Pretender by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Jacket Blurb - Exhausted from a two-year rescue mission in space, the crew of the starship Phoenix return
home to find disaster: civil war has broken out, the powerful Western
Association has been overthrown, and Tabini-aiji, its forceful leader,
is missing. In a desperate move, paidhi Bren Cameron and
Tabini's grandmother Ilisidi, the aiji-dowager, along with with Cajeiri,
Tabini's eight-year-old heir, make planetfall and succeed in reaching
the mainland. The brilliant and forceful Ilisidi seeks refuge at the
estate of an old ally, and Tabini-aiji arrives at the door.
word of Tabini's whereabouts circulates, clans allied with Tabini
descend upon the estate, providing a huge civilian presence that
everyone involved hopes will deter impending attacks by the usurpers.
But as more and more supporting clans arrive, Bren finds himself
increasingly isolated, and it becomes clear that both his extremely
important report of alien contact in space, and even his life, rest on
the shoulders of only two allies: Ilisidi and Cajeiri.
Can one elderly ateva and
and eight-year-old boy—himself a prime target for assassination—protect
Bren, a lone human involved in a civil war that most atevi believe he caused?
I found this book a struggle. Purely a transition book, intended to get the characters from point A, through point B, to final destination of Point C. There is a fair amount of travel involved, lots of personal angst from Bren as he decides the whole Atevi muck-up is his fault, and concerns well out of Bren's control or realm of human comprehension.
It is well understood there was a political upheaval that ousted the current regime and forced them into hiding. No, not everything was the paidhi's fault. Other people made decisions as well. Bren, get over yourself. The young heir was perhaps the most interesting aspect of this as it was a look at a young atevi, how they are raised, and how the "next generation" will be interacting more with humans.
So ultimately, I became bored. I don't care for books where the sole purpose is to move characters around to prepare for the next book. Yes, I count the Two Towers by Tolkien in with this, and pretty much the entire Wheel of Time series.
I'm not implying that Cherryh's writing is in anyway lacking, the world building, the look at an Atevi Civil war, and - as I noted above - the young gentleman himself, is fascinating. The plot...not so much. However, this won't stop me from reading the next one.
Recommended with slight reservations if you've been reading the the Foreigner series. Not a stand alone book.
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