2nd Reading Challenge 2010


In English translation the name of the book appears to be Twenty Years After. In Finnish, the name of the translation is the Return of the Musketeers. We also have a collected edition of all these later stories and this is the first story in that collection.

D’Artagnan has served as a King’s Musketeer for twenty years and he’s still a lieutenant. He’s bitter and doesn’t have much ambitions anymore. His three friends have all gone their own ways and they haven’t seen each other in almost twenty years.

The current Cardinal, Mazarin, is the Chief Minister and is trying to govern France. The current King is only ten years old and his mother, Anne of Austria, is his regent. Mazarin and Anne are lovers and have married in secret. Mazarin is depicted as a greedy and small minded man who isn’t a worthy successor to the great Richelieu.

D’Artagnan comes into the attention of Mazarin who is trying to find trustworthy men to work for himself. After both de Rochefort, the Musketeers’ previous enemy, and Anne speak for D’Artagnan and his three friends, Mazarin decides to trust them at least for a time and sends D’Artagnan to find his friends and lure them back into service.

The writing style here is as leisurely as in the previous book and this book is really just setting up the story to come. The narrator tells us a lot about the politics of the times and the political climate where young the King is popular and Mazarin is hated because he raises taxes.

At the start of the book, D’Artagnan is described as moving and acting like an automation but once he gets out of Paris and is looking for his friends, he quickly gets back his old, more lively manner. He starts to resent his post as a mere lieutenant and wants to get enough money to buy back his family’s old castle and lands.

The other musketeers have changed somewhat but have still their previous habits; Aramis is now a priest but he still has a mistress, and eats and lives well and Porthos owns several castles but years for his old adventuring days. Athos has changed perhaps the most; he has an adopted son who is the apple of Athos’ eye.

The story doesn’t yet even start properly in this bookbut I enjoyed a more leisurely paced book for a change.

This is the second book in the epic fantasy trilogy the Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin and continues immediately after the first book ended. In the middle of winter. And we aren’t talking about “oh, we might have a few snowflakes here and there” wimpy winter but a real winter where you have to walk knee-deep in snow and can freeze to death if you don’t know what you’re doing. You know, the kind of winter my native Finland has.

Byren Kingson, now the Kingsheir, is racing towards the Halcyon Abbey. He’s determined to prove his loyalty to his father by leading the famous warrior monks to victory against the invading Merofynian soldiers. On the way, he stumbles upon a Merofynian Power-worker and his party, and decides to kill him and free his child slave.

The third Kingson Fyn is an acolyte in the Halcyon Abbey. The king has send word that he needs the warrior monks and they left. Too late, Fyn realizes that the letter was a fake and the warrior monks have been led into a trap. The abbey is invaded and it’s up to Fyn to lead the young boys to safety through a secret passageway.

The Kingsdaughter Piro’s situation isn’t much easier. Although the 13-year old girl is in the capitol, the new Lord Protector has declared her a traitor and offers a modest sum for her capture. Therefore, she has dressed as a maid and is trying to find a way to free her mother, the Queen, whom the new Lord Protector has imprisoned. Her father King Rolen is sick and possibly under the influence of magic, or Affinity as it’s called here, so unfortunately, he isn’t able to help. To make matters worse, the Merofynians attack the capitol.

This second book is just as well paced and action-packed as the first one, the King’s Bastard. The plot has a lot of twists and turns. There isn’t as much fighting as in the first book but there are chaises, both on horseback and on knee deep snow, escapes, people hiding, eavesdropping, girls dressed as boys, and other fun stuff. There’s also a twist involving the Affinity beasts and I’m interested to see where it’s going. However, there’s no resolution in the book, just like in the first book; all three books seem to be one long story.

Even though the book revolves around war, it’s not really grim or gritty. There isn’t unnecessary gore or fights. On the other hand, there isn’t as much political intrigue as in the first book mainly because the characters are mostly hiding and not in a position to engage in intrigue. This is very likely to change in the next book, though.

We get a glimpse of how magic is handled among the Merofynians. In Rolencia, people with Affinity are forced into a religious, chaste life in the abbeys. This seems not to be the case with Merofynia. The conquering Overlord has an old, noble Power-worker who doesn’t seem to be a monk or a nun. There’s also a blind Seer but she’s only seen briefly.

Throughout the book, the POV characters find out that members of their family are likely to be dead. Byren grieves for them but the other two seem to shrug it off easily. Of course, they don’t have much time to think about it and if it’s repetitive it would get boring. All of them suffer from survivor’s guilt, Byren possibly more than the others.

