Fantasy of Manners... In Space! Liaden Universe Discussion Thread

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Fantasy of Manners... In Space! Liaden Universe Discussion Thread

1sandstone78
Editado: Out 25, 2012, 12:04 pm

It's come up in several threads now that many of us have read or are reading the Liaden Universe books, so I thought I'd start a thread to aggregate the discussion all into one place.

If you're not familiar with the Liaden books, they are technically science fiction in that the setting is a fairly typical space-faring future where the name of Earth has been changed to "Terra" for no apparent reason and humans have made contact with several other species, including the highly mannered, business-minded Liadens, the somewhat more malevolent warrior Yxtrang, and the smarter-than-they-look reptilian Clutch Turtles, but there are also more fantasy-like tropes such as psionic wizards, reincarnation, and a psychic tree that may appeal to fantasy readers as well. The plots are heavily character-driven, and as a whole center around the members of Korval, the founding clan of Liaden society, and the various Terrans who get drawn into their lives.

The series has something of a tortured publication history. It started off with three books from Del Rey in the late 80s, reprinted in omnibus with further books by Meisha Merlin in the early 00s until Meisha Merlin went defunct and the books moved to ebook editions from Baen Webscriptions and a second round of paperback reprints by Ace shortly after; Ace dropped the series before completing the reprints, and the authors released two new books as online serials, before finally signing the current print contract with Baen, which has seen roughly a new book a year for the past several years, and a recent audiobook release of the entire backlist by Audible. In addition, the authors have released a dozen or so chapbooks and assorted short stories to fill in backstory gaps and explore side-stories- these are available gathered into ebook omnibuses, and Baen has the print rights to them for an as-yet-unannounced print release as well.

The difficult part is knowing where to start in all of this confusion. It doesn't help that the publication order and chronological order are not the same, or that all of the different omnibus releases break up the series in different ways.

I think most people would agree that the core of the series is the "Agent of Change" sequence, which starts in the first published book, also titled Agent of Change. The story follows Korval member Val Con yos'Phelium, a Scout turned spy for the Liaden Department of the Interior, and mercenary-turned-bodyguard Miri Robertson as Miri tries to outrun an organized crime syndicate tied to her former boss and Val Con discovers the Department of the Interior has some shady motives of its own.

Conflict of Honors, the second published book, actually takes place a few months before Agent of Change, and either can be read first. Our main character here is Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza, a Terran cargo master who is dumped by her Liaden ship when she discovers they may be running contraband- she signs onto the Dutiful Passage, ship of Korval Master Trader Shan yos'Galan, who has a long-running dislike of Priscilla's former captain for completely different reasons.

Both sides meet up in the third book of the sequence, Carpe Diem, and the story continues through two more volumes, Plan B and I Dare.

After that, the reading order gets a little fuzzy- there are many places you can go from here:

Local Custom is the story of Shan's parents, Korval Master Trader Er Thom yos'Galan and Terran scholar Anne Davis, about thirty years before Conflict of Honors. Er Thom can't put Anne out of his mind, though their affair ended three years ago- he takes one last trip to see her before allowing his memories of her to be erased so he can fulfill his Clan duty of contract marriage and discovers that she had a son by him, Shan, who is now three years old. This is much more of a romance and a comedy of manners than an action story, and not much of the sci fi plot is advanced here since this takes place long before the revelations are made in the later books, but if you're curious about Shan's background it's not a bad read.

Scout's Progress and its sequel Mouse and Dragon follow Local Custom and tell the story of Val Con's parents, Daav yos'Phelium, the delm or leader of Korval, and Aelliana Caylon, a Liaden mathematician trapped in an abusive family who escapes by winning a starship in a bet. These are also romances, but they have a bit more about the ugly side of Liaden manners and obligations and the way that these can trap and hurt individuals. Mouse and Dragon also sets up the background of Theo Waitley, the protagonist of the next sequence of books.

