Card's latest installment in his Shadow subseries (Ender's Shadow, etc.), which parallels the overarching series that began with Ender's Game (1985), does a superlative job of dramatically portraying the maturing process of child into adult. The imminent death of Bean, a superhuman 20-something Battle School graduate who suffers from uncontrolled growth due to a genetic disorder, leaves little time for Peter the Hegemon, Ender's older brother, to set up a single world government and for Bean and his wife and former classmate, Petra, to reclaim all their stolen children. When Card's focus strays from his characters into pure politics, the story loses power, but it's recharged as soon as he returns to the well-drawn interactions among Bean's Battle School classmates whose decisions will determine Earth's fate. They were trained to fight a (literally) single-minded alien enemy, but that war is over. Now, as young adults in command of human armies pitted against each other in messy conflicts with no clear solutions, Bean's old cohorts must help create a peaceful future for Earth after they're gone. Card makes the important point that there's always more than one side to every issue. Fans will marvel at how subtly he has prepared for the clever resolution.
Considering the dynasty of novels launched by Ender's Game (1984), perhaps Card ought to consider renaming his central protagonist. Though this is putatively the eighth book in the Ender saga, when considering the books as two quartets linked across a 1,000-year gap (a by-product of Ender's light-speed travel to Lusitania), it's the fourth of the sequence that began with Ender's Shadow (1999). Here, Card further develops the premise that the return of Ender's battle team to Earth was tantamount to introducing "two Alexanders, a Joan of Arc here and there, and a couple of Julius Caesars, maybe an Attila, and . . . a Genghis Khan" into the geopolitical fray. The tension between characters' personal fulfillment and collective obligations also comes to the fore, as couple Bean and Petra desperately search for their eight missing embryos stolen by the mad eugenicist of Shadow Puppets (2002), watch Bean's health deteriorate, and attempt to restore order to the world under hegemon Peter Wiggin. The emergence of several additional perspectives makes for a somewhat cumbersome narrative, but it doesn't much matter. Like Card's idolized Battle School alumni, novels in this saga (not to mention Card himself) have acquired an irresistible aura from early associations with boy-hero Ender Wiggin