A Liaden UniverseŽ Constellation: Volume Two
by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Cover Artist: Stephen Hickman
Review by Gayle Surrette
Baen Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451639445
Date: 07 January 2014 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
This is another collection of short stories that were published elsewhere and have now been collected so that fans of the Liaden Universe series can learn more about the universe and its characters, as well as filling in some information that will add more depth when reading the novels.
Veil of the Dancer: Inas Bhar arrived in the novels to become an important part of Pat Rin yos'Phelium's life. Readers could assume that because of the richness of the character that there was more to her than we were seeing on the page. This story of Inas Bhar as a young girl on a planet where girls had little scope for growth in their lives and how she came to become so much more than her planetary heritage would have allowed helps to fill in some of this missing background.
Quiet Knives: Twenty years ago, Midj Rolanni made an offer and a promise. Now she has received a message asking her to fulfill her promise. Midj prides herself in always keeping her word, but this time -- well she'll need to go to a place she'd hoped never to visit, and which could be very dangerous. This story backfills some of what was happening when the Clutch Turtles were determined to get the Juntavas to promise to help and assist their adopted humans. One of the joys of this series is that there are other people whose lives are impacted by the events of the main characters, and this story gives readers a peek on one such story.
This House: A storyteller learned that his stories could not only wound, but actually kill those who heard them. The Healers called him in for training, and his talent was then used for helping others. When he'd had his heart broken he retreated to the countryside -- becoming a hermit. Now there's a special case and the healers need his talents. Is this case beyond his skill? Will he do more harm than good?
Lord of the Dance: On Surebleak, a winter party is rare, but as Boss of Bosses, Pat Rin yos'Phelium must attend, as will the rest of Clan Korval as they must now fit into what passes for society on their new home planet. But, there's a hidden agenda for this party and Pat Rin doesn't have a clue.
The Beggar King: In Mouse & Dragon, Daav yos'Philium hinted that pilots had gone missing on Low Port in the past. This tale is about Clarence O'Berin's arrival on Liad to take up the duties of the previous Juntavas Boss. Clarence and Daav cross paths as they each try to find out what's happened to the missing pilots.
Necessary Evils: This story seems to take place around the time of Crystal Soldier. Some of the houses at that time specialized in creating genetic workers that were breed for a single purpose. Time has passed and one set of vineyard workers for House vel'Albren find that they need to pay more attention to what is happening in the house, for it seems that a power struggle may have a lot to do with their survival.
Fighting Chance: Miri Robertson is a child on Surebleak with a mother who is very ill and some kind neighbors who are helping out. Miri has been picking up odd jobs to earn money doing whatever she can, including manual labor and fixing equipment. When she's cornered, she gets help from an unexpected source and a chance to make something of her life. This backfills a bit of Miri's childhood.
Prodigal Son: Clan Korval is now settled on Surebleak, and the Department of Interior is now splintered. Word has filtered in that the Department may have agents on Vandar looking for Miri and Val Con. He must go to make sure the people who aided them are not harmed. Readers now get to spend a bit more time with the people that helped them when they were stranded on an interdicted planet with no way off.
Daughter of Dragons: Readers of the novels know Kareen yos'Phelium mainly as a thorn in Daav's side, and a stickler for following the Liaden Code of Conduct. However, in this story we learn that despite her stern and off-putting disposition, she is Korval through and through. There's also interesting interactions with Jeeves and Anthora.
Dragon Tide: This is an interesting tale set on the planet where Korval's tree originated. Here dragons live in harmony with the sentient trees. Readers can learn more about that relationship and see the planet before it became the devastated ruin described in Crystal Soldier.
Shadow Partner: It's easy to believe that the main characters had no social life outside the main story lines. However, we also know from bits here and there in the novels that there have been a fair share of relationships and heartbreak. In Shadow Partner, we get to read about one such relationship -- its aftermath, and what survived among the pieces.
Persistence: Ever wonder where Pat Rin yos'Phelium got those rugs he used to set up shop on Surebleak? Just where did he get the Sinner's Rug, when he only had what was on his ship when Plan B was put in place. This is that tale and the impact his necessity had on others.
Misfits: I'd read this story before in a chapbook and it was every bit as absorbing as the first time I read it. Miri Robertson was on Klamath when it broke up and one of the very, very, few who survived. She says she only lived because of the Weatherman. In Misfits, we get the story of the Weatherman, Klamath, Lizardi's Lunatics, Miri, and what happened there. It will keep you turning pages and on the edge of your seat even knowing that Miri survives.
Hidden Resources: In Plan B, readers learned that Korval had a plan to safeguard their children while the adults did what they could to solve the problems besetting Korval. This story tells us about the children and their keepers. What are they to do when a ship comes to them and passes the tests to land but is no one that they've ever met before? Is it the Department of Interior come to kill them or worse, use them? Is it the all clear to take them home and how do they tell the difference?
Moon on the Hills: Korval was ordered off Liad, and they could take with them only what they could carry in the short time left to them. The Clutch Turtles offered to bring the tree and the house to Surebleak. It's now Pat Rin's job to get permission for the area they wish to place the house and tree from the neighbor who has a claim to it. The problem is the neighbor has a fear of strangers. The timing is tight, but we learn about the man who will be the closest neighbor to Korval's new home. Will he sign the contract? Will they even be able to find him on his land to ask? Meanwhile the moon which is the Turtle's ship is getting larger in the sky.
Skyblaze: Vertu dea'San, Clan Wylan drove a taxi on Liad. Her clan had a fleet of taxis -- well more than one anyway. She picked up some offworlders at the port and took them to a wilderness in Solcintra. This simple act, which was a normal part of her job, turned out to be a life changing event that would have far reaching effects for her and her clan. Remember when I said that some of these stories tell of what happens to those who are only tangentially a part of the main story line -- well, Vertu and her clan are casualties of Korval's actions, and without this story we wouldn't even know about her or what happened to her and her clan.
I'd previously read several of these stories in stand alone chapbooks. However, I found that a second reading didn't decrease my pleasure in the story or the characters. It was, in fact, a pleasure to be reminded of these events, people, and places once more.
If you haven't read any of the Liaden related short stories, these collections are a great way to learn more about the background, universe, and how it all fits together. If you've read them in other venues, here's a chance to have them collected in one volume.