Byren seems to be the most reflective of the three characters. He doubts his own abilities and constantly waffles about how he should treat his best friend Orrade. He found out in the previous book that Orrade is a lover of men and in Rolencia that’s synonymous to a traitor because in the past there was a conspiracy to overthrow the king. The most famous men in the conspiracy were lovers of men, called Servants of Palos, so now it’s “common knowledge” that they are all traitors. (This is, by the way, a classic scapegoat behavior which is, alas, common to humans everywhere.) On the one hand, Byren still cares about Orrade and considers him a loyal friend but on the other hand, he doesn’t want anyone to think that he’s a lover of men.

Fyn is depressed because he feels that he has let down all of his friends when the abbey fell. He froze during the battle and regrets that.

Piro is mostly concerned with staying alive and free.

Both Byren and Fyn have young children to protect. This is quite different from other epic fantasy where the traveling companions tend to be, if not all warriors, at least adults capable of taking care of themselves.

All of the characters end up in quite different places than where they were at the start and I’m curious to find out how the tale ends.

The second book in the Downside Ghosts series.

Chess Putnam continues her career as a Debunker for the Church of Real Truth. She interviews people who claim that a ghost is haunting their home and either banishes the ghost or finds out that the people are lying. She’s also a drug addict which she hides from the Church. She lives in the Downside which is the area where the poor people live.

The story starts with Chess undercover. She’s trying to expose an illegal séance but something goes horribly wrong and she’s poisoned. Luckily, her backup is near and she gets the antidote in time. Then, Terrible shows up with another task for her. Terrible is the enforcer for Chess’ drug dealer, Bump, but Chess and Terrible have become friends and are also attracted to each other. So, Chess really has no choice but to start investigating the murders of Bump’s prostitutes. The other whores are convinced that a ghost is killing them.

Meanwhile, Chess gets a new assignment from the Church: a TV and movie star has reported a haunting in his house. Chess finds out that a gruesome triple murder took place in the house and feels odd things there, too. But something doesn’t feel right.

The plot moves again in a brisk pace and we get to see some new places and people in Triumph City. The upper class, in the form of the TV star Pyle and the people around him, live in an almost different world from the dangerous and seedy Downside. We also see the spirit prison where the Church imprisons the souls of the evildoers. They torture the souls and blast them with heat so it’s a pretty hellish place even though the official line is that hell doesn’t exist.

Chess’ addiction has been dealt with in the previous book but here it’s finally shown in the full awfulness. She’s a broken woman to begin with and here she’s brought to a new level of low. And yet, I can help but to root for her and hope she can somehow change her life and get rid of the drugs, although that doesn’t look likely.

Chess has two men in her life even though she tries to convince herself that she’s better off alone and not trusting anyone. One of them is Terrible, Bump’s enforcer, and the other is Lex, who works for a rival drug dealer and supplier Chess with free drugs. She has sex with Lex because he doesn’t demand anything from her. Still, she has to constantly be on her guard with both of them and lies to both of them. This can’t, of course, end well. This triangle is a bigger part of the story in this second book than in the first one, and it’s also well paced and integrated into the whole story.

We found out some new sides about Terrible which make him more sympathetic character. Chess’ abusive youth is also explored in more depth.

I’m completely addicted to these books and will gladly indulge in the next one.

This is by no means a light read: it’s gruesome and gut wrenching but definitely worth it.

The second book in the Kate Daniels UF series which is set in alternate reality Atlanta.

At the end of the previous book Kate got a new, steady job at the Order of the Merciful Aid. They put security of humanity above the security of any one person.

Kate gets a new assignment from her old contact at the Mercenary Guild which should have been simple if not easy: they were to retrieve an arsonist with a salamander which tosses fireballs. However, a mysterious person kills the arsonist with a crossbow bolt. Then the shooter vanishes.

Then the Shapeshifter Pack contacts her. Someone has stolen their maps. Someone who uses a crossbow and disappears into thin air. The Pack wants Kate to get the maps back. She agrees and starts to investigate at the scene of the robbery. There she finds 13-years-old Julie whose mother is an amateur witch and her whole coven has disappeared. Kate takes in the young girl while she looks for her mother, too.

On top of everything else, the magic and technology flares are coming in alarming frequency. When the magic flare is up, most of technology doesn’t work and vice versa. The frequent shifts are very disturbing and can cause some weird things.

The stakes are really upped this time. I’d be willing to call this book epic urban fantasy.

This time, a lot of things were explained. The magic waves are explained here as humanity’s influence. Before humans were influential, magic reigned. During Bronze Age, technology gained the upper hand. For some reason, magic shifted into power again some thirty years ago.

