Monthly Archives: April 2014

Certain Symmetry

In which Pat Rin executes the will of Fal Den ter’Antod.

The other reason I placed “Shadow Partner” before “A Day in the Races” was that I knew this was up next, and it follows on from the end of “A Day at the Races” in a way that I felt would go better without another story intervening.

This is one of my favourite Liaden short stories. It has several shining personalities in it, not least of them Pat Rin himself. I also admit a certain fondness for the sense of humour evinced by the man in the back room, though I’m not keen on the nature of his work.

(A couple of side notes about Pat Rin: First, his field as a gamer is again cards and not dice. Second, there’s a nice though not surprising bit of continuity in the names that appear in Pat Rin’s social circle; in particular, the names of yo’Lanna and bel’Urik, which also appeared in yos’Phelium’s social calendar in the days when Daav was delm.)

This story also has a special place in my regard for another reason: it is the story which brought me to a conscious understanding that Liadens have a number of cultural hang-ups regarding the face, which brought together and shone new light on all the moments in other stories where Liadens were careful not to look another person too long full in the face, or felt distress at meeting someone whose face was distinctly marked (whether by dirt, injury, or deliberate decoration), or sought privacy before wiping a sweaty brow or rubbing a sore nose.

And I recall the sense of epiphany when I realised that this is not just an arbitrary bit of alien culture, but is complemented by the other famous marker of Liaden culture, the use of modes and bows to express thoughts and emotions — or, to put it another way, the fact that in Liaden speech all the messages that a Terran might convey through facial expression are transferred to other parts of the body. Terrans in conversation have to pay close attention to each other’s faces or they’ll miss part of what’s going on; in Liaden culture it’s impolite to pay close attention to another person’s face — and communication has been arranged so that it’s possible to carry out a conversation without doing so.

Tomorrow: “This House”

A Day at the Races

In which Val Con scores a victory over a field of skimmers and an aunt.

Speaking of families of consequence, here is Korval again. Anne and Er Thom have died since we saw them last, and Shan is now First Speaker, holding the clan in trust for when Val Con becomes Delm — though Val Con seems no more eager to do that thing and to give up the Scouts than his father was. (One suspects he’s going to find it harder to put off once the “your father was Delm at your age” card enters play, but he has a few years up his sleeve yet before he reaches that age.) For that matter, Shan is not keen on being First Speaker, and looks forward to being able to hand it off to Nova and head out on the Dutiful Passage. (Presumably there’s an age restriction of some kind, else Nova would be First Speaker already; she’s clearly better suited for it temperamentally.) And in the mean time, Shan races skimmers, and Val Con spends time with bartenders…

This is a case where the right ordering of a story is unclear, not because it’s not certain when it takes place, but because it’s certainly taking place at the same time as another story. I chose to put “Shadow Partner” first, since most of that story takes place before this one begins (and this ends after that does, if only by a paragraph or two), but they would not do badly the other way round.

Tomorrow: “Certain Symmetry”

Shadow Partner

In which business at The Friendly Glass is done properly or not at all.

Some years have passed since “To Cut an Edge”. Val Con is now a full Scout, and a First-In Scout at that. (Our point-of-view character here doesn’t know what that means, but there’s an explanation in Chapter Ten of Scout’s Progress, where it’s mentioned that one of Aelliana’s students achieved that distinction.)

I see that Clarence O’Berin is still in business, which is pretty good going, considering the impression we were given in “The Beggar King” about the expected longevity of a person in his position. I know I read “The Beggar King” before I first read this story, because I did the chapbooks in publication order, but I don’t recall whether I noticed his name there before.

I get the impression that Ceola and Min are the only two members of their family; when one of their relatives is mentioned, it’s in the past tense. That would seem to suggest that Min, as the elder, would be the head of the family, but she doesn’t go any higher up the pole than elder sister, even when she’s trying to convince Ceola to sell the bar, and the right to make it an order for the best good of the family would be an obvious tool to use. Perhaps such things as delms are only for families of consequence, and not for families that are reduced to two people living over a bar in the lower Mid-Port.

