My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This novel is pretty much a direct continuation of Convergence, as Bren facilitates the arrival of Cajeiri's three human associates in Mospheria, the island set aside for humans on the atevi Earth. Meanwhile, things are getting interesting for Cajeiri at his great-uncle's estate as rival claimants of the Ajuri lordship make nuisances of themselves.
When I was waiting for the second meeting with the kyo, I remember how frustrated I was with what felt like book after book of political soap opera among the atevi. I even wondered if Ms. Cherryh had lost her way, if she literally had no idea how to deal with the kyo at the depth it would take, and was just spinning out all these books to try to hold off the inevitable.
But now, with the kyo having made it clear that they want to be good neighbors but no, they do not wish to make themselves fortunate three with humans and atevi, there's no longer that sense of frustrated anticipation. There is the possibility of an unpleasant encounter with the mysterious hostile fourth species (unfortunate four, which is ill-omened to the atevi, although perhaps not in the same way as it is in Japan, whose traditional culture they remind me of), but it's a dark cloud on the distant horizon, just menacing enough that we're happy to keep it far away. This series is a story of communication and learning about the Other, and I'm afraid that having those aliens actually come calling would make it something more on the order of a military science fiction story.
Not to say that CJ Cherryh can't write military sf, because she has done quite a good job with her Company Wars series in the Union-Alliance universe. But it's just too much of a change of tone from what has gone before for me to be really comfortable with the idea of her taking it in that direction.
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