The third in the Jani Kilian SF series.
Once again Jani’s past is coming to haunt her and not just as survivor’s guilt. She works now for the Commonwealth military as a document analyst. Someone has made a white paper about Jani’s past which suggests that Jani is a security risk. Colonel Niall Pierce warns Jani about it but there isn’t much she could do about it. Niall also tells Jani about a document in the hands of the Earth military which seems to indicate that Nema has forged an important document. Nema is the religious leader of the alien idomeni and Jani’s previous mentor and close friend. Nema is also humanity’s most vocal defender among the idomeni leaders. Jani is convinced that someone is trying to frame Nema and damage humanish/idomeni relations.
Because of her past close dealings with the alien idomeni, Jani has become something of an adviser to the government diplomats concerning the idomeni. However, nobody seems to appreciate her efforts. The leading diplomat Anais Ulanova is determined to work with the idomeni in her own way. Unfortunately, she doesn’t really understand the aliens. To the idomeni falsehood and hiding one’s feelings are an anathema but Anais doesn’t believe that. She doesn’t trust the aliens, or Jani, and continues to work in her customary way, spinning half-truths, expecting to be betrayed at any point, and working towards her own goals.
Jani sees the train wreck ahead and tries to warn everyone away from it. When she’s repeatedly ignored, she has no choice but to make her objections in public which earns her even more enemies. Then her parents send word that they are coming to Chicago to see her. Jani is convinced that they will be in danger and tries her best to keep them safe. This will also be the first time they will physically see each other in twenty years and Jani is a bit nervous about that.
This book felt somewhat longer than the previous books and the pace of the story wasn’t as quick as before. The main plot is still political intrigue and Jani has to play the detective and find out just who her enemies are while dodging handgun fire and assassins. Also, in addition to her parents, two of her oldest friends come to Chicago and try to help her.
Jani’s relationship with her bed partner Lucien is different from a normal romance. (I can’t really call them lovers and definitely not partners.) They are both damaged people who are convinced that they can’t have normal relationships, and they don’t trust each other. Jani knows that Lucien’s past, and physical and mental augments make is impossible for him to feel love anymore. While he can be caring and loyal, he is mostly looking after his own interests. He’s also attracted to the idomeni and as a human/idomeni hybrid, Jani feels that he is attracted to her because she is a “freak”, as she calls herself. Jani is also convinced that no normal man could ever want her. So in the end she feels alone and that she can’t really trust anyone.
Many of the diplomatic people are pretty self-centered here, almost to the point of ignoring reality for what they would want it to be. They ignore Jani’s advice and are convinced that they know better. Anais Ulanova, Lucien’s previous boss, is a prime example of this. I almost felt like they are liability to the Commonwealth and should be fired.
There are some very interesting developments for idomeni in this book. Shai, the leader of Earth’s embassy and Nema are clearly at odds here. While Nema advocates for closer ties between the two species, and is convinced that Jani’s hybridization will be the way of the future, Shai wants to keep the relations as they are or even to lessen them. The leader of the idomeni species himself, and by extension most of the born-sect idomeni, want isolation from the humanish. Then there are the Haárin, who are the outcast idomeni and who have the most contact with humanity. They want to settle on human planets and have closer ties between the species. I was actually mostly more interested in the idomeni happenings that Jani’s.
Jani’s hybrid body is still acting up. There are only specific foods she can eat; no lactose and lots of spice. Her joints hurt and she doesn’t heal as quickly as she should have with her augments. Her eyes have also changed to look like idomeni eyes and she hides them behind contact lenses, or films. She’s taller and her fingers and toes are longer and more slender. It’s interesting to see just how idomeni-like she will in end up being.
I really enjoyed most of the secondary characters here. The mysterious Niall: what does he really want and is he really trustworthy? Jani’s old friends Steve and Angevin whom Jani tries to keep out of the loop for their own protection. Of course, they don’t appreciate that and are furious about it. Angevin redecorates Jani’s apartment. John Shroud, the doctor who orchestrated Jani’s hybridization and who is in love with her, just waiting her to choose him. And of course Jani’s bewildered parents from the frontier. Nema who is devoted to his own vision of the future which has been supposedly given to him by his gods. The Haárin who irritate both humans and the idomeni.
The atmosphere in the books is darker than in many other space opera stories. Jani has good reasons to be paranoid and she has very few friends. There are no easy answers and endings are rarely happy.
Please don’t start the series with this book!