Here's what I remember:

  1. Cover: hardcover, turquoise, possible thin yellow embellishment/design in one corner

  2. Author: Slavic, Jaroslav, maybe?

  3. Age: old & obscure

  4. Setting: feudalism

  5. Plot:

    A seneschal to an austere English lord foils the theft of a priceless artifact: a bowl of unusual material crafted by a renowned, though recently deceased, artist. Further investigation into the bowl's properties triggers a space race between a religious cult, Martians (human settlers of Mars), another Lord with a sadistic inclination, and a futuristic policing agency. The investigation traces the final steps of the bowl's maker, from a remote monastery in Mongolia, to the position of court artist at a verdant lunar settlement managed by a boorish Lord with an obsession for low-gravity hunting, to a fantastic, illusionary wild-west Jovian (or Saturnine) cylindrical outpost, and finally to the Jovian (or Saturnine) moons themselves.

  6. Spoilers:

    The missing artist is still alive, but not for long. And at the end of the rainbow lies the secret to interstellar flight. Mankind gains the ability to spread to other solar systems.

  • "Old" means different things to different people. By "old": do you mean, before 1940? Before 1890? Before 2010?
    – user14111
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 23:33
  • 1
    1990s, maybe 1980s, possibly 1970s... but the library book just seemed "old": cover art from another time, formal style of writing, weathered and worn cover.
    – user19087
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 0:43
  • Libraries rotate books, so unfortunately it is no longer available.
    – user19087
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 0:44

1 Answer 1


Carve the Sky by Alexander Jablokov. At goodreads, with a good review here. Some corrections:

  1. Wow, did I get the cover wrong.1
  2. "George Harvey Westerkamp, Lord Monboddo, Interrogator of Boston" is American, not British.
  3. The artist is a sculptor.
  4. "futuristic policing agency" is the "Union of Nations", "martians" are the "Technic Alliance", the "boorish lord" is the "Justice of Clavius", Mongolia is actually the Pamir Mountains (I think), and I forgot to mention the "Academia Sapientae".
  5. Published in 1991.

This is one a few stories that explores futuristic feudalism with any sort of meaning or permanence, along with "The Fluted Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi and "Dune" by Frank Herbert.

1 Cover art:
Cover art for *Carve The Sky* by Alexander Jabokov

  • Congrats! It's always nice when someone finds the answer for themselves. :)
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 17:08
  • 1
    Yes, I used this guide. Actually, used it more explicitly. Funny how neither seneschal "science fiction" nor seneschal "science fiction book" return any results, while the first several results from seneschal "science fiction novel" are all relevant.
    – user19087
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 23:48
  • ... (on google)
    – user19087
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 2:28

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