96 points, 5 stars


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.

As 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?


“Aiji-ma, your whereabouts was my own guess, unfounded, probably entirely inaccurate. One can only apologize, and urge—”
“A guess, indeed.”
“One unfounded on any particular information.”
“A very clever guess, paidhi.”


Pretender follows immediately on the heels of Destroyer with hardly even a moments break or breath. The atevi is in full blown war, and Bren is caught directly in the middle of it all. Not only is he in the middle, he is directly in a position to change events themselves. He is there to change events on the planet. For better or worse. With the previous book, we were in full blown civil war. It is time to change that and place Tabini back and in charge. For the good of the world.

Pretender is pretty much all action. And trying to keep Cajeiri out of trouble, but let us be honest – that’s a constant need. There is politics, but in a really round about sort of way. I kind of actually missed the politics, because the politics in this series is just so utterly fun, awesome, and completely not boring. However, it is war, and there are battles, and it is all danger and action and awesome instead. And Bren has to be at the front because the people who he supports are at the front or can’t be themselves. For an entirely irreplaceable sort of guy, Bren sure is rather replaceable.

I absolutely loved Pretender. It follows the events of the previous book so much. I love everything about it. I didn’t want to put it down at all. If you have read this story up until this point, you know what you’re going to get: pure greatness in too few pages. The only problem I had was that the ending was even odder than normal.