In the twenty-eighth century, Valerian and Laureline are spatio-temporal agents for Galaxity, the seat of the Terran Galactic Empire. A citizen of Galaxity, Valerian is a good-natured hero that resembles Conan in a spacesuit while acting like a boy-scout's hero. Laureline, however, hails from 11th century France and is as fiery as her red hair. Where Valerian relies on traditional action and heroics to solve cases, Laureline relies on her charm and guile. Their early adventures through time and space focused on Valerian as the hero with Laureline as his pretty sidekick. Over time, Laureline grows into an equal partner to Valerian. Filmmaker Luc Besson describes their relationship as "It's a boy and a girl. They have fun, they love each other, but they don't want to say it. He's a puppy — he's watching all the girls, and she's very old fashioned. For her, you fall in love with one man, you get married, you have kids. Just like that, it's today, but with aliens and fighting."
the Grumpy Transmuter of Bluxte, a pet that can reproduce pearls, coins, pills, or anything else she might need to trade for favors, as she moves from backroom deal to backroom deal in pursuit of her Valerian. And the ambassador, if she absolutely must.
This is Laureline's book, and the point in the series where she takes over the role of main character from Valerian. As soon as Valerian is whisked away atop the kidnappers' fleeing ship, the story never leaves her again. Laureline might well be a grandmother to today's Pixie-fu Action Girl. Certainly, she originates from the same intersection of feminism and Venus worship that birthed the Action Girl. But where the Action Girl seeks to eliminate the differences between the sexes by proving she is better than men at fighting, Laureline celebrates her differences from Valerian. Laureline plays to her feminine strengths, wit, guile, charm, and sex appeal, leaving physical confrontation to Valerian. While Ambassador of the Shadows praises Laureline's feminine cunning at the expense of Valerian's impulse to action, her story is the traditional tale of a wife braving strange lands in search of her beloved, complete with political intrigue and a splash of temptation. But where most women must rely on a guide to navigate the alien cultures, Laureline is able to do so on her own, which is fortunate as her guide is venal and cowardly. At the end, she proves to be key in unraveling the political mess that took away her Valerian. At first glance, Laureline's independence keeps her from making the same mistake that Valerian's insistence on duty and obedience to orders led him to, but she is just as constrained as Valerian, forbidden by her superiors to take matters in her own hands. Unfortunately, as Laureline ascends to main character status, Valerian begins his multiple book struggle with lawful stupidity. Fortunately, Christin and Mézières recognized that Valerian was slipping into parody and reined in the Laureline worship soon after.
the Mos Eisley cantina. The palette is limited to red, yellow, blue, and black and their combinations, using shading and contrast for effect. Look for warmer colors to frame panels of conflict and tension, and colder hues for more peaceful times.
Ambassador of the Shadows serves well as an introduction to the universe of Valerian and Laureline, and to Laureline herself. But with Valerian out of the picture for much of this slim volume, readers looking to fully appreciate the relationship between Valerian and Laureline, as well as the dance on contrasts between them, will need to pick up additional volumes. Fortunately, I've got Ghosts of Inverloch and Wrath of Hypsis waiting in the wings...