In this, the third novel of the Liaden Universe, Priscilla Delacroix is betrayed and abandoned by her shipmates. But confronting the sinister crew will be far easierand saferthan confronting the demons of her past.
Back cover blurbs have been known to be wrong about the contents of a book before, but I rarely see one that's misleading like this one is, while still being essentially accurate. If you look at the back cover in the bookstore, you get the impression that once Shan and Priscilla meet up, it's a quest for revenge, with nothing standing in their way. Instead, it's a bit quieter, more subtle. It's too bad, too, because the book is really good for what it is, and doesn't need a punched up cover blurb to sell it. In fact, it may detract from it, as readers finds out they're not getting what they thought.
That doesn't mean that the plot's not interesting, though. It is. The machinations of the bad guys are intriguing, though the First Mate of the Daxflan is a bit too one-dimensionally evil. Still, the master trader of the ship is very good, walking the fine line between evil and insanity. Watching them when their plans come to fruition, and seeing how our heroes ultimately resolve the situation is entertaining, and will keep you turning the pages.
One problem, though, is that the situations are almost too easy. I didn't really get the sense of jeopardy from them, and they seemed too easily dealt with. I enjoyed them because I liked the characters and I wanted to see how they solved the problems, but I didn't get any sense that they were in danger. Even the short action sequences are rather tame, though they provide the most danger of any of them. The flaws in the heroes are personal flaws, and in taking care of these situations, they almost seem too perfect. It brought down the interest level a touch and was ultimately disappointing. The climax of the book, though, is fitting. It's understated, a result of negotiation and talking rather than violence. It's nice that a book like this can end without any real bloodshed, with no shootouts or anything like that. Instead, it fits in with the rest of the book.
The characters in this book (with the exception noted above) are wonderful. Their emotions are real, raw, and heartfelt. Priscilla is reserved, hesitating to let her emotions out because she's scared of having them spurned as they have been since she was exiled. The love she finds on Shan's ship is eye-opening to her, and she learns a great deal about emotional health from the friends she makes. Lina, her first friend on the ship, is very understanding and patient with her. The relationship that develops between them is very touching, especially as it grows deeper with time. Lina is also Shan's lifelong friend, and she feels his pain as he finds himself drawn to Priscilla but can't act on it, due to both how bad it would look as well as the shell that Priscilla is still in.
Shan is probably my favourite character, though. He is so three dimensional, constantly demonstrating different facets to his personality. He has loyalty to his clan, a burning affection for his friends and a heartfelt duty to his crew. He's suave, sophisticated, devious and funny. He's always on the ball and able to think on his feet, which is a good quality as one event after another happens to put Priscilla in jeopardy. Lee and Miller make the reader care about him, and watching him pine for Priscilla is almost heart-wrenching.
Love in Conflict of Honors is very free, and that may put off some readers. A love triangle of sorts does form between these three characters, but there is no jealousy, only caring amongst them. If you have trouble with the idea of same-sex relationships, then steer clear of this book. There isn't anything graphic about it, so if you don't mind the idea but you don't want to see it in action, then you're safe. It's worth reading, though, as you come to care about them and want them to succeed.
This is a book about relationships, and thus it moves kind of slow. It's interesting, though, which means that you won't mind spending the time with Shan, Priscilla and Lina. You get to know them, their deep desires and their outlook on the world. The loving byplay between them is great. Don't expect lots of action, like in some space opera books, because Lee and Miller don't write that (at least judging by the two books I've read). Instead, they write character exploration, what it means to love and what loyalty is.
I said earlier that this isn't a romance, but a bit more. It has some of the trappings of a romance, but the results are much better than that. If you dislike romances, you shouldn't let that keep you away from this book. It's definitely worth reading.
_Conflict of Honors_ by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller wasn't my first occasion of reading about themes most often considered in the realm of fantasy being mixed with more hard-SF tropes, but it has become one of the most memorable and amusing for me. The cast of characters are varied, well-depicted, with strong dialogue and interwoven story lines that are woven well with each other throughout the book.
As I personally prefer reviews not entirely composed of platitudes and promises, I do note that in places the pacing does flag, and the story is resolved by two characters realizing a personal commitment to each other; but the characters carry the story over its rough spots, and the love-story aspects are not what guide the development of the characters or the main storyline.
My interest in reading science fiction derives less from liking the exploration of new technical ideas, than enjoying the development of characters in settings different than those possible either historically or contemporarily; and it is at this that Lee & Miller are very strong, being able to develop characters who carry their own weight, bear the burden of their own choices, and interact as fully at the social levels as personal and professional. Shan and Priscilla are intriguing people as presented in _Conflict of Honors_, ones whom it will be delightful to read more of as they reappear in the progress of the Liad world.
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