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Saltation by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Edited by Toni Weisskopf
Cover Artist: David Mattingly
Review by Gayle Surrette
Baen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781439133453
Date: 06 April 2010 List Price $24.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Saltation continues the story of Theo Waitley that began in Fledgling . Theo is now enrolled at the Anlingdin Piloting Academy sponsored by the Scout Captain Cho sig'Radia, who she met in the first book. Theo is part of a class starting mid-semester. Fledgling and Saltation fill in the details of just who is that young girl that approaches Dav yos'Phelium at the very end of I, Dare calling him father and asking for his help with a big problem.

Saltation, as we are told, is the intermittent, leaping movement of particles. And that pretty much defines the story. Saltation covers the years of Theo's schooling, her initial semester's work experiences, and the first years working as a pilot. You can't cover that much time in full detail without boring the reader, so we intermittently leap through time hitting the highlights; the defining moments of Theo's life.

That makes it sound like it's a bit choppy but it's not -- no more choppy than a film that jumps from one location to another, skipping the slow bits in between. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are experts at creating well-rounded fully-developed characters and placing them in tightly plotted stories that play out before our eyes with all the depth, color, and emotion as if we too were in the action, standing just close enough to hear/see everything, but not close enough to change the outcome or mess up the works.

Theo may have changed worlds and schools but she still has to learn to blend in with whatever group she is with. She's finally getting the training she needs to pilot jump ships and she's still in touch with pilot Win Ton yo'Vala. Then there's the messages from and to home, to her mother and her father. But settling into school means roommates, classes, teachers, other students, studying, fitting in, and learning what's necessary to succeed in space.

The problem is that Theo is dedicated to being the best pilot she can be, but she often fails to see the signs around her that politics are changing the school, the staffing, and the port. She makes friends who try to point out the political and power struggles that are going to impact her as a pilot, but while Theo adapts, she often is caught; blindsided if you will, by events.

While taking place in the Liaden universe, Theo is unaware of her heritage and, the reader will be pulled into the story and enjoy it even if they haven't read any of the other Liaden books. However, if you have read all the previous books, including the two prequels (Crystal Soldier and Crystal Dragon), there will be lots of surprises, as in many cases we know more about Theo's connections and heritage than she does. There's also some interesting intersections of characters and actions that give lots of food for thought within the series -- wondering what will our authors do next.

Great story, just what you'd expect from this team. Don't dither, go out and pick this up, you'll be glad you did.

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