Fledgling and Saltation tell the story of Theo Waitley, a young woman on the scholarly world of Delgado who gradually discovers a talent for piloting and becomes enmeshed in Korval's affairs. These books are more geared towards a YA audience than the others, and in line with that genre, Theo's story is something of a coming-of-age plot.

Ghost Ship is a sequel to both the Theo book Saltation and the continuation of the main plotline after I Dare, and Dragon Ship follows after that. I've not read this far, but I have read there is something of a stopping point at the end of Dragon Ship, but that some things are left unresolved, and there are at least two unrelated books coming out before the continuation of this plotline (Necessity's Child in February and a sequel to Balance of Trade to be turned into Baen next July), so probably a wait of at least two years on the chronological next book.

Speaking of upcoming releases, Necessity's Child is a standalone that takes place on the somewhat dystopian planet Surebleak. From the summary, I would suspect it takes place sometime after I Dare, but it looks like it doesn't focus on any of the main characters from other books. It looks like the electronic advanced reader copy has been released by Baen.

The far-past (a thousand years or so before the other books) duology Crystal Soldier and Crystal Dragon tells the origin story of Korval and the founding of Liaden society. They are also somewhat more typical science fiction than the other books in the series, centering around a galactic war and an implacable enemy. I believe there are some minor references to these events in the latest Theo books.

Finally, the standalone Balance of Trade takes place a few hundred years before the main sequence, and tells the story of Jethri, who becomes one of the first Terrans to enter the Liaden-dominated field of interstellar trade as an apprentice to a Liaden Master Trader. To my knowledge, this plotline hasn't intersected with the other books, but there is a sequel called Trade Secret that will be coming out after Necessity's Child.

Now that the too long; didn't read series summary is out of the way, anyone have any thoughts on the Liaden books?

2reading_fox
Out 25, 2012, 4:10 am

\1- THanks! That's a really really useful guide to the reading order. (NB you've got the wrong touchstone for necessity's child - you need ot use the (others) to get to Sharon Lee's book).

I've been reading them essentially in the order of the two Baen omnibus bundles, and it was not the ideal way to experience them. Knowing how they interact is very helpful.

3majkia
Out 25, 2012, 7:26 am

Thanks for this. I've only read Agent of Change - so far. But will keep this thread starred for help when I get further into the series.

4sandstone78
Out 25, 2012, 5:12 pm

>2 reading_fox: Whoops! Touchstone fixed, thanks. Glad the guide could help! The Baen order is not exactly clear, and the seemingly arbitrary number-within-series designations on Amazon are much less than helpful too.

It occurs to me that I should make a summarized version of the above list with the currently-in-print Baen publication, so here it is:

Agent of Change (Main Sequence)
- Conflict of Honors, last third of The Dragon Variation (optional, takes place before Agent of Change and Carpe Diem
- Agent of Change and Carpe Diem from The Agent Gambit
- Plan B and I Dare from Korval's Game

30-years-before Prequels (optional, provide background on Theo sequence)
- Local Custom and Scout's Progress, first two thirds of The Dragon Variation
- Mouse and Dragon, not collected in omnibus

Theo Waitley Sequence (not collected in omnibus)
- Fledgling
- Saltation
- Ghost Ship (Theo's story meets up with the Agent of Change ending here)
- Dragon Ship
- To be continued, probably 2014 or later

Standalone
- Side Story Necessity's Child, to be released in February, electronic ARC available

Korval Origin Story
- Crystal Soldier and Crystal Dragon, Korval/Liad origin story, first two thirds of The Crystal Variation

Jethri (Terran Trader apprentice)
- Balance of Trade, last third of The Crystal Variation
- Forthcoming sequel Trade Secrets, release date not announced but probably somewhere around early 2014

>3 majkia: What did you think of Agent of Change? Did you like it enough to read further?

On my own read/reread, I'm still working my way through Local Custom. I had previously read Local Custom, Scout's Progress, and the first three of the Agent of Change sequence, but I never made it any further into the series. Hoping to rectify that this time and make it through at least I Dare before moving on to something else. I think my favorite of the series that I've read is still Conflict of Honors- I always liked Shan and Priscilla more than Val Con and Miri, and was disappointed that they had more of a background role in Carpe Diem. Those who've read further, do Shan and Priscilla ever come back to more prominent roles?

