I've been meaning to write a review of the Foreigner series since reading #1, #2, and #3 in a single weekend many years ago. Unfortunately, I always get so caught up in the story that I'm unable to focus on the details with a critical eye.
By now, each new book in the series is like Facebook in providing me the opportunity to catch up with old friends: in this case, Ilisidi, Lord Geigi, and Cajeiri (and wondering, for the latter, whether the author will ever let him move on to felicitous nine years old). With kidnappings, attempted assassinations, uneasy alliances, and conspiracies and machinations that would put Jacobean dramas to shame, the series consistently reveals essentials about the human condition--using the alien culture of the atevi.
The atevi are not completely foreign to us, of course, for they have a Japanese flavor, reminding me of samurai culture and kabuki theatre, while simultaneously undergoing a rapid transformation from an almost medieval world of warlords and preindustrial technology to the information age and a presence in space. The constant tension between traditionalists and modernists (and the prospect of disaster if the traditionalists prevent modernization) is part of what drives the story for me.
With generally slow pacing and the primary point of view lodged in the head of Bren, a compulsive planner, these books are thoughtful, complex, and, yes, addictive. Each volume closes out a plot arc but advances the series to another point of impending conflict. I always anticipate the next one, only wishing it would come out sooner so I don't have to wait for my fix.
This book, #12 in the series, has a transitional feel to it. I trust that C. J. Cherryh has some reason for bringing Machigi, a dangerous enemy, into the Western Association, thereby joining the traditionalists of the East and South with the modernists of the West, adding a seafaring people to the spacefaring alliance. But she hasn't revealed her intention yet. As always, I have to wait, and trust in the author's ability to deliver yet another compelling read.
5-star review originally posted on Amazon September 27, 2011
For several years I reviewed very few books because Amazon got snitty about authors as reviewers. When I read back through those old Amazon reviews, I decided to copy some to my own website.
Authors Desiring Reviews
Please e-mail me if you want an honest but potentially harsh review and are OK with it being posted here and Goodreads but not on Amazon. Be warned: I won't read anything that has a lot of grammatical or spelling errors.