92 points, 4 ¾ stars
Nearly two centuries after the starship Phoenix disappeared into the heavens, leaving an isolated colony of humans on the world of the atevi, it unexpectedly returns to orbit overhead, threatening the stability of both atevi and human governments.
With the situation fast becoming critical, Bren Cameron, the brilliant, young paidhi to the court of the atevi is recalled from Mospheira where he has just undergone surgery. But his sudden and premature return to the mainland is cause for more than mere physical discomfort. For during his brief absence, his government has sent in his paidhi-successor, Deana Hanks – representative of a dangerous archconservative faction on Mospheira who hate the atevi. And though she should depart when Bren is once again able to fill his post, no recall order comes.
Cut off from his government and haunted by the continuing threat of assassination, Bren realizes his only hope may be to communicate directly with the Phoenix as the spokesman of the atevi – an action which may cut him off for good from his own species. Yet if he doesn’t take this desperate and illegal action, he may be forced to helplessly bear witness to the final destruction of the already precarious balance of world power.
It hadn’t been a total mistake to agree to Tabini’s requests. Sometimes he’d gotten extraordinary results when Tabini pulled one of his must-talks.
I swear to everything, Bren has an damn anxiety disorder, and he’s giving me one in the process. I’ve never met a book where the main character laid in bed for hours agonizing over everything he is doing, just like a normal person. This is despite extreme lack of sleep and other problems.
There are legitimate reasons Bren has to be stressed out. There is a spaceship overhead with reasons and factions no one knows. The atevi are blaming the humans on the island that the spaceship is there at all. His backup paidhi is on the mainland causing trouble and won’t go away. And he just got out of surgery and is in a lot of pain and shouldn’t be making big decisions but he has to anyway. His laying awake in anxiety makes absolute sense. So would I. And that is why Bren feels so real. Even though he is so much smarter and better a person than I am, I can connect with him as a character. And love him a bit, too.
Invader follows the events of Foreigner almost immediately. We learned towards the end of Foreigner that the ship that brought the Humans to the Atevi world is back. Now in this book, the Atevi are contacting them. The goal being to assert that this is the Atevi world, and their having control over what happens in their Heavens as well as their world is a fact not to be disputed. And also a large part of the book is to calm the rest of the Atevi who fear what this spaceship means.
All of these choices the Atevi have taken have been at the direction of Bren, who understands humans. And is now setting himself to potentially be considered a traitor to the human race because he is helping the atevi as a part of the treaty the humans and atevi signed. Which is especially in true because Deanna, the paidhi’s successor should something happen to Bren, came to the mainland and she doesn’t feel the same way about atevi as Bren does. She does not like that Bren is helping the Atevi at all, and is (trying to) report back to maligned forces in the Human government.
All of which is happening while Bren is still really hurt from the previous book. In the start of the book, Bren just woke up from surgery, and has to take off running. He is fueled by anxiety. He is depressed. He is lonely. And for a moment in Foreigner, he belonged and now that feeling of belonging has been lost and he wants it back.
What a powerful, amazing story.