Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller.

Dragon in Exile. NY: Baen, 2015.

These two authors’ series of space operas — 18 novels so far and a couple dozen short stories — have been remarkably successful, considering they had to spend some time in the purgatory of self-publishing. They’re set a number of centuries in the future and mostly involve the very wealthy, highly formalized trading world of Liad — and especially the members of the frequently dangerous Clan Korval, “the Tree and Dragon.”

And along with space battles, personal struggles, and galactic politics, you’ll find highly creative anthropology, a touch of the paranormal (essential to this volume, actually), and often some romance for good measure.

Usually, each volume is a story complete in itself, but because the larger, overarching themes and story arcs run in overlapping fashion throughout the series, I would urge you to begin at the beginning of the saga (by internal chronology, not by the order in which they were written and published). Otherwise a large part of the action and most of the internal references will go right over your head, and you’ll be the poorer for it.

This latest volume continues the process of Korval cautiously adapting to forced exile on the wintry backwater world of Surebleak (as punishment for having fired on Liad’s capital from space, though they had good reason), a very, very different place from their home world. Actually, the clan has pretty much taken over their refuge planet, but the local population, having been much put upon by the Bosses in the past, is happy to see them do it — mostly. The story follows close upon the events of Necessity’s Child, which introduced the kompani, an inward-looking Romany-like culture that lives secretly beneath the only city on Surebleak, and with whom the newcomers have reached a mutually beneficial accommodation. Another major player is Prof. Kamele Waitley, whom we met in the four novels of the series that featured her daughter, Theo, when Kamele was the sort-of consort of the ex-Delm of Korval — except he was known by another name then. Yes, it gets complicated, but the authors really do maintain close control of all the many threads of their sprawling epic.

The plot this time, though, is more of a holding action, continuing several stories (and tying up some of their loose ends) from the earlier volumes mentioned and pointing toward a looming couple of crises in forthcoming books. Life proceeds, as they say. There’s not a lot of specific resolution, except at the lowest level, but that’s okay. The Liaden Universe is for immersing yourself in and the whole body of the authors’ work is not especially linear. I’ll be content to wait for the next one to find out what happens.


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