Part of the following challenges: to-be-read-pile, 2nds, speculative fiction, and take the journey

This is the second in the science fiction series about document examiner Jani Killian.

After the disastrous events in the Rauta Shèràa Base, where a few humans lived in an idomeni base, Jani has been on the run for almost twenty years. She was badly hurt in the conflict at the base and in order to keep her alive, her whole body had to be reconstructed. A team of three doctors decided to rebuild Jani as a human-idomeni hybrid. Now, her hybrid body is breaking down. She also has a military augment which gives her body a boost of strength, speed, and stamina when needed. Unfortunately, the augment also needs maintenance which Jani isn’t getting.

Jani is also wanted for a more recent murder and feels like she can’t trust anyone. However, she has so severe symptoms, stomach cramps, difficulty sleeping and eating, that she’s forced to find medical help. She contacts the Neoclona company under a false ID. One of the three doctors works there and he’s willing to help her. However, during the examination she’s poisoned and promptly taken into custody.

After she recovers somewhat, she expects a murder trial. However, the charges against her are quite different. They are still serious enough that she has to have a lawyer and there will be a trial later. Meanwhile, she’s a professional archivist and the military is prepared to give her the old job back. She’s suspicious, of course, but her lawyer advices her to take it. It turns out, that the current relations between humans and idomeni are pretty shaky and Jani does know the idomeni and their customs well. However, she still suspects that something more sinister is going on.

Jani is a great heroine: tough, determined, intelligent, and haunted by her past. She’s learned the hard way not to trust anyone but herself and even her own body is now breaking down. Yet, she seems to not to be a loner by nature but rather because of the circumstances. She cares about the people around her.

The book has three point-of-view characters: Jani, her former lover and the former Interior Minister Evan van Reuter, and another archivist Sam Duong. Sam is convinced that he’s being framed for things he didn’t do but nobody believes him. His doctor says that he has a tumor in his brain which makes him forget things and then make up stories to fill in the blanks. The doctor wants to operate. Sam, however, is convinced that he has an augment in his brain and removing it would kill him.

After the events in the first book, Evan is under house arrest and suspected of murder. Only very few people can visit him. One of them is his lawyer, Joaquin Loiaza, who is basically Evan’s only link to the outside world. Yet, Evan is still in the middle of most elaborate plotting and scheming imaginable. Much like Jani, he’s also in a position where he can’t trust anyone but for him the situation is new. Or newish because his job as a politician didn’t involve trusting many people, either.

This book has very deep world building. There’s tension between the Earth-born humans and the colonials, and that colors the way that the characters interact. There’s tension between the military and civilians, as well, even though that’s not as clear.

The idomeni are still fascinatingly alien. They view eating as sacred and even seeing a food transport is sacrilegious. They prefer to show their emotions in the open instead of hiding them as many humans do. This can cause quite a lot of friction between the species especially when trained diplomats try to handle the idomeni.

The plotting is very fast-paced. There are no flashbacks but Jani does reminisces a lot about what happened twenty years ago. There are a lot of characters in the book and they aren’t reintroduced every time they appear. Overall, the book requires a lot of attention while reading but also rewards it.

There’s been a lot of upset in the blogland in the past days about covers showing a white character when the protagonist is not white. The same thing happened with this cover. Jani is described as “tawny damsel” but the hand in the cover (reaching for the knife) is white. The book was published in 2000.