Trade Secret: A disappointment for a dedicated fan of the Liaden Universe

tradesecretTrade Secret by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Baen, November 5th, 2013 (Science Fiction / Space Opera)*

My rating: Vacation by the beach

Disclaimer: The Liaden novels are some of my all-time favorites, and I am devoted to Lee and Miller.

This latest installment just did not achieve the greatness of all the other stories in the Liaden Universe. I felt confused throughout the first half, and certain things still did not make sense even by the end. I ended up reading the whole thing without trying to go back and make sense of it. Would I have done that if I were reading a paper copy? I’m not sure – but on an eReader, it’s not worth it.

The first of Jethri’s stories was published with the Crystal Variation omnibus (loved that one! The stories about how the Korval clan got its start, and especially the anthropomorphic tree!). I read it two years ago and could not remember the context for this follow-up. Which really hindered my ability to understand the plot in this one. I would have found a preliminary summary of what went before extremely helpful in understanding the events that take place in this book.

Over the course of this novel, I felt it was disjointed, uneven, confusing, and slow at times. Some of the alternate viewpoints were interesting (I generally love Liadens’ perceptions and worldviews), but others dragged.

I did find parts of the world-building helpful and interesting – for example, we learn more about the Uncle, and his organization – and about how Terrans see Liadens. This last, in particular, is enlightening – for the most part so far, the point of view has been that of the Liadens. This different, outsider’s perspective on the Liadens gives readers the chance to learn a bit more about them than we have in the other books. Along the same lines, we get a more specific look at the social structure and customs surrounding intimate relationships. Jethri’s Terran perspective means the authors have to explain what, from a Liaden’s point of view, would be natural, assumed, and taken for granted.

My favorite thing about these books is the dry, witty humor, the bantering, insults and wordplay – and this book is definitely full of those.

Some sections with high action (a duel! betrayal and a stand-off!) brought my heart rate up.

Ultimately, this book has some value in its narrative and point of view. It will also be interesting for long-time fans who want to know more about the context of the Korval novels, and the Terran and Liaden interactions. There are some great scenes in here, and those who enjoy the Liadens’ wit will find that here.

I would recommend it for fans who have read all the others, and in particular have *recently* read Jethri’s first story. However, I think it (unlike any other Liaden novel I’ve read) is skippable.

*e-ARC provided by NetGalley

Read-alikes

Kylara Vatta is another young spacer who struggles to prove herself among the stars. Instead of a trader, she is a miliatary ship captain running from betrayal.

Trading in Danger (Vatta's War #1)

A full adult, and experienced in his work, Bren is a translator and diplomat serving a displaced human settlement on a planet whose natives follow a biological imperative to exchange eyes for eyes, and in whose society assassination is expected. Not unlike the Liadens, cultural punishment for insulting others is severe. Like Jethri, Bren forges a mutually beneficial relationship between two very different species.

Foreigner (Foreigner #1)

If you are new to the Liaden Universe, and want to start reading from the beginning (highly, highly recommended!!), check out the first book (in published order):

Local Custom (Liaden Universe #5)

Alternatively, start with the first in chronological order (which also contains the first Jethri story):

The Crystal Variation Liaden Universe #1-3, omnibus)

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