Tomorrow: “A Day at the Races”

To Cut an Edge

In which the Edger does something hasty.

Back to Korval, but not to Liad, for Val Con is outworld on his preliminary Scout exam.

This is another story where I feel like I’d probably have more to say if I were reading it for the first time.

I like all the characters in this; they’re strongly drawn and make the most of the limited screen time they get. (An un-looked-for advantage of e-readers is that I no longer have to stop and ask myself “Can I say ‘screen time’ when it’s on paper instead of a screen?”) Edger’s first scene also does some good compact work at showing the Turtles’ society and their idea of doing things in a timely manner.

It’s probably just a coincidence, but I notice that in this stretch of stories which introduce (or re-introduce as adults) the main players of the new generation, Pat Rin’s story is next to Natesa’s and Val Con’s is next to Miri’s. (But no Shan story to go next to Priscilla’s, apparently. Yet.)

Tomorrow: “Shadow Partner”

New short story

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have published another new Liaden story.

Roving Gambler is set on Surebleak, and features Pat Rin’s heir, Quin.

I’ve added it to the schedule here, but it’s not going to come up for over a year, so please go ahead and read it at whatever time suits you. (And if you do, and thereby gain a more precise understanding of when it’s set than I did by skimming the first page, I would appreciate it if you would let me know.)

Fighting Chance

In which Miri Robertson begins the adventure of her life.

This is a story I think I’d have more to say about if I were reading it for the first time, and if the characters were new to me instead of already familiar from other stories written earlier but set later.

As it is, the main thing that occurs to me to say is that I wonder about Katy Tayzin’s determination not to go offworld. We learn more about her family history later, but as I recall it we don’t ever learn anything specific to explain that.

Tomorrow: “To Cut an Edge”

Conflict of Honors – Chapter 1

Maidenstairs Plaza
Local Year 1002
Standard 1375

In which Moonhawk is dead, and has to find a new way to make a living.

Read immediately after “Moonphase”, this is pretty much just a coda, and there’s not a lot to add.

(Unless one starts in on the apparent inconsistencies between the timelines of the two accounts, which I’m trying not to.)

On reflection, I think it would probably work better, if one was prepared to bend one’s definition of chronological order a bit, to not read this immediately after “Moonphase”, and instead read it as a refresher of the lady’s situation immediately before embarking on the rest of Conflict of Honors.

…which of course means that I’ve worked myself around, by slow and careful stages, to the belief that the best way to read it is the way the authors presented it in the first place. How about that?

This chapter does add one important thing to the story: that, rather than hanging around in this city, or cloistering herself with the Silent Sisters (who reside at Caleitha, a town which was mentioned in passing in “Where the Goddess Sends”), the one who was called Moonhawk chooses to head off for the uncertain opportunities represented by a glow on the horizon. The cause of the glow is not named here, but subsequent chapters will show that her decision was to make for the spaceport and thence offworld.

(We still don’t know which city this is that the spaceport is attached to, by the way, unless this Maidenstairs is the same Maidenstairs as in “Moon’s Honor”, in which case this is Dyan City again. I’m not sure that’s a solid clue — for all we know, every Temple might have an area in front of it called Maidenstairs — but it seems plausible, since the two earlier Moonhawks were both from Dyan City as well.)

Tomorrow: “Fighting Chance”

About this site

I am reading (in most cases, re-reading) all the works in the Liaden Universe of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. After each story, or each chapter of a longer work, I post a few thoughts about what I’ve just read. (Not necessarily a review, or any kind of attempt to sum up, just whatever comes to mind.)

You are welcomed to read along, and share any thoughts you have in the comments of each post.


In which Priscilla Mendoza is cast out.

There’s a lot more in this story than I noticed the first time I read it, and much of it I’m not sure I have a solid grip on yet.