5majkia
Out 25, 2012, 6:25 pm

Sandstone: I really enjoyed Agent of Change. Good fun, not to romancy and enough action to keep me glued to the book. I fully intend to read further.

6Sakerfalcon
Out 26, 2012, 5:41 am

I love the Clutch characters, they were probably what I liked most about Agent of change. I was sorry not to see more of them in Carpe diem. Their social structure, and the reactions of other characters when encountering them, are really well-done, humorous but not over the top. I'm curious about the Yxtrang too - they seem to be the baddies of the galaxy, but the conflicts in the stories I've read so far have been between Liaden factions or human/Liaden disputes, with the Yxtrang mostly a distant menace (the exception being the incident in Agent of change, or course). Do they ever come to the fore in future books, I wonder?

7reading_fox
Out 26, 2012, 5:44 am

Spoilers ?!!!

My understanding of the Yxtrang - and it is limited and I haven't read any fo the later books - comes from the crystal duology - There were three factions of wizards working to save humanity. And each of the those three factions succeeded. Two of them were allied and so we have Liadena nd Terrans who are very close and came through together. And the Yxtrang who were seperate - but still basically of human descent. Sort Of. It isn't very clear.

Of those I've read, the crystal Duology were the best.

8anatwork.k
Editado: Out 26, 2012, 11:35 pm

Wow, check it out! Awesome thread. :)

Since the last time I posted I have finished reading the two Baen unibuses of the short stories. They are very, very good and have sort of helped me overcome my annoyance with all things Lee and Miller that the Theo Waitley books had engendered.

6> For those (like me) who liked the Clutch turtles, there are a couple of short stories of Val Con's introduction to them and a little bit about their planet in the unibi. Plus we get to see how the dragon died. ;-) I also enjoyed the Lute and Moonhawk stories.

4> Shan and Priscilla: They do have expanded roles in Plan B and I Dare but still more of a background role compared to Val Con and Miri (who are the "main" main characters). TBH, I don't mind that, I like those two. :)

My favourite pair though was Pat Rin and Natesa the Assassin--their story is told interspersed through the rest in I Dare. This is the least amount of Val Con and Miri that we see BTW. The other members of Clan Korval have vastly expanded roles in this book.

6> The Yxtrang end up being the main baddies in Plan B and we see a lot more of them. We also gain a minor PoV Yxtrang character here.

Completely at random, I started with Agent of Change in The Agent Gambit and then feverishly read Conflict of Honors when I couldn't understand Carpe Diem and I really think the books ought to be read in that order even if that does not fit chronologically. I settled into the books around Carpe Diem when Val Con and Miri are stuck on Vandar with no spaceship. I thought it helped us transition from a world like ours to one that is more science-fictioney. Joss Whedon said when creating Firefly that he wanted to use some of the past and some of the future to create something that kind of felt like our times and I think that is important for relatability in these books IMO.* Of course, I am not a big science fiction reader although I read a lot of Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke as a child.

On Lifemating and Queer relationships: This is a discussion we were having in the September thread and Sandstone78 made the point that even though there are a lot of same-sex intimate relationships in the Liaden universe, they don't make it to the lifemate status. I have found this to be borne out in the short stories...

* I don't know why but I seem to enjoy science fiction in TV shows and movies a lot more than in books. The opposite holds true for fantasy. I'm not sure why -- I think it has something to do with the small amount and not very high quality of descriptive prose. Does anyone else feel this way or am I alone in my tiny minority?

9sandstone78
Out 27, 2012, 3:32 am

>6 Sakerfalcon:,7,8 Re: the Yxtrang, the subplot in Local Custom is that Anne and her colleague, a Liaden professor, seem to have found evidence that the Liadens, Terrans, and Yxtrang languages have a common base, indicating that they may have a common origin. This seems to line up with what you mention from the Crystal duology, reading_fox, that there was some connection between them all at that time.

