Julie Czerneda

This is the third and final book in the Trade Pact trilogy. Pretty much every character from the previous books returns.

The book starts a few months after the end of the previous book. Sira and Jason are enjoying their much-deserved time together but it’s not without trouble; specifically money trouble. Except for Huido, none of Jason’s previous clients want to deal with him anymore.

But that seems to be the least of the Morgans’ troubles when Sector Chief Bowman calls. One of her underlings has been mind wiped and she suspects that the Clan is behind it. Since Sira is the Speaker of the Clan Council, Bowman holds Sire responsible. The mind wiped woman had been wearing one of the devices which were supposed to make her immune to the Clan’s telepathy, so Bowman is doubly concerned. Also, space ships have been seen leaving from Acranam, one of the Clan’s most vexing outposts. Sira promises to investigate.

Jason was able to help the mind wiped constable and finds out that his old mentor and current nemesis, Symon, did it. Symon has also been telling rumors that Jason is a telepath and that’s why the clients have disappeared. Jason decides that this is his own problem and he will capture Symon by himself. Once again, the lovers go their separate ways. Unfortunately, Sira runs into Symon who kidnaps her.

Meanwhile, Jason’s alien blood brother Huido is a few problems of his own. One of his male relatives has come to visit and Huido is determined to keep him away from his wives. He has also agreed to shelter a young Clan girl Ruti. She works in Huido’s restaurant. When Huido’s main chef leaves abruptly, Ruti gets an abrupt promotion.

To Trade the Stars is mostly a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. We get to see through Sira’s memories what her life was like before she met Jason. The secrets of the alien Drapsk and the telepathic space M’hiray are finally revealed. Many of the characters get a satisfying “end”. However, there are some plot threads which are left dangling from the previous books such as the human telepaths.

The characters are complex and interesting. The worlds are similarly well done and the cultures are alien enough from each other. The Rugherans, which were quickly introduced in the previous book, are left nicely mysterious.

All in all, very good space opera!

This is part of my 2nds challenge and the last in my ebook reading challenge!

The second book in the Trade Pact Universe series.

Sira du Sarc and Jason Morgan are back. Ties of Power starts about a year after the ending of the previous book, A Thousand Words for a Stranger. The organization of the chapters is similar: Sira’s chapters are in the first person and every other chapter is an interlude which has another point-of-view character.

For most of the year, Sira and Morgan have been living apart from each other. They are keeping in mental contact and Sira is doing her best to train Morgan in mental defenses because she fears that her family, or the whole Clan, will someday come after them and try to kill Morgan.

Sira’s cousin Barac sud Sarc has been refused Joining a couple of times and according to the Clan tradition it’s unlikely that he will be given another chance to complete his life. So, he leaves his family behind and seeks out Sira. Sira is owns a gambling den and she’s pretending to be a Ram’ad Witch. A group of aliens from a race called the Drapsk are trying to persuade Sira to leave with them but she refuses.

When Barac finds Sira, she’s afraid that the rest of the Clan will follow Barac to her and so she gives the den to Barac and flees. She runs away to the same planet where Morgan is, been hoping that the Clan aren’t clever enough to find them. However, she’s wrong; during a festival she’s attacked and left for dead. Morgan finds her and the friendly locals nurse her back to painful life. But to her horror she finds out that someone has cut her: her reproductive organs have been cut away. She’s terrified about what the Clan will do with her tissue and ovaries, and she’s also enraged. She is too weak to seek revenge for herself and so she puts all of her rage into Morgan’s head and tells him to get back what was stolen from her and kill the people who cut her. Morgan has no choice but to obey.

Meanwhile, a group of the Clan is plotting. Some of them are Sira’s relatives; her sister Rael and older women of her family. They are concerned with the future of the Clan. Sira is the first of the women of the Clan who has been able to give her Power-of-Choice to another. In Sira’s case to Morgan who is human and not Clan so Sira’s actions are even more significant and frightening to Clan people who are looking for a way to save their species. For years, the women who have the Power-of-Choice have been getting stronger and Sira was the first who has such a strong power that she killed every man she tried to Join with. Before Morgan. So, this group is interested in both Sira and in human telepaths. Sira’s sister Rael is given the task to contact Sira.

There’s also another group of Clans people; xenophobes who can, and will, do anything to preserve the purity of Clan. Sira’s powerful father is one of them.

After Morgan had left and Sira had managed to sleep, she realizes what she has done. Desperately, she looks for a way to reach him as soon as possible. The only thing she can think of is to ask for help from the Drapsk. They’ve always been respectful and helpful. So, she teleports to their ship. Unfortunately, the Drapsk have urgent plans of their own.

This is a fine continuation to the first book. The characters are given more depth and they grow. We finally get to hear Morgan’s back story. Morgan’s faithful alien sidekick Huido is also back and provides a lot of humor.

The Drapsk are an interesting alien species and definitely not human. They have their own priorities and even their own behavioral quirks. Their primary communication method is by smells even though they can speak when needed. Great!

I had a bit of difficulty with the formatting because in the ebook, at least, the telepathic speech wasn’t marked in any way. This was unfortunate because Sira, Morgan, and Sira’s family are all telepaths.

The plot isn’t really fast-paced but left time for the characters to think and plan and worry. Sira was remorseful and ashamed most of the time because she literally gave Morgan her own rage and worried about what Morgan might do. She was also trying to heal from the surgery that was done to her. Sira is clearly the main character. Morgan, Barac, Rael, and the other characters were featured in the Interlude-sections but had less screen time, so to say.