There are also some more hints about Kate’s background. Apparently, her sire was someone very hated and powerful but she wasn’t raised by him.

Unfortunately, I don’t really care for Kate’s romantic interests. The leader of the Pack, Curran, is apparently one and yet he treats Kate like shit. I wouldn’t give him a second glance. The other is apparently Bran who threatens openly to kill Kate. Funny thing, but I don’t consider death threats to be aphrodisiacs nor sexual harassment to be funny. I pretty much thought Bran was insufferable anyway.

I did like most of the characters. The Order employs many women and it was great to see them interact. Most UF books have only one female character and the rest are males. Andrea was especially delightful: a competent knight who has a secret.

I did have a facepalm moment with the book. One of the shapeshifter pack is a Hyena pack. Apparently, hyenas have female alphas and in the pack females and pups eat before the males, so Andrews made the hyenas dress and look androgynously and be sexually kinky. I fail to see how these are associated with each other.

You can read the first chapter for free at the authors’ website: http://kate.ilona-andrews.com/novels/magic-burns/

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.

The second in the duology. The first one was Hunter’s Oath.

This book is more epic in scope than the previous one. The cast is also much larger.

The protagonists from the previous book, Hunter Lord Gilliam of Elseth and his huntbrother Stephen, are on their way to Averalaan which is the capital city of an mighty and old empire, ruled by the God-born Twin Kings. Gillam and Stephen are looking for a cure for the wild girl Espere who is mute and dog-like in her behavior. The seer Evayne is their occasional companion and another mage has joined in. They have to cross the dangerous mountains and their enemies, the demons, are near. In order to escape their clutches, Evayne has to draw on dangerous magics.

However, the book starts with a protagonist in the city of Averalaan. Jewel Markess, Jay, is the young leader of a small group of thieving street urchins. Her group has been using the maze under the city but now it seems that someone else in the maze as well, someone who doesn’t like them. However, Jewel doesn’t have much time to dwell on that; she has a talent for sensing when danger is near and that sense is almost screaming. She decides to turn to her mentor, Old Rath, but to her horror, she discovers that someone has killed Old Rath and taken on his appearance. However, Old Rath has left her instructions. Unfortunately, they send her to the head of the most powerful noble house of the city and the ragtag ruffians are going have a hard time getting her to believe them.

The Terafin is the leader of most powerful noble house of Averalaan. However, House Terafin has ascended to that lofty position only lately and has powerful enemies among the other houses. When the street urchin brings a warning to the Terafin about a threat to the whole city, she knows that she can only count on herself and her Chosen.

Hunter’s Death has many point-of-view characters and most of them are only seen briefly. Most of the story is seen from the POV of Jewel, the Terafin, and Stephen. Kallandras the assassin/bard is also seen briefly. The new characters include one of the most powerful mages in the Empire, an old healer who has to continue his work, a nobleman who serves both the Terafin and a secret society, and a Chosen one in the house of Terafin. All of them end up being surprisingly well developed considering the small page count given to each character. However, Jewel’s small group of followers are mostly seen in the beginning and not much after that.

While the first book was Stephen’s and Gilliam’s coming-of-age story, this one is Jewel’s coming-of-age story. I would have loved to see more of Evayne and Kallandras. The mage Melaronne was also interesting and I think not all of his secrets were revealed.

I was somewhat intrigued by the Essalieyan empire. It’s led by two kings: one of them is the son of the god of Justice and the other the son of god of Wisdom. They seem to rule jointly. Also, their Queens seem to play a large part at least in politics. The three biggest religions (Justice, Wisdom, and the Mother) are also led by God-born leaders. Yet, it’s apparently both Wise and Just that part of the city’s population is born, live, and die in utter poverty simply because of accident of birth. Social injustice brings conflict, of course, but I still feel it’s most Unjust.

On the other hand, The Ten, which are the ten most powerful noble houses of the city, are apparently not a house where anyone is born to. The leader of the house, who is called by the name of the house and not by his or her given name, chooses who can join the house. The Chosen seem to be mostly utterly loyal soldiers but they probably have to also have political connections, wealth, magical power, or something else that the leader of the house wants. Of course, only the wealthy are likely be able to have those.

The plot felt quite slow at time. Mostly, I blame the multiple POVs. The start of the book was quick especially because of the introduction of the new characters and setting. The ending was also quicker although the multiple POV again slowed it somewhat. Several months passed during the middle part.

I liked West’s writing style enough that I looked up her other books. The Sun Sword looks like it’s too depressing and gloomy for my tastes but I might try the Cast-series at some point.

