Tuesday, April 26, 2022

ARC Review: Fair Trade by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Fair Trade

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Series: Liaden Universe (Book 24)
Publication: Baen (May 3, 2022)

Description: Jethri Gobelyn has risen far: from despised youngest on a Terran family Loop ship to second trader on premier Liaden tradeship Elthoria under the guidance of his unlikely foster-mother Norn ven'Deelin Clan Ixin. Master Trader ven'Deelin has taught Jethri much, and she expects great things from him. Indeed, one might say she demands them.

Jethri has inherited a mission from his father, a plan that will allow family Loop ships like the one he grew up on to survive the encroachment of Rostov’s Dust. In this, he’s backed by several prominent Looper families who are scheduled to meet and plan at the South Axis Trade Fair.

In what seems to be a fortunate pairing of missions, Master Trader ven'Deelin sees Jethri become lead trader on his own small ship, which is scheduled to arrive at the South Axis Fair.

Unfortunately, that “fortunate coincidence” may instead be a test of Jethri’s loyalties, as he’s thrust into a tangle of gray-trading, mistaken identity, misinformation, and galactic politics. . . .

My Thoughts: This is the third book starring Jethri Gobelyn ven'Deelin who has come far from being an unwanted extra on his birth ship to becoming a fully trained and competent trader. This story sees Jethri gaining his own ship through the offices of his mother foster Master Trader Norn ven'Deelin Clan Ixin and Master Trader pin'Aker Clan Midys who both expect great things of him. 

They send him to the South Axis Trade Fair which is a gathering of Terran traders. This is an ideal location for him to talk about the Envidaria - a document talking about the future of trade which was first written by Jethri's father Arin who died when Jethri was a child. 

But the Envidaria is not a universally popular document. Members of the Combine and TerraTrade don't want anything to upset their very comfortable current situation. And, after all, the coming of Rostov's Dust won't affect very many worlds. Jethri disagrees and needs to get very political if he is going to be able to save the Loopers, and family ships, and the planets who will be disrupted by the coming Dust. 

Jethri has allies. Freza and Brabham from the Balrog have been working on Arin's plan since long before Jethri even knew about it. And other Loopers are also signing on to make the changes needed to survive the coming of Rostov's Dust. He also has enemies at the Trade Fair including Senior Technical Administrator Bory Borygard of TerraTrade who knew Jethri's father and disliked the Envidaria because it would disrupt his comfortable life.

Jethri has obstacles outside the congress too. While his master and mentor want him to be raised to the rank of Master Trader, the Liaden Trade Guild has enough members who don't want a Terran to be admitted to their ranks to throw a number of obstacles in Jethri's way. 

Outside this main story of Jethri at the Trade Fair, we have the story of Dulcimer and her crew. They used to trade on the dark side with contacts who look like earlier versions of the Juntavas. But with the death of their parents, the new captain wants to shift their focus to the clean, legal side of trade. They also have a pod of norbears onboard which is causing conflict between those who want to keep them there and those who want to space the animals. Squithen Patel is the one who communicates best with the norbears but is otherwise a very low-ranked member of the crew. She was a very interesting character. The hints at the story of how the norbears came to be on Dulcimer is a story I want to know. 

There is also another plot line concerning the Elsavair and her crew who seem to be earlier versions of the Bedel. They trade in Old Tech and have deals with the Uncle who happens to be Jethri's actual uncle being the brother of his father Arin. Jethri is particularly sensitive to Old Tech, a tweak his uncle and father built into his genetics, and ends up buying some disturbing devices from the Elsavair including a device worn like a hood which is a teaching tool that almost overwhelms him. 

My only complaint about this story was that, while progress was made on a number of fronts, nothing was finished. It does make me eager for the fourth book in Jethri's story which is still mainly residing in the authors' brains as I finish this book. 

Favorite Quote:
We are both an opportunity and a curiosity. You are a ship-born Looper who holds a ten-year Terran Combine trade key and a Liaden-trained trader. Who would not wish to meet such a marvel, especially here at the great congress of Terran traders. More, you have liberated a trade document that is likely to change how business is done among the very traders who form this congress.
I bought this eARC at Baen Books. You can buy your copy here.

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