"Veteran sf/fantasy author Cherryh plays her strongest suit in this exploration of human/alien contact, producing an incisive study-in-contrast of what it means to be human in a world where trust is nonexistent. A good purchase for most sf collections." —Library Journal
"A seriously probing, thoughtful, intelligent piece of work, with more insight in half a dozen pages than most authors manage in half a thousand." —Kirkus Reviews
"A large new novel from C.J. Cherryh is always welcome. When it marks her return to the anthropological SF in which she has made such a name, it is a double pleasure. The ensuing story is not short on action, but stronger (like much of Cherryh's work) on world-building, exotic aliens, and characterization. Well up to Cherryh's usual high standard." —The Chicago Sun-Times
"A typically close-grained and carefully constructed world, filled with arresting details of atevi life and history. The long and deliberate setup pays off more than satisfactorily, but without any sense of a pat or closed-off solution. A book that will stick in the mind a lot longer than the usual adventure romp." —Locus
The groundbreaking novel that launched Cherryh's eponymous space opera series of first contact and its consequences...
It had been nearly five centuries since the starship Phoenix, lost in space and desperately searching for the nearest G5 star, had encountered the planet of the atevi. On this alien world, law was kept by the use of registered assassination, alliances were defined by individual loyalties not geographical borders, and war became inevitable once humans and one faction of atevi established a working relationship. It was a war that humans had no chance of winning on this planet so many light-years from home.
Now, nearly two hundred years after that conflict, humanity has traded its advanced technology for peace and an island refuge that no atevi will ever visit. Then the sole human the treaty allows into atevi society is marked for an assassin's bullet. THe work of an isolated lunatic? The interests of a particular faction? Or the consequence of one human's fondness for a species which has fourteen words for betrayal and not a single word for love?
From the Paperback edition.