The latest chapbook from SRM Publishers, Skyblaze, finally arrived. It's by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller and is part of the Korval/Liaden series. Sharon and Steve originally started publishing the chapbooks many years ago. They enable some back/side stories to be printed and the chapbooks are treats for their fan base.
I wouldn't suggest reading this unless you've read I Dare at least and preferably Carpe Diem, or was it in Plan B?, as well.
It stars the cab driver to took Cheever to Trealla Fantrol and who turns out to have had a role in the final battle against the Department of the Interior on Liad. For her trouble, she was removed as Delm from her tiny clan and banished. She ends up on Surebleak, the planet that Korval has now settled on.
I enjoyed it, although it seemed a little strange to me that she didn't try to connect with clan Korval. Because Liadens are presented as all about connections, and trades (favors), it seems like she would have a good case. On the other hand, Liaden society is cutthroat so perhaps you don't want to try to negotiate from an apparently weak position.
Happily, shortly after finishing Skyblaze, I soon received two anticipated books: Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon and Betrayer by C.J. Cherryh. I decided to read Drawing Conclusions first as I knew it would be a quick read. It's the 20th novel of the Guido Brunetti mystery series. Brunetti is a Commissario (like chief detective inspector) in the Venice Questura (police department). Leon's books have very good sense-of-place. She's lived in Venice for a number of years and always includes some peculiarly Venetian or Italian issues.
In this book, she looks at retirement homes and women's shelters. Neither one is delved into very deeply and I had the same feeling about the last book--that they're not as...thoughtful or complex as earlier books in the series. We also got less detailed descriptions of the food and drink (there's a reason that Brunetti's Cookbook has been published). Brunetti is a wonderful character. He actually happily married which is vanishingly rare among the contemporary mystery series I read, is an excellent boss, and has a strong sense of justice. So I feel it keenly that he appears to be compromising himself in the last few stories. There are good reasons for it, but I feel like he's giving up a little. I wonder if this is a reflection of how Leon feels about contemporary Italian society.
Betrayer by C.J. Cherryh is book 12 in the Foreigner series. The back story is that a human colony ship gets really, really lost. They build a space station above an inhabited world. The ship personnel want to stay in space and explore while the colonists want to land on the planet. There's a schism and some colonists do land on a large offshore island. They make contact with the natives, called Atevi, and it seems to go well at first. Then a cultural (hard-wired) breakdown occurs and the humans almost get wiped out. A peacefire is arranged. The humans will be allowed to live on the island in exchange for technology. The island's atevi inhabitants are settled on the mainland in some sparsely populated areas. A human translator/mediator/diplomat position is created and is called the paidhi. The paidhi learns the atevi language from a young age and lives on the mainland as a low-level functionary in the aiji's (ruler) court. The paidhi mediates the technology transfer and tries not to destabilize atevi society. He also does onsite research into the language and the society.
In the first book, Foreigner, we meet Bren Cameron, the current paidhi. He's become friendly with the current aiji, Tabini. Early in the book he's almost assassinated and things get messy. He spends the first book being acted upon and trying desperately to figure out what's happening. I didn't like it too much the first time I read it for that reason. After the first book, Bren becomes more knowledgeable and powerful although fully enmeshed in a lot of political shenanigans. The series is pretty much a long continuous book, and I wouldn't suggest starting anywhere except the beginning.
Betrayer is the end of the 4th trilogy. In the previous book, Tabini regained his position after an attempted coup. In this book, members of the coup have retreated to the restive west (south?) and are looking to cause more trouble just as Bren has retreated to his seaside estate which is in the area. While many of the books have had Bren as the only viewpoint character, later ones have used Cajeiri, Tabini's heir, as well, and this book is split between them. The first half is very heavy into the politics--who's related to whom, who was or wasn't involved in the coup attempt--and I really enjoyed it. I wish a map had been included (some of the other books have one) to make it easier for me to picture where all the clan territories are. As usual, Bren and his bodyguards end up on a cross-country trek with Bren injured. This is practically a Cherryh trope (main character injured and under stress), but I still enjoyed it. It's a nice addition to the series.