Fledgling (Liaden Universe Novel)
by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Review by Gayle Surrette
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781439132876
Date: 08 September 2009 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
At the very end of I, Dare, a young female pilot approaches Dav and calls him father and notifies him that there's trouble and she needs help. I often wondered who she was and where she came from. In other words, what was her story? Sharon Lee and Steve Miller in Fledgling give us the story of Theo Waitley, the daughter of Professor Jen Sar Kiladi (known in the other Liaden books as Dav yos'Phelium) and Professor Kamele Waitley. Some may have already read this story when the authors released it on their website, but for those who missed it, or want to hold it in their hands, it's now out in print and will be followed with another book about Theo next year.
Theo is fourteen and has grown up on Delgado where her mother and father are professors at the university. She's got a reputation for being clumsy and, since Delgado is a "safe" world"--that can be a dangerous trait to have in your record. The school and her mentor wants her treated with drugs. Kamele is resistant to that idea and what she wants goes, because Delgado is also a matriarchy.
The story is told from Theo's point of view and she's observant, witty, and intelligent. However, she's also fourteen and not in possession of some very important facts, because she's young, and because the adults don't want to burden her with them. And we readers know that the easiest way to get people in trouble--withhold information.
Kamele has decided to leave Jen Sar's home and move onto the campus with Theo in order to better her career options. Theo doesn't want to move but, as a minor, has no say. Soon we realize that Kamele may have had an ulterior motive for moving to the campus, but that reason could be any one of several. We get no hints from Theo's visits with Jen Sar because no one can figure out a Liaden at the best of times.
Lee and Miller have always been able to pull me into the story and keep me there, and Fledgling is no different. The world is rich with nuance and a heaviness of background that makes it real to the reader. The plot, as is usual with Lee and Miller, is multifaceted and complex. There are plots within plots within plots and how they play out and how they all fit together is usually evident by the time you finish the book, but it's the journey that's important.
I read the book three time for this review and caught myself starting to read it again as I flipped through to refresh my memory. I reread their books not because I can't remember them but because I want to taste, feel, and experience the adventure again. If you're a fan, you're going to pick up this book and enjoy it--it's even better than you expect. If you've never read their works, give it a try because they write some of the best space adventure/social commentary/SF around.