>8 anatwork.k: I may have to pick up the unibi, despite the electronic-only release at this point- it sounds like they would be worth it.

You're probably right about Agent of Change being a better start than Conflict of Honors, since like you said Val Con and Miri are the main main characters, and besides that, that was the publication order (and maybe the writing order), so there's probably a bit more background/setup reading them in that order. I think I'm biased towards reading Conflict first because that's how it was ordered in the Meisha Merlin omnibus release I'd read, Partners in Necessity; reading that first is probably also the reason I got more attached to Shan and Priscilla than Val Con and Miri, though I think it's also that I tend to like reading about characters with a background in trade rather than spy/mercenary.

I haven't gotten as far as Pat Rin and Natesa yet, (well, not really- Pat Rin does show up as a child in Local Custom in a bit part). I'm really looking forward to finally going further in the series than Carpe Diem and seeing how things work out, since I'd first found the series in the gap between the Meisha Merlin print and Baen reprint when Plan B and I Dare were out of print and going for ridiculous prices. (Especially I Dare, since Ace did not reprint it, though they did reprint Plan B, leaving everyone who bought that on a cliffhanger...)

Science fiction TV and science fiction novels are almost like different genres to me. I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager, and the episodic format of these shows has more of the feel of short fiction, where each episode has a self-contained plot and consequences rarely carry over from event to event. Also like short fiction, the characters are fairly static- Deanna Troi in the beginning is pretty much the same as Deanna Troi at the end of the show, for example; the show is built around the consistency of the characters and their being types as much as individuals, because the plots are often explorations of what a person like them would do in a given situation. (What would an empath do when faced with X? What would a proud warrior race guy do when faced with Y?) This in no way stops me from enjoying the show, or even the occasional tie in novel or fan fiction, but I expect different things and I judge a shows on different criteria than I do a work written as an original novel.

Another point is, like you suggest, it's less intrusive to infodump visually than through description, dialogue, and made-up terminology; my expectations are also set somewhat lower for coherency and extensiveness of worldbuilding in TV than for written fiction. Also, since there are always counterexamples, I recently watched Star Trek: Deep Space 9 all the way through (I'd only seen parts of episodes here and there), and the generally tighter continuity and greater attention to character development throughout most of the series made it feel closer to what I'd expect from a novel, so it is a spectrum.

I think also, historically within literature, there was something of a divide between fantasy and science fiction- I think of it as science fiction as a literature of ideas, and fantasy as a genre of atmosphere; see the difference between, say, Asimov's works exploring the laws of robotics, and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, which drew so heavily from Icelandic sagas. Over time, there's been a lot of synergy and blending, to the extent that some works seem to cross over entirely- the immersive, atmospheric "instant milieu" (swiped that term from somewhere I can't remember, but it fits) science fiction works of Melissa Scott on one hand, and the fantasy of Brandon Sanderson on the other, where he works out the ideas of carefully constructed magic systems.

In the end, I'm really a bit more of a science fiction reader at heart, for all I love magic; what hooks me most is the speculation, and I think that as a whole, fantasy is typically more concerned with incident (most powerful chosen mage!) than consequence (some people are mages?). Many of my favorite books are works like Melissa Scott's, science fiction with an emphasis on capturing the "feel" of a different world seamlessly integrated with the speculative ideas- I'd put C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner books, Eleanor Arnason's A Woman of the Iron People, and Doris Egan's science fantasy Gate of Ivory in this subgenre, but also some fantasy, like Laurie J. Marks' humanless world of the Triad in Delan the Mislaid and sequels and Elizabeth Lynn's novella Wizard's Domain. Of course, I do love a good character-driven adventure full of Action and Cool Stuff, like the Liaden books or Melisa Michaels' Skyrider books (Skirmish) or Rachel Caine's Weather Warden books (Ill Wind) too- variety is, after all, the spice of life.

