Authors: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Series: Liaden Universe (Book 18)
Publication: Baen (June 2, 2015)
Description: Star-trading Clan Korval—known to Terrans as the Tree-and-Dragon Family and to the locals simply as "the Dragon"—has been convicted of crimes against the homeworld. No matter that one of the "crimes" consisted of saving the elitist planet of Liad from very real internal threats, the Council of Clans wanted Korval heads to roll. Unfortunately for the Council, the Dragon's allies conspired to impose a milder punishment for saving the world: banishment, rather than execution.
Now relocated to the free-for-all world of Surebleak, the Dragon is under contract to keep the Port Road open to all traffic, and to back the New Bosses in imposing law and order on a society originally based on larceny and assassination. This modest rustication is going surprisingly well, until Korval discovers that the enemy they'd sought to destroy. . .wasn't quite destroyed, and is more determined than ever to eradicate Korval.
While the banishment killed no one initially, many of Korval’s trading allies are spooked, and some are reneging on ancient agreements, leaving the Dragon to make its own way. The clan’s efforts to stealthily recruit new allies is going haywire, and a secret death toll is rising even as the clan’s adherents endure increasing exposure to danger and deceit off-world.
To make matters worse, an active portion of Surebleak's native population liked the Old Ways just fine, and are conspiring to take the New Bosses—and the Dragon—down, and are sure they have the firepower and people to do it.
The exiled Dragon has to make an urgent choice—accept an alliance with criminals or face down each and every enemy in person, one by one.
My Thoughts: This eighteenth Liaden Universe novel focuses on change both personal and galactic. I don't think that it is a book for someone new to the Liaden novels though the author's do try to assist a new reader in the Prologue. But for long-standing fans of this series (one that I have been reading since about 1985), this story was a marvel and a wonder.
Korval is now situated on Surebleak and trying to find a place for itself. They are also trying to find their place in the larger galactic community. While they did their best - including leveling parts of Liad - to defeat the Department of the Interior, they were not able to completely eradicate it. The remaining much-diminished Department has set the elimination of Korval as its only focus. And the Department doesn't care about collateral damage.
Besides this large outside enemy, they are also dealing with citizens of Surebleak who would like to return things to the way it was before Pat Rin arrived and changed Surebleak to meet his needs. It is easy to see that changing the culture on Surebleak won't be an easy process.
This story is told from multiple viewpoints which all weave together to form the whole. Miri and Val Con are key voices but we also hear from Rys, the only Agent of Change besides Val Con who managed to overcome the Department's programming, Quin who represents one of the next generation of Korval, Hazenthull Explorer, one of the Xtrang who are now members of Korval, Kamele Waitley and a few others. Through their eyes, we see what is happening on Surebleak which is going through a major change in society and culture.
We catch up with a number of the characters who have been introduced in the earlier books in this series. I loved seeing them again but wish that I could have seen more about Theo, Daav and Aelliana. Those tiny glimpses in the Interludes just whet my appetite for more. I really enjoyed seeing Korval and Surebleak from Kamele Waitley's point of view since we usually don't see that view. I also enjoyed learning more about Kareen and seeing her become a less one-sided character.
Fans of the series won't want to miss this addition. New readers will want to read some of the earlier books to find out more about the intriguing characters who have roles in this story.
"None of us ought to be diminished by our changed circumstances. It is true that adventures sometimes drive one into simplicity." She felt, rather than saw his smile.I bought and read this eARC the first day it was available on Baen. You can buy your copy here.
"Life is wonderfully simplified when all that is required is that one survive."
"That is the door that opened into this..." she hesitated, feeling over the possible descriptors in her head.
"Opportunity?" he suggested.