Asaro (World 56)
Catherine Asaro (1955 – ; first SF publication, 1993) unites hard science and space opera, particularly in her longest-running series, the Saga of the Skolian Empire. The Skolians are millennia removed from their origins on Earth, and today are one of three empires in the galaxy, along with the sadistic, slave-based Eubian Concord and the Allied worlds, primarily allied to avoid absorption by either of the larger dominions. The Skolian Empire is ruled by the Ruby Dynasty, a long-lived family with intricately interwoven relationships and a family tree worthy of any European reigning house. Although weaker than the Concord in most respects, the Skolians have created a psionic-powered network of instantaneous communication that can only be energized by members of the Ruby Dynasty, making this family both rulers and bound in service to the empire.
This is space opera writ large, across generations, with plenty of twists and turns. It embraces both romance and hard science — the science is often explained in detail and is (I am told) markedly close to possible.
In The Last Hawk, the Ruby Dynasty’s Kelric crashlands on Coba and is taken captive by its ruling matriarchy. The most powerful men (including Kelric) are kept in harems, where one of the most important measures of power is ability with the Quis dice. They are multifaceted, in more ways than one: they are the pieces in a game of strategy, but also tools for storytelling, foretelling and even political stratagems. When Kelric escapes, he introduces Quis dice to the galaxy.