In any case, I am disappointed that queer relationships don't make it to lifemate status, it's disappointing that this trend continues in the short stories. :( At least there are queer relationships, though, far too much romantic fantasy and science fiction explicitly ties psychic bonds or what have you, the highest magical form of true love, to production of optimal offspring (because the optimal happy ending is a heterosexual couple having biological children together; heterosexual couples who don't want to, choose not to, or are incapable of having biological children need not apply). See the common term of "mating bonds" in many paranormal romances or urban fantasy stories, with werewolves especially, where it's usually made out to be "animal instinct" to find an optimal mate through smell, and this ability is often explicitly stated to be for breeding purposes.

Spoilers in the rest of this paragraph for Sharon Shinn's Archangel books. It's revealed throughout the series that the Jovah's Kisses, gems implanted in the arms of most of the society that "spark" with light when a person meets their destined match, select relationships based on genetic profiling- this wouldn't be such a problem, except that the Jovah's Kisses are also what bring the main couples in her stories together, and all of their relationships turn out to be true love, and though we're told that Kiss relationships are of course rare (except among protagonists), the non-Kiss matches we see never turn out well to the extent that in one book, the heroine was already involved in a happy relationship before her Kiss-match showed up, but her lover turns out to have been cheating on her the whole time, and so she settles down with her Kiss-approved mate and true love. True love = genetic match for optimal kids, because of course genes = destiny (I remember a line about "the best leaders in history having parents brought together by the Kiss" or some such).

Spoilers in the rest of this paragraph for Linda Nagata's Memory. I remembered liking this book when I first read it because of the cool concept and worldbuilding, and the writing is good, but I had to put it down on my re-read because the issue I'm about to talk about pretty well ticked me off. This is not a typical world, and I won't spoil the explanation, but reincarnation is extensive, pretty much everyone in society regains skills from their past lives as they grow up, and children often bear little to no physical resemblance to their parents. Each person in the world has exactly one approved "match" (based on optimal production of children, of course, so matches are all heterosexual), and their bodily fluids (blood, for example) are toxic to the extent that they kill anyone who is not their match. Congratulations, author, you have just erased the entire possibility of physical queer relationships from your entire fictional universe!

(FURTHER SPOILER for Memory) Our heroine is something of an exception to the one match rule, however- she is special, and so is genetically approved match of.... two men! And exceptional tragedy happened because in a past life she chose one of them and the other therefore had no match! I guess the toxic bodily fluids were necessary, otherwise there was a chance they might have had... a polyamorous relationship! Also, no asexuals, celibate folks, or content single people allowed either- one of the bad things Mr. Spurned does is encourage young people to join cults of celibacy, and the characters remark on how terrible it is for all these people to be celibate before finding their matches, because now their matches will have to live a life of suffering alone!

I just don't have any words- did nobody notice the implications here, or worse, was this done on purpose?

Anyways, back to the Liaden books, it's mentioned in passing and without comment or judgment in Local Custom that Anne's Liaden professor colleague went to Terra to study when he was younger and stayed with a family of farmers, "Mildred Higgens and Sally Brunner and their husband, Jackson Roy", for several months- he keeps a photo of them together on his desk. No context for their relationship is given, so it's not clear if it's a group marriage or polyamorous or a polygamous (ie, whether the two wives are married to each other as well as to the man, or just both of them to the man), but it seems like Terra (or at least a certain part) recognizes non-binary relationships.

Also, spoiler for Conflict of Honors, Dagmar is pretty awful, with her creepy, obsessive sexual harassment of Priscilla- this really bothered me when I picked the book back up to read, but at least in the beginning it didn't seem that Priscilla or the narrative portrayed her creepfulness as a consequence of Dagmar's sexuality, and it is balanced out by Priscilla and Lina later on in the book. I decided to go back and re-read Local Custom and sequels before going back to Conflict, but I do intend to read carefully on this point. What did you think of Dagmar, anatwork.k or others?

