wars: pb/Greg Bridges]
  • Crossing the Line (New York: HarperCollins/Eos, 2004) [Wess'har Wars: pb/Greg Bridges]
  • The World Before (New York: HarperCollins/Eos, 2005) [Wess'har Wars: pb/Greg Bridges]
  • Matriarch (New York: HarperCollins/Eos, 2006) [Wess'har Wars: pb/Greg Bridges]
  • Ally (New York: HarperCollins/Eos, 2007) [Wess'har Wars: pb/]
  • Judge (New York: HarperCollins/Eos, 2008) [Wess'har Wars: pb/Chris McGrath]

Star Wars: Commando

Star Wars: Legacy of the Force

Star Wars: Clone Wars

Gears of War

Halo: Combat Evolved


  • Going Grey (Scotts Valley, California: CreateSpace, 2014) [Ringer: pb/]
  • Black Run (no place given: Karen Traviss, 2017) [Ringer: pb/]



previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies