Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book Review: Balance of Trade by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Balance of Trade
Authors: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Publication: Meisha Merlin Publishing, Inc. (February 10, 2004)

Description: Assistant Trader Jethri Gobelyn was an honest, hardworking young man who knew a lot about living onboard his family's space-going trade ship; something about trade, finance, and risk-taking; and a little bit about Liadens. It was, oddly enough, the little bit he knew about Liadens that seemed like it might be enough to make his family's fortune, and his own, too. In short order, however, Jethri Gobelyn was about to find out a lot more about Liadens... like how far they might go to protect their name and reputation. Like the myriad of things one might say-intentionally or not-with a single bow. Like what it would take to make a Liaden trade-ship crew trash a bar. Like how hard it is to say "I'm sorry!" in Liaden. Pretty soon it was clear that as little as he knew about Liadens, he knew far less about himself. With his very existence a threat to the balance of trade, Jethri Gobelyn needed to learn fast, or else help destroy all he held dear.

My Thoughts: BALANCE OF TRADE is an excellent coming of age story set in a richly detailed alien world. Jethri Gobelyn is the son of a trading family and is being taught to become a trader himself. His mother is the ship's captain and his father, deceased for ten years, was the ship's master trader. Jethri's relationship with his mother is poor as she seems to blame him for the loss of her husband. She wants to sell him off her ship to another trading family.

Jethri has come into contact with a Liaden Master Trader Norn ven'Deelin when he brings a plot to her attention that has the intent of defrauding humans by using false claims on Liaden's honor. His courteous ways and honorable nature make her offer him a place as her apprentice on the Liaden ship Elthoria. Jethri wants to learn and certainly doesn't want to be sold where his mother wants to send him. He accepts Master Trade ven'Deelin's offer and begins his learning as a Terran among Liadens.

Jethri has a lot to learn about Liadens and about trading but nothing to learn about honor and diligence. He makes friends on the ship and even befriends another trader who is not valued by his family. The consequences of that put him at odds with that trader's family though and may even put his Gobelyn family in danger. 

The story was filled with rich detail as Jethri learns about the Liadens both on ship and on planets. He is sent to the Master Trader's foster mother to gain some polish and additional knowledge of Liaden culture. There he comes into contact with twin daughters of the House who are near him in age and who introduce him to the magical abilities some Liadens have. 

Also woven into this story is alien technology from times well past. His father was studying it and buying and selling it. He has left some to Jethri. The Liaden Scouts are determined to confiscate, study and destroy all the Old Tech that they can find. His father's people are also interested in the Old Tech but they want to learn to duplicate it. When Jethri and his partner Tan Sim pen'Alka come upon a pod containing Old Tech, his father's family and the Scouts converge.

I really liked this story and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to Young Adult science fiction readers. It is not an easy read because the reader is immersed in cultures not familiar to the reader. I don't necessarily recommend this title to those new to the Liaden Universe. But the persistent reader can't help but come to admire Jethri Gobelyn.

For more in the Liaden Universe, check out the booklist here or visit this website to learn more. 

Favorite Quote:
Down-body, Flinx began to purr, and shift his weight from one considerable front foot to the other—and repeat. He did that every morning too. The twins swore that the purring and the foot-shifting—kneading they called it—were signs of goodwill. Jethri just wondered why, if the cat liked him so much, he didn't let him sleep.
I own both the print version and the ebook version of this book. This one might be a little hard to get because it looks like it is only available from 3rd party sellers on Amazon. You can, however, buy the ebook in whatever version suits your device at Baen Books for $5.00.

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