10anatwork.k
Out 27, 2012, 5:19 am

Quick response here: Dagmar in Conflict of Honors did bother me at first but over the course of the book I felt Dagmar's harassment of Priscilla was not because of her sexuality but was rather a conscious decision on the part of Lee and Miller to subvert the standard rape plot device by making the threat a woman rather than a man. I will give them credit for this -- once you figured out the gender dynamics in the universe it became much less disturbing.

Did you notice though that she was still ugly, had bad teeth and was smelly like a rapey man? I think Kennit from The Liveship Traders has been the only well groomed rapist in fantasy ever!

11anatwork.k
Out 28, 2012, 12:23 am

I am reading Local Custom right now and it is entertaining but why do Er Thom and Anne cry all the time??!

12Sakerfalcon
Editado: Out 29, 2012, 9:48 am

>9 sandstone78:, 10: I agree about Dagmar being creepy because that's who she is, not because of her sexuality. It was a definite twist from the usual to have a female sexual predator, who is preying on another woman.

As a single woman with no desire for children, I agree that the constant focus on the importance and necessity of childbearing, and the only "real" relationships being ones which serve that end, gets annoying. I can understand it in a faux-Mediaeval type fantasy world where social and political concerns mirror those of our own world in the past, but surely in Sf set so many years in the future alternative options should have developed. I believe that the Liaden books were consciously written as a sort of hommage to Regency romances, so fair enough that authors chose to use these tropes (and kudos to them for the places where they do branch away from them), but you'd think that in general authors would be a bit more adventurous in this area of worldbuilding. One of the few things I liked about Leviathan Wakes was the mention of one of the protagonist's family consisting of a group of co-parents.

13sandstone78
Out 31, 2012, 2:45 am

>10 anatwork.k:,12 Re: Dagmar, I think the place I draw the line for villains different than the main cast (whether that difference is a non-default sexuality, race, disability, class, or so on) is whether the difference it's portrayed as the source of or evidence of their evil, or whether it's portrayed as incidental and the evil is portrayed as their personality and choice, and there is clear representation of the same difference on the "good" side to balance. The impression I have of Conflict of Honors is that it falls into the second category, since there is a bit of balance there.

>11 anatwork.k: Their lives are hard, anatwork.k! Lust, angst, lust, angsty tears, lust, plot-based offscreen explosion that has nowhere near the emotional impact one would expect, lust, tears, angst, Er Thom's mother being difficult, tears, angst... :)

>12 Sakerfalcon: Agreed. Perhaps I'm more of a pragmatist than a romantic when it comes to childbearing customs, but when Er Thom's mother and the Code excerpts kept making comments about "genes being lost to the clan" if a member didn't produce children, ie marry by contract to produce a child, all I could think was "Is there no for sperm/egg donation in the future? And wouldn't there probably be artificial gestation by then too?" I mean, maybe it's against custom or something, but like you said, I think this kind of plot does work better in faux-medieval settings.

I finished Local Custom yesterday, and overall I feel like there would have been a good book here in another draft or two. As it stands, I feel that the romance plot takes far too long to get going and the scenes that make it up overall feel a bit repetitive (Anne wants Er Thom, remembers he's Liaden and doubts him; Er Thom talks to Daav about Anne, and is conflicted because of his mother's reactions; tears, repeat), the subplot related to Anne's research was not well integrated at all, and the even sparser subplot about Er Thom's dealings with a potentially iffy Master Trader was barely there. I found Anne's general lack of reaction to events like the aforementioned off-screen explosion unbelievable, and I never got a clear sense of the logistics or actual motivation behind the villainy (I understand that a theoretical someone would take issue with Anne's research, but we never get any context for the villain's identity in Liaden society, or learn how he found out about the unpublished conclusion of Anne's colleague, and all the characters also seem to assume he was acting alone for no apparent reason, which doesn't make a lot of sense given what he was able to accomplish).