Her website has some free first chapters and short stories: http://msagarawest.wordpress.com/downloads/

This is the second book in the Crossroads epic fantasy series.

Spoilers!

The large cast of the previous book is back and there are also some new point-of-view characters, most for whom are women. Frankly, I approve of this because the previous book had only one woman POV. Still, the cast of characters is mightily huge.

The Quin soldiers are trying to make a home for themselves in the Hundred. With the money they earned in the previous book, they have bought land. They are also trying to get local woman as their wives. Their Captain Anji is still suspicious and is trying to raise an army of both Quin and local men to protect the city.

Meanwhile, the reeve Marit, who was killed at the start of the previous book, has come back to life. She’s disoriented but soon she realizes that she is, indeed, alive even though her eagle is dead. She meets another of her kind and tries to find out what is happening to her. It appears that she has become one of the mysterious Guardians, a protector of justice in the Hundred. However, some of the other Guardians seem to have been corrupted. She decides to investigate.

Another culture is added into the mix: tribes who live on the grasslands and are led by women. It’s also possible that we’ll get to know the Sirniakan Empire better in the coming books. So far, we’ve only seen glimpses of their culture.

Like the previous book, this is a huge tome. There are a lot of descriptions of places and people, and its strength is in the world-building. Sadly, the plot moves very slowly. Some of the reason is that the many POV characters have split up in almost as many places as there are POV characters. We finally get some answers about the Guardians but there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

I liked both independent Marit and a new character called Nallo. Nallo is interesting because she’s not attractive and she says what she wants, when she wants to. She’s stubborn and independent. They’re both very different from the delicate little Mai who has been pretty much the only female POV character so far.

There’s no modern romance in the book as such. An established couple from the previous book returns (yay!) and near the end of the book one of the POV males experiences love at first sight. However, he doesn’t speak to the woman in question and instead, well, leaves the country. So, I’d be really surprised if the woman turns out to have any feelings for him because they’ve never even spoken to each other. The Quin soldiers are trying to settle down in the Hundred and in order to blend in more, they are looking for local wives. There is some match making, so to speak, but they remind me more of business deals than romance. Many of the wifely candidates are women who have lost their families and villages in the war, and a marriage to an almost unknown man is the least bad option open for them. Some women are artisans or merchants who now have a chance to get a marriage where they can continue their trade. This is probably the way many marriages were arraigned during most of human history, so it fits with the feeling of the book. However, romance readers are likely to be disappointed.

There’s a lot of rape in the book. A lot. Only very few secondary women characters have not been gang raped by soldiers. On the other hand, only one of the POV women has been raped. Yet, the rapes have not been written to titillate but to show the brutality of war, treatment of slaves, and the evilness of the bad guys. It does get a bit too much at times, though. Also, the Quin are the only soldiers in the book who are not rapists and even they use whores and slaves.

I’m still intrigued enough to get the next book to see how the bad guys are going to be stopped.

The second book in the urban fantasy series about Chicago wizard Harry Dresden.

This time Dresden entangles with werewolves. Lieutenant Murphy of Chicago Special Investigations asks Dresden’s help in a case where several people have been killed brutally, supposedly by dogs. They head to a crime scene a little bit outside Chicago where Dresden declares that perpetrator is a werewolf. However, a team of FBI agents declares the crime scene theirs and drives the duo off.

After the ending of the previous book, which was about six months ago, Murphy and Dresden aren’t on the best of terms but Murphy doesn’t have a choice. She has to consult a supernatural expert and Dresden is the only one she knows. Dresden doesn’t know much about werewolves but he gets to work. First, he uses magic to trace a blood splatter from the crime scene to the person. She turns out to be a leader of a group collage students/werewolves.

Later, he finds out that there are several kind of werewolves but it seems likely, of course, that the one rampaging in Chicago is the most dangerous kind: a loup-garou.

He gets a visit from the local kingpin of crime, Marcone, who tries to convince Dresden to work for him. Dresden refuses. However, Marcone seems to be quite afraid of the killer and gives Dresden a clue anyway.

Dresden also manages to piss of a leader of a fierce werewolfgang who are now hunting for Dresden’s blood.

The plot is really fast-paced. Dresden doesn’t have a moment to rest, except when he’s unconscious, or think. There is, however, a cheesy scene when Dresden talks with his subconscious self and tries to work out the who-dunnit part. Alas, there a few little bit too convenient coincidences such as the one that makes Murphy suspect that Dresden is related to the killings.

When get some interesting hints about Dresden’s parents. Both theirs lives and deaths might be related to things that Dresden doesn’t know about. Of course, the hints come from a demon so they might not be accurate.