One thing I do feel confident saying is that the arc of the Moonhawk and Lute stories, from “Where the Goddess Sends” to here (and beyond, to the extent that Moonhawk and the Goddess continue to be mentioned) is a lot clearer to me after this re-read, and particularly with the addition of “Moon’s Honor”, which did a lot to clarify which details are recurring themes.

The tendency Moonhawk talks to Priscilla about in this story, of the Circle’s purpose being waylaid by the greed of power and personal importance, is one of those recurring themes. The impression I get is that Lute and Moonhawk have been acting as a counter to that tendency; one thing Moonhawk’s travels with Lute achieve, in both versions we’ve seen, is to remind her to think about the Temple’s role and its effects on the other people of the world (with the result, not shown but implied by Moonhawk’s nature, that having realised the Temple is out of line she’ll do what she can to put things right).

So it’s worrying that Moonhawk says here that the Circle having been keeping her apart from Lute, and keeping her in check by limiting the tools she has to work with. That means the power-hungry have had centuries to get hungrier and less thoughtful, and to bend the workings of the Temple toward their purposes. (I wonder who first starting restricting Moonhawk’s actions, and how much they understood of what they were doing.)

(A second thing I wonder about is the Names. It’s mentioned that there are fourteen living Names, which is the same number of Names who bound themselves to the Goddess’ path in Crystal Dragon — except that one of those was Lute, so they can’t be exactly the same fourteen. And the two Names Priscilla calls out during the climactic confrontation are modern-sounding names, not like “Moonhawk” or “Oatflower”. Added to something that was mentioned in “A Matter of Dreams”, the impression I get is that these days there are more than fourteen Names being reincarnated in the service of the Goddess, with perhaps a restriction that only fourteen may be incarnated at any one time. And that makes me wonder if there’s any deck-stacking going on, so that the Names who might want to resist the Temple’s slide from grace are being edged out by Names who support it.)

One of the later novels indicates that there is a Lute to go with this Moonhawk, who would be at this time still a halfling boy only a couple of years older than Priscilla. No wonder Moonhawk warns Priscilla that he can’t yet stand against the Circle directly. (A third thing I wonder is whether that means he will stand against the Circle some day. I can’t imagine Moonhawk and Lute letting them go on getting away with this forever.)

Tomorrow, we round off the tale of Priscilla’s departure with the Prologue to Conflict of Honors. If you’re not wanting to split things up, you can skip it until next week when we return and do the rest of Conflict of Honors, and we’ll see you in a couple of days.

A Matter of Dreams

In which a pilot dreams of Moonhawk.

After the thought I had (and expressed rather incoherently, I fear) yesterday, about the magics of this setting perhaps having technological underpinnings, it’s interesting to follow up immediately with a story in which (I hadn’t remembered) the macguffin is part of the technological underpinning of the witches of Sintia.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Sintia, and Moonhawk. Some things have changed: Sintia is now a technological society with its own spaceport and trade with other planets. (Fiona, our narrator, neglects to name the city that hosts the spaceport, presumably because as a Spacer she’s not much interested in local geography.) Some things are not as much changed as one might like: the representatives of the Temple are still, or again, having the same problem with their priorities that Lute called out Lady Rowan on in “Moon’s Honor”. The thing that they consider most important about the theft from the Temple is not the harm that might have been done, but the affront to the Temple’s self-importance.

There’s no Lute to call them out on it, however; this Moonhawk is still young, and does not appear to have met her Lute yet.

Nobody says it out loud — it would probably have been distinctly unwise to say it out loud — but I reckon that Cly Nelbern’s desire for an escort is less about physical protection than about entangling the pilots so that if she goes down, they go down too. And I reckon that Fiona has realised the same thing by the time she asks if Nelbern will be wanting an escort again to her second meeting.

The story is marked with the year 1375; on internal evidence, this has to be the year in which the main events of the story occurred, not the years-later time at which the narrator is telling the story. Fair enough, since that’s the same logic on which I’ve placed the story here in the chronological order.

Tomorrow: “Moonphase”