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In this book, Theo Waitley meets and pilots Bechimo, a fabulous self-aware space ship of artificial intelligence, created centuries before by "The Builders" of mysterious origin.
Theo and Bechimo engage weapons, battling the evil Department of the Interior. The DoI wants Theo AND her amazing Ghost Ship, Bechimo. Theo and her AI ship slowly develop trust in each other, with some bumps along the road. Sometimes amusing little spats, as Bechimo is unsocialized, having been alone and in hiding for centuries.
Theo pilots her Ghost Ship to planet Surebleak. Clan Korval has arrived and Jelaza Kazone (sentient, ancient, wizardly tree) is sinking its roots in, influencing the micro-climate. Surebleak citizens welcome Boss Conrad's kin, who promise to maintain an open Port Road. Wild, lawless Surebleak is adjusting to a more benign form of leadership, and most folks welcome Boss Conrad's government style, but change is difficult, and Korval must deal with sabotage and even worse. Nelirikk gets to leap into action, along with Val Con, Theo, Daav, etc. Of course, the treacherous DoI is at work here.
On Surebleak, Bechimo meets the AI butler, Jeeves (good scene) and eventually gains a co-pilot. Now, with three on board, the interaction gets more interesting. Soon a fourth crew member boards..
A third plot thread takes place on Planet Vandar, with Val Con and Nelirikk. This section of the story is brief. There is a short story that elaborates on it, called Prodigal Son.
The POV changes too much. Sometimes before you can turn a page. It's frustrating.
The story ends on a major cliffhanger, involving Daav yos'Phelium and Uncle. This book and the next book (Dragon Ship) and the next book (Necessity's Child) collectively go almost nowhere. It's an interesting and sometimes highly entertaining journey, walking in circles, but compared to the plot of Tolkien's trilogy, these three books are meandering indeed.
Oh, and a baby is born. Sweet. Several sweet scenes with Tree, too.
Narrated by Eileen Stevens. The narrator is okay, for the most part. I have no real complaints, but several quibbles. I do want to defend Stevens, though: She does not make Miri sound like she is laughing all the time, as one reviewer states, but she does put a chuckle into her voice quite often. When the topic is serious, however, Miri does not sound merry. Personally, I liked Steven's take on Miri.
I agree with said reviewer's statement that male voices sound quieter than female voices, so one must sometimes adjust the volume. In general, male voices sound muffled, like a female trying to sound gruff.
Stevens pronounces Bechimo this way: Besh--ee--mo, emphasizing the middle syllable, ee, giving it a French sound. Personally, I would say Beck'-uh-mo, rhyming Bech with Tech, with stress on Beck. But who knows?
She mispronounced the French word "frisson" (she said something very like "freeze on").
For the word "mercenaries" shortened to "mercs", she says the short form like this: merce. I have never heard the short form pronounced merce, as in "mercy." Whenever I have heard it, it rhymes with "jerks" — people say "merks" — even though mercenary has the soft Ss sound for c. But again, who knows?
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Clan Korval's relocation to Surebleak can't go without bumps, and of course there are those who think the new power on the Port Road will be as easy to take out as any street boss from the old days. Meanwhile, Theo Waitley is adjusting to finding herself a member of a large extended family, with siblings and cousins and aunts--none of whom grew up in the "safety" culture of Delgado, and whose reactions to her range from delighted to appalled.
Theo has temporarily shelved the question of what to do about Bechimo, the "old tech" sapient AI ship which Win Ton has given her the command key for. In the meantime, she's continuing to work as a courier pilot for the old and secretive person known as Uncle. But both as an employee of Uncle, and as, now, a known Clan Korval pilot, Theo has become a target for dangerous people.
And of course, the Department of the Interior continues its war against Clan Korval.
There are a lot of threads coming together here, and going off in new directions. Theo, Val Con, and their father, Daav, each in their own ways continue to grow and develop as characters. We also start to get to know Bechimo, who, well, Bechimo needs a lot of socialization!
This is a thoroughly satisfying entry in the Liaden series, continuing to build on what has gone before, and intertwining multiple ongoing threads in the larger Liaden universe. It might not be the best place for a reader coming new to the series to start, but still an excellent book.
I bought this book.