98 points, 5 stars
The tenth novel in Cherryh’s Foreigner space opera series, a groundbreaking tale of first contact and its consequences…
The civil war among the alien atevi has ended. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with Cajeiri, his son and heir, and his human paidhi, Bren Cameron, have returned to Bujavid, their seat of power. But factions that remain loyal to the opposition are still present, and the danger these rebels pose is far from over. Since the rebellion, Bren Cameron’s apartment in the capital has been occupied by an old noble family from the Southern district—the same district from which the coup was initiated. This family now claims loyalty to Tabini, but the aiji is dubious. To avoid conflict, Bren has decided to absent himself from the Bujavid and visit Najida, his country estate on the west coast.
Tabini-aiji is training his young son in the traditional ways of the atevi, and has Cajeiri under strict supervision. But after two years in space, surrounded by human children, Cajeiri bristles in this boring environment. Desperate for freedom and adventure, disregarding the obvious danger, Cajeiri escapes the Bujavid with his young bodyguards and sets out to join Bren on the coast.
Determined to insure his son’s safety, Tabini recalls Ilisidi from her home in the East, asking her to find Cajeiri and secure him at Bren’s estate. But it has been a long time since Bren has been to Najida, and the war has shifted allegiances in many quarters. A district that was once considered a safe haven may now be a trap. And with Bren, Cajeiri, and Ilisidi all under one roof and separated from their allies, that trap is now baited.
Baiji was sweating. Visibly. And Ilisidi sat there with the smile of a guardian demon, staring straight at him, with Cenedi standing by her side.
On the surface, nothing about my liking this book makes sense. Conspirator has every problem I typically have with long running series, all in one book. The pace has slowed down. It has a character perspective I don’t typically always enjoy reading. More problems are introduced just so the series can continue for books to come. Nothing really ends, it just continues and continues with no resolutions that don’t bring on more problems.
BUT I LOVED IT. Every single thing that goes wrong should go wrong and I ate it up. And everything ends in yet another meeting, which I couldn’t get enough of. There is a lot of talking, and a lot of sitting around eating, and oh my god the amount of tea they drink per book is enough to fuel the entire country of Britain for a day. I wanted more of it.
Plus, the amount of action! The book starts off with Bren getting essentially kicked out of the apartment he was living in, which wasn’t actually his, he was just allowed to use it. So he decides to take this time to take a vacation and visit the land Tabini gave him to oversee a while back. I’m sure this book is just going to be all fishing and sleeping and getting caught up on all the work he has to get done, right?
Nope, it is a bunch of action, and Bren getting way in over his head again and again. He makes mistakes, but not your typical mistakes. He actually does everything right that he is supposed to. Except perhaps not sticking a person to literally keep two eyes and both hands on Cajeiri the entire time. That boy can find a way to get in trouble inside a hat. It is just the fact that the danger Bren is in is way bigger than anyone could have guessed at first. And it always surprises me how much politics these books actually have. And that I just completely eat it up the entire time. I love it, and it is perfect.
Also: Let me tell you, if all 8 year old atevi act like Cajeiri does – I completely, totally, 100% entirely understand why the Atevi fear the number 8. Jesus, this kid is a walking disaster zone. He is a child. He acts like a child. He acts before he thinks, and his position in their society is one that those that are always with him don’t always deny him the things he wants to do. Which then gets him into trouble. Goddamn children. I should hate him….. and I kind of do. Yet man do I love this kid. He’s mine. I hope he gets everything good out of life.