The second book in the Chanur SF series. It ends in a pretty effective cliffhanger but luckily I have the the Chanur Saga omnibus.

After the invents in “the Pride of Chanur”, Captain Pyanfar of the lion-like alien race of hani has tried to continue her life and make profit for her clan. However, that has been somewhat difficult because she has flaunted hani traditions and history; Pyanfar has taken a male hani off planet. Outsiders have heard that all hani males are unstable and so can’t be taken off planet and the traditionally minded hani are outraged. Pyanfar took her husband Khym away after he had been defeated in combat by a younger male. According to hani culture, Khym should be dead and not gallivanting around the universe.

When the Pride of Chanur docks again to Meetpoint, the mahendo’sat ship captain called Goldtooth approaches Pyanfar. Goldtooth has smuggled Tully to the station. The kif are hunting Tully and Pyanfar is only one the human will trust. Reluctantly, Pyanfar agrees to take him aboard. Meanwhile, Khym has wandered to a bar and a fight starts. The hani crew is arrested and released only after they agree to a huge payment.

They know that the kif will try to find out where Tully is and they leave in a hurry. Unfortunately, they soon have to deal with engine failure in deep space.

The hani continue to be entertainingly alien. Yet, since we see everything from their point-of-view, it all makes sense. It’s the human who appears not to make sense. Still, the motivations of hani, mahendo’sat, and the kif are human enough to be quite understandable.

While I admire Cherryh’s treatment of language, I must confess that the pidgin English is a bit hard to understand at time especially during heated negotiations. Of course, that’s realistic.

Khym is an interesting addition to the crew. As a male who had his own pride of females, he’s been used to being pampered and not working. Near the start of the book, Pyanfar tells him that he has to work aboard the star ship. That he has to call her captain and not by her give name. To my surprise, Khym obeys even though grudgingly. He started feeling guilty that he survived and is now flouting the tradition of the hani. Yet, he wants to live and is willing to change.

Most of the book is told from Pyanfar’s POV but we get brief glimpses from the youngest crewwoman, Hilfy, too.

Excellent, short book but ends in a tense cliffhanger.