The Hostage of Zir is the first new novel in L. Sprague De Camp's famous future-history series in more than a decade. De Camp's tales of Viagens Interplanetarias the Krishna Series, has continued since the 1950s with such famous works as The Queen of Zamba and The Tower of Zanid. De Camp has developed a society in Earth's distant future with Brazil the preeminent power, and Portugese the major language of spacefaring Earthmen. The most interesting of the planets Earthmen visit is Krishna, which is inhabited by strange animals and by a humanoid race with a society and technology that are virally medieval.
Krishna has now been opened to tourism by Earth authorities, but the planet remains socially medieval. Earth people visiting outside the spaceport city of Novorecife must still be cosmetically altered, with the addition of skin dye and feathery antennae, to appear like the humanoid natives.
Reith, the hero of THE HOSTAGE OF ZIR, is to take a party of tourists on a guided tour of Krishna, to culminate in a visit to Dur, the capital of the most advanced kingdom on the planet. Tashian, who rules this kingdom, is an enlightened monarch, and his proudest achievement is the construction (with the aid of Earthmen) of a railroad powered by elephant like bishtars.
At the construction site, the party of tourists is caught in an attack by the Witch of Zir and her forces, who are in rebellion against Tashian. Seeing the red-haired Reith, the Witch's forces imagine him to be the prophesied red-haired god: the symbol of rebellion.
With wit and cunning, Reith manages to escape and to accomplish the release of the captured tourists, only to become enmeshed in an affair with the lusty daughter of Tashian--whom Tashian wants him to marry!
This colorful adventure lives up to de Camp's reputation for top-notch SF.