Alliance of Equals (Liaden UniverseŽ)
by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Cover Artist: David B. Mattingly
Review by Gayle Surrette
Baen Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781481482660
Date: 29 August 2017 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
[NOTE: This review originally appeared in our August 2016 issue of the hardcover edition.]
In this long running series, we've followed Clan Korval through their many ups and downs. We've read the adventures of the generation that included Daav yos'Philium and Er Thom yos'Galan as they met their lifemates and then continued with the adventures of their children: Val Con yos'Philium; Shan, Nova, and Anthora yos'Galan; as well as Kareen yos'Philium's son Pat Rin. In passing, readers learned of the existence of their children: Shan's heir Padi; Nova's heir Syl Vor; Anthora's twins; and Pat Rin's heir Quin.
In Plan B the children were sent to Runig's Rock under the care of Kareen yos'Philium and Luken bel'Tarda. Once Clan Korval moved to Surebleak, the children returned to their parents. The most recent books have included either major or minor subplots that focused on one or another of the children. Alliance of Equals is Padi yos'Galan's story. That's not to say that there aren't several other plot threads that carry on stories begun in earlier novels.
Padi is serving as an Apprentice Trader aboard the Dutiful Passage under Master Trader Shan yos'Galan, her father. She's also working to upgrade her pilot's license while assigned to various other duties on the ship. We quickly learn that Padi is still dealing with the stresses she experienced while on Runig's Rock. She's keeping secrets that could impact the Passage and possibly damage all those near her. The healers on board the Passage fear that she is coming into her powers as a child of Korval and that she's fighting them. Can she learn to trust those who are trying to help her before it is too late?
Pilot Theo Waitley and her ship, Bechimo, thought they were helping keep Jemiatha's Jumble Shop safe when they downloaded an AI program into some derelict ships to protect the shop from Department of Interior ships. The AI named itself General Bunter. Since the AI didn't have proper training it's made some terrible mistakes. Korval has sent Pilot Tocohl Lorlin and Tolly Jones to help with the situation. The station crew is divided on whether the General should be erased or retrained. Can Tocohl and Tolly arrive before it is too late?
Hazenthall nor'Philium was partnered with Tolly Jones as a security team for Surebleak spaceport. When Tolly notified Haz of his new contract to ship out with Pilot Tocohl, she was upset, but offered to see him to his ship. They were attacked by people trying to kidnap Tolly. Hazenthall was injured in the firefight. To save her life, Tolly and Tocohl brought her aboard to get medical assistance. Korval agreed to this arrangement. Now Haz has some decisions to make and has to learn to act outside her comfort zone. What will she do and how far will she go to see their mission succeed?
Shan yos'Galan needs to develop new trading routes and partners in order for the Clan Korval to thrive. The Department of Interior was not totally destroyed and they are still seeking to wipe out Clan Korval. As Shan quickly learns, they have to adapt to being independent of the old Liaden rules of conduct. Will he find a way to clear the name of Clan Korval, and their Tree and Dragon trading partners from the misinformation and slanders of the Department of Interior as they reach out to new trading partners and planets? Will he succeed in gaining new trade partners and routes?
Daav yos'Philium was severely injured when he was attacked by the Department of Interior. Uncle found him and got him to his ship and into a medical unit. Uncle, based on Daav having two seed pods from Korval's tree, tried something quite unexpected. The healing units are nearly at the end of their cycle. What will happen? What did Uncle do and was it successful? Will Daav trust the result? What will be the consequences of Uncle's and the Korval's tree's actions?
The stories follow the same format as used in previous novels in that the various threads are told in a spiral pattern that keeps all the threads more or less contemporary in time. As they loop through, readers learn what is happening in the various threads at the same time. Some readers have complained about this but it really is the best way to keep readers up to date on contemporary events.
There's a lot going on in Alliance of Equals, but it never gets confusing. Each thread is distinct yet related to the others. You'll be turning pages as quickly as you can read them in order to find out what happens next. I found myself being upset when a change from one plot line to another happened but, truthfully I was just as upset when it changed again, back to the one I'd first been reading. Lee and Miller never disappoint. In fact, the only disappointment is having to wait for the next installment in the series.