One of the Liaden universe books.

This book is part of the Dragon Variation Omnibus, Pilot’s Choice, and Phase Change Collection.

This is an SF romance and I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys both genres.

Aelliana Caylon clan Mizel is a math teacher and this is her growing up story. She lives under the watchful eye of her abusive brother Ran Eld who is the nadelm (second in command) of the clan. Even though the small clan lives in the same house, the others don’t seem to understand just how violent Rad Eld is towards Aelliana. She has learned to be meek and submissive to him. The only time she’s in her own element is at the school where she teaches navigation to Scouts. However, lately she has started to talk back a little to her brother and even challenged him on business matters.

One night she’s lured out of her lonely day by Scout pupils who take her drinking and gambling. She manages to win a working Jump ship by using mathematics during a card game. (I suspect that it’s not that easy or all people involved in mathematics would be wealthy.) Now she has a way to escape her brutal brother and confined life! Aelliana isn’t a pilot but she’s determined to achieve that. She just has to be quick because if Ran Eld finds out about the ship, Ride the Luck, he would demand the ship for himself. Aelliana soon finds out that she’s actually quite famous among the Scouts because she revised the navigational charts some years back. The Scouts have to rely on the charts for their lives and so are happy to help her. She learns to feel enjoyment and joy again when surrounded by such supportive people but always the threat of her brother lurks on the back of her brain.

The book’s second main character, or perhaps the most prominent secondary character, is Daav yos’Phelium the Delm of the clan Korval, one of the most influential people on the planet. Daav has reluctantly agreed to contract-marry Samiv tel’Izak in order to have an heir. They don’t really know each other but Daav tries to treat Samiv like a fellow pilot. However, he finds her cold and greedy. In desperation, he seeks out temporary employment with his old master’s shipyard and meets a certain meek math teacher.

There are other point-of-view characters also but they are introduced rather later in the book. Samiv is one of them and she turns out to be a bit different when you start to know her.

I really enjoyed reading about Daav who has a quirky sense of humor and who isn’t an arrogant asshole as many leading men in fantasy tend to be. He becomes Aelliana’s co-pilot and accepts that as matter of course; he doesn’t insist that he be the main pilot because he’s much more experienced or the delm of the Korval clan or because he’s male. He’s gracious to those around him and he even tries to befriend Samiv.

I also really enjoyed the secondary characters; Jon dea’Court as the gruff and grumpy but fair shipyard owner, and the merry band of Scouts. I wondered if Aelliana’s mother, the delm, really didn’t know what was going on in her own family or was she so busy with something else to see it.

Unfortunately, I pretty much knew that as soon as Daav entered Aelliana’s life, her troubles were over, so there wasn’t much tension for me. I just waited to see when Daav would click his fingers and give Ran Eld his comeuppance. Actually, things didn’t turn out quite that way but (once again) I found out that I’m just not satisfied with “just” a romance as the main plot.

There’s also an interesting subplot which continues from the previous book. In Local Custom, Anne found out that the Terran and Liaden languages have a common root and in this book some of the Liaden are quite outraged by such a suggestion. Anne and Rand Eld have cameos here, which was nice.

Oh, I forgot to mention how much I adore that the Liaden language has different tones: Adult-to-Adult, Comrade-to-Comrade, Adult-to-Delm of a different Clan, Superior-to-Inferior. Wonderful! They tell so much about the mood and intentions of the characters involved. They also tell about the character’s self-image and how he or she is used to being addressed and interact with others.

By the way, the cover that I saw on Amazon is definitely white washed: pretty much everyone in the book are Liaden and so golden skinned. The couple on the cover is clearly white (not to mention that the man doesn’t look like Daav at all. At all!!). The cover on the ebook that I have (the Dragon Variation) has also a white couple in it. In the previous book, Local Custom, the main couple was also non-white: the man a golden-skinned Liad and the woman a brown-skinned Terran. So, unless the couple in the last omnibus book is white, the Dragon Variation has also a white washed cover.