Bob makes the werewolf – where wolf – there wolf joke from the movie Young Frankenstein which cracked me up. The joke part is completely untranslatable, of course, at least to Finnish. Now I almost want to get the movie just to see what the hapless subtitler came up with.

I was a bit surprised that the werewolves here didn’t seem to have any of the famous wolf sense of smell or hearing. They were “just” very good in a fight and had pack loyalty to each other.

Dresden seems to have superhuman strength. After being shot, his foot mauled by a supernatural creature, and beaten unconscious, he can still run, sneak around, and fight supernatural baddies. Granted, he feels occasionally pain and is tired but still…

Unfortunately, the book has quite a few “stupid” moments. Dresden has dangerous info on a piece of paper and yet he just throws it away for anyone to find. Murphy and a FBI woman get into a fight in the middle of a crime scene. Dresden shoots off his mouth to both a crime kingpin and a leader of a werewolf gang, and manages to make them both his enemies. He withholds information from Murphy, and other women. When Dresden escapes police custody, he’s unarmed and in handcuffs and just running away. Yet, the police *shoot* at him.

Also, at least in this book, the supernatural people aren’t really trying to hide the existence of the supernatural world. It also seems to me, that there already are quite a lot of people in Chicago who either are supernaturals themselves or know about it. IMHO, Dresden should have a lot more clients at the very least from people who want to protect themselves from it.

I don’t really understand why Dresden is so very protective towards Murphy. After all, she’s a grown woman and a police officer but Dresden thinks of her like she’s a helpless ten year old girl. She’s not his lover or daughter and she treats him pretty badly most of the time. In fact, Susan is Dresden’s lover. Granted, Dresden is pretty protective towards Susan as well but IMHO not as much. While he’s ready to sacrifice his life to protect Murphy, when Susan wants to drive the getaway car, he’s a bit worried but doesn’t even say anything. I think it was mentioned somewhere that Murphy and Dresden are old friends but it just doesn’t show. Murphy is cold towards Dresden and is suspicious of everything he says. Also, Dresden’s chivalry turns out to be counterproductive. At the start of the book he refused to tell what he knows to his student. Alas, she can’t protect herself from dangers she doesn’t know about.

All in all, a nice quick read but nothing special.

Part of my 2nds, fantasy, and speculative fiction challenges.

The second book in the fantasy YA series.

Eugenides has been skulking around the palace of the Queen of Attolia. He’s the young royal thief in the court of the Queen of Eddis. He has been in and out of the Queen’s residence several times and the Queen is furious. Finally, he’s caught.

Eddis sends an ambassador to Attolia but doesn’t really expect that Attolia would just let Gen go. At most, Eddis hopes that he can die quickly because Attolia has a reputation as a cruel queen. However, after keeping Gen in jail for some time, the Queen of Attolia decides to just cut off his right hand. Afterwards, she returns Gen to his Queen.

Gen is feverish and sick for a long time. When he recovers, he’s depressed and tries his best to just stay in his room, which happens to be also the castle’s library. But his Queen and his father continue to intrude on his misery.

Without his right hand, Gen feels that his life is over. Even the most mundane tasks, such as eating and dressing, are now hard. When he’s forced to appear in public, people walk on eggshells around him, which only makes things harder.

However, when the war between Attolia and Eddis escalates Gen is needed again.

The plot has some very interesting twists and is centered on political intrigue. I have to confess that I didn’t guess at all where it would end up going. Like in the first book, some information is kept from the reader. I found it a bit frustrating especially when it was something that the view point character, Gen, knew well. However, the new info should make rereading interesting.

Most of the noble characters are referred to by their station and not by their names. The kings and queens are referred to by the name of their land (Attolia, Eddis, Sounis) and some of the other characters by their job; the magus, the minister of war, the ambassador… I liked it. It definitely felt different from other fantasy and more history-like.

I continue to enjoy this fantasy world which is based on the ancient cultures (and the geography) of the Mediterranean instead of the tired old pseudo-Middle Ages. One of the myths told in this book is based on the story of Persephone and one of the major goddess is Hepasthia. Also, the countries here feel smaller. The Queen of Eddis knows most of her underlings by names and most of them are related to her by blood of by marriage. Attolia feels a bit larger, though not as large as most fantasy countries.

Even though two of the countries are led by Queens, the culture isn’t woman-friendly. In fact, the Queen of Attolia has had to cultivate a cruel and cold image so that she’s been able to keep her throne. She’s the other view point character in book.

Weirdly enough, this second book felt more like YA because the other characters commented on how young Gen is.

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.

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