Other notes... I don't think this book passes the Bechdel test, that is I don't think Anne has even one conversation with another woman that doesn't revolve around Er Thom, Shan, or her male Liaden professorial colleague. (I think Anne and Er Thom's mother briefly talk about Er Thom's theoretical contract marriage fiancee, Syntebra, but since they're really talking about him marrying her, I don't think it counts.)

In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of another woman than Anne who's portrayed in a positive light: we have Er Thom's mother Petrella (presented as old and bitter, an obstacle to be overcome and tolerated at best), Daav and Er Thom's sister Kareen (presented as cold, arrogant, and also a Bad Mother), a female Liaden professor (she talks to Anne about the brilliance of their mutual male colleague), Syntebra (presented as hilariously out of her depth, intimidated by Korval, and hating Scouts and non-Liadens because they're scary), Syntebra's clan's delm (pushing her into marriage with Er Thom, briefly), Daav's pleasure love Olwen (never speaks to anybody but Daav on-screen, and only about his leaving the Scouts and their relationship), and the duplicitous Master Trader from Er Thom's subplot, Jyl (presented as underhanded and probably incompetent). Women as a whole really don't come out too well in this book. :/

To some extent, I feel that that's a problem with the books of the series I've read (Local Custom, Scout's Progress, Conflict of Honors, Agent of Change, Carpe Diem)- the books center around Korval, and all of the members of Korval we have for protagonists (Er Thom, Daav, Shan, Val Con) are men. The women have backstory troubles, which the Korval man gets them out of to bring them into Korval; in Local Custom, for example, Anne doesn't particularly seem concerned about leaving her past and career behind for Korval at the end of the book, even though she is completely dependent on Er Thom and has no real connections of her own to fall back on. Maybe the plot revolving all around the men clears up in the later books, or when Theo comes on the scene?

Also, a bit of foreshadowing in one of the closing scenes (and therefore spoiler); when it's been revealed by a Healer that Anne and Er Thom are lifemates with a measurable psychic connection that can't be separated short of death, we get this line:

(Spoiler) "Yet history tells us that Master Wizard Rool Tiazan's lady live in him after the death of her body," Korval commented from across the room. Interesting that Daav was the one to bring that up, given what happens with himself and Aelliana later on; interesting also that both cases have the woman dying. Manpain, anyone? For contrast, Cheryl Franklin's Fire Get and sequels have a couple where this happens, but flips the gender roles. (End spoiler.)

I've started on Scout's Progress; of interest, it seems that the plot thread with Anne's research about the common linguistic foundation of Liaden, Terran, and Yxtrang languages continues. Hope it's better handled in this volume.

14sandstone78
Nov 9, 2012, 2:04 am

I've just finished Scout's Progress, and will be moving on to Mouse and Dragon.

Local Custom wanted to be a mannered romance, but we never got enough immersion into Liaden society for the manners to make sense to the reader, or enough interaction between the characters to provide the necessary tension to carry the book. Like anatwork.k mentioned above, Er Thom and Anne spend most of their time alone, angsting, and pining for each other, when they could have spent that time talking, arguing, or interacting with the other minor characters- it just took way too many pages for them to get to Liad. Compounding this was the unfortunately cardboard man with a gun brought in from the common language subplot to provide the climactic scene- it felt like the authors realized that the mannered romance just wasn't working, but instead of shoring that up on its own terms, they went with the much more traditional action/violence plot.

Scout's Progress is a much stronger book to me; the conflict that carried the plot arose more naturally from the characters rather than feeling like an arbitrary obstacle the author put there, and the resolution satisfying because (as I believe JannyWurts mentioned this point our discussion in the September thread) it came out of the characters' actions and their development over the course of the story. Scout's Progress also picks up the common languages subplot, sans gun, and does a better job of it even just mentioning it in passing, I thought.

15humouress
Ago 17, 2021, 2:25 pm

Just in case anyone sees this, I just read the omnibus Crystal Variation and I had a question (I did read Agent of Change a few years ago and felt a bit lost so I decided to read the series - so far - in chronological order). Was Quick Passage the only ship to cross from the Liaden’s original universe?