Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. Necessity’s Child.

NY: Baen, 2013.

This latest episode in the checkered history of Clan Korval, focal point of the authors’ “Liaden” universe, is set on Surebleak at roughly the same time as their recent quadrilogy featuring Theo Waitley. It’s more of a domestic excursion, though, with no spaceships (except in the far background) or offworld adventures.

The plot has two foci which gradually merge. The first is Syl Vor yos’Gallan, a young boy and nephew of Val Con, the Delm (or half of it) of Korval. He spent time in hiding with the other children during the flight of the clan under “Plan B” and it has marked him. His mother, Nova yos’Gallan, is a “Boss” in her own right and her workload hasn’t left her much time to spend with her son. Now that the boy’s older cousins have begun to drift away into their own training, he’s feeling somewhat abandoned and (what’s more important) of very little use to anyone. But his uncle, Rin Con (who is also “Boss Conrad”), is determined to start a consolidated school as a way to help unify the various turfs of the city, and Syl Vor wants to be part of that himself.

The other plotline is very different, as we discover an entirely hidden culture on Surebleak that is strongly reminiscent of the Rom of our own time. Kezzi is a young member of the kompani of the Bedel that keeps itself hidden in the secret places under the city, surviving on crafts, fortune-telling, and highly skilled thefts from the City Above. They keep themselves strongly separated from the gadje, The Others, but that may not be possible much longer. Their population is dwindling and the only way to survive may be to mate with non-Bedel — which could also mean the end of the kompani as a distinct culture. And then Udari rescues Rhys, a Liaden man who has been beaten into a coma, and he and Silain, the luthia (“grandmother” of the kompani), nurse him back to something approaching health, though it takes him a long time to regain any part of his memory. Rhys has been badly used and became an agent of the Department of the Interior aimed against Korval (fans of the series will know what that means), but now he just wants to find a new home with these people who have treated him kindly, who seem willing to adopt him as a Brother.

You can see it coming, right? Kezzi and Syl Vor will meet, both will end up in the local school, which is part of a culture that is profoundly foreign to both of them. And both will become agents of change to both their own families and to each other’s. The style is often humorously whimsical as we see events through their young eyes, but the authors are also adept at weaving together the broader plotlines of this universe. It doesn’t have the feel of starting a new multivolume story arc, but it’s an enjoyable tale and it will hold you nicely until the next one. And it goes without saying that, since the authors never provide a lot of explanation of what came before, or the context of what’s happening elsewhere, this is definitely not the place to dip into the series for the first time.

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