In which Don Eyr is taken away and educated.
I knew two things going in to “Degrees of Separation”: that it’s a prequel to “Block Party”, which is not unusual for a Liaden story, and that the cover image prominently features the Eiffel Tower and a globe of the Earth more-or-less centred on France, which is. Earth (or Terra) has been mentioned occasionally, but has never yet appeared on-screen.
It turns out that it’s the story of Don Eyr, the Liaden baker, which was what I was expecting; out of the characters in “Block Party” he seemed like he had the most interesting story to tell.
The French connection arrives with Don Eyr’s decision to study baking at the École de Cuisine, which by its name is certainly French in some respect. (I don’t assume automatically that it is actually in France; this is, after all, a universe which contains such things as the planet of New Dublin.)
From the stories, one might get the impression that every clan on Liad, or at least most of the smaller clans, struggles under a selfish and incompetent delm. That’s not true, of course; one thinks of, among others, Delm Reptor in Scout’s Progress. But the authors pick out the clans that have interesting stories, and particularly interesting stories about people who don’t fit in, so well-run clans don’t get as much of a look-in. (Unless they’re being caught in the wake of a badly-run clan; Delm Obrelt is another good small-clan delm, and gets to show his quality particularly in how he handles a crisis caused by another clan’s bad delm.)
Serat seems luckier than some, in that it has a competent and thoughtful nadelm, who may be able to guide the clan to health when the Ring falls to him, if he and the clan both survive long enough to see that event take place.
It might be my imagination, but I see echoes in the narrative style of one of the famous French novelists, perhaps Alexandre Dumas (“On the 24th of February, 1815, the look-out at Notre-Dame de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples…”) or Victor Hugo (“Three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen days ago to-day, the Parisians awoke to the sound of all the bells in the triple circuit of the city, the university, and the town ringing a full peal…”) Or Sabrina Fairchild (“Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some thirty miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate…”)