I’d definitely recommend reading the first book before this one. The politics can be quite twisted and on the other hand, it’s very nice to see most of the familiar cast again.

This is the first book in a space opera trilogy called Trade Pact Universe. You can read an an excerpt here. This is also part of my 1st in a series challenge.

To me, the Trade Pact universe is similar to the Babylon 5 universe. While the TP universe has both humans and other sentient creatures (which for once are called different species and not erroneously races as is very common!) I got the impression that intermarriage between different species isn’t common like it is in for example Star Trek where aliens are just humans with bumps in their heads. On the other hand, the main characters of the romance are of different species. Yet, on the third hand the mixed species romance horrifies others so I’m pretty satisfied, world-building wise.

The name of the series seems to be a bit of a misnomer; while the setting is inside the Trade Pact space, the main character is a Clanswoman and the Clan is not part of the Trade Pact. The members of the Clan look exactly like humans but they have awesome psychic powers: telepathy, teleportation, and empathy. Some seem to have other powers as well. The Clan rank themselves according to personal psychic power and so they want to breed more powerful children. They have a Council which decides who are mated and when they should have children. However, the Council was formed because Clanswomen require a mate whose powers are stronger than hers. If they aren’t the prospective male is killed. So, the Council was formed to see who would be the most compatible mates. Emotions aren’t considered. This process is called the Choice which is ironic because it’s a biological imperative and any choosing is done by the Council and not the people in question.

Trade Pact Enforcer P’tr wit ‘Whix is following two Clan members to spy on them and to report their doing to his Commander Lydis Bowman. Unfortunately, the pair is attacked. The Clansman is arrested but the Clanswoman slips away in the confusion.

The woman’s point-of-view is written in the first person. She has no idea who she is or where she is and she doesn’t know much about the world around her. But she learns quickly and we readers learn with her. However, there is a strong compulsion in her mind which practically forces her to stay hidden and to seek escape from the planet. She obeys it as best she can while searching for any clues about her identity. She encounters space ship Captain Jason Morgan and is convinced that he can take her off the planet. Unfortunately, he doesn’t agree at first and in short order a press gang captures our heroine. A reptilian pirate captain takes a liking to her (as a moving snack or a possible hostage worth some money) and gives her the name Kissue.

However, she manages to escape and flee to Morgan’s ship, the Silver Fox. Morgan takes pity on her and agrees to take her off the planet. Morgan also gives her the name Sira Morgan.

Almost every other chapter is in third person and also in different font. These chapters concentrate on matters that concern our heroine but which she can’t know. We find out quite a bit about the Clan, the world, and Sira through the other characters in these chapters. The arrested Clansman Barac du Sarc turns out to be Sira’s cousin and her intended lifemate. He is intent on finding Sira even after the Enforcers tell him that his brother has been murdered. Barac contacts another Clanswoman, Rael, who is also intent on finding Sira. Apparently, Sira had agreed to the blocking of her memories but now her condition is, of course, rather dangerous. Barac also contacts Captain Morgan who seems to have some dealings with the Clan. Reluctantly, Morgan agrees to search for Sira but when he finds her, he doesn’t tell that to the Clan.

During the days that it takes for the Silver Fox to get to another planet, Sira tries to adjust to a space faring life. She also feels a need to have a connection with Morgan which confuses her.

The book contains a few intriguing details about the setting such as the obvious rivalry between the Enforcers and the local police forces and few things that we get to know about various non-human species. Hopefully, we get to see more of these in the upcoming books.

I rather liked the cast of characters. Sira is quite a sympathetic heroine who is doing her best to survive and understand what is happening to her. However, we do find out that she is very special among her own kind. Jason Morgan is a human telepath and has isolated himself from others because he finds his talents hard to control enough to interact normally with non-telepathic humans. However, he starts to grow very fond of Sira. There’s also Huido who runs a restaurant and is Morgan’s blood brother. Huido belongs to an alien species who resembles a robot more than a human. Neither human nor Clan telepathy can affect him. The only human food or drink he can digest is beer. He’s very loyal to Morgan. Clansman Barac is also a sympathetic character and I rather enjoyed the brisk and efficient Commander Bowman, too.

Humans have managed to research technology which blocks the abilities of Clan members so naturally, the Clan is rather suspicious of humans. The Clan is quite small so they don’t have their own planet. Instead, they want to live anonymously among humans and other species. This often means that any non-Clan beings who know about them are killed. While the Clan seems rather ruthless they are trying to survive as best they can.

The book has two central plots: the mystery of Sira’s condition and the romance. The mystery is pretty intriguing and it changes along the way. First, Sira wants to know who took away her memories and why. Then she starts to question who was the earlier Sira and if she was restored, would there be anything left of Sira Morgan? The mystery plot is well done and I rather enjoyed it. While the romance isn’t as appealing to me personally, it’s not annoying either. However, there is one aspect which might be problematic: before the Choice Clanswomen are prepubescent in appearance. When she Chooses a lifemate, she will instantly look like a mature woman. However, because she can’t age before the Choice she can be many decades old by that time. So, even though an unChosen Clanswoman can look like 9 years old girl, she can actually be forty or so years old. Sira felt like emotionally mature woman to me. But it did squick me a little when I remembered that she looked like a prepubescent girl to Morgan.

Overall: I liked Czerneda’s writing style, characters, and the universe enough to